Linda Sama, Ph.D.
Tobin College Scholar Prepares Business Students to Be “Force for Good”
When Linda M. Sama, Ph.D., speaks at the Academy of Management’s (AOM) annual conference in Orlando this August, she will describe a St. John’s University program that responds to a concern articulated by the meeting’s title: “Capitalism in Question.”
Sama is the Joseph F. Adams Professor of Management and Dean of Global Initiatives in The Peter J. Tobin College of Business at St. John’s. During the conference, August 9–13, she’ll devote a presentation to a University program she directs called GLOBE (“Global Loan Opportunities for Budding Entrepreneurs”). “We’ve all been affected by scandals in the business world,” she said. “This is one way to show how business can be a force for good in the international arena.”
Established in 2009, the program allows undergraduates to manage an actual microfinance operation, reviewing applications from and making small loans to aspiring businesspeople in developing countries. Some students, designated “GLOBE Fellows,” accompany Sama on trips to study microfinance in locales ranging from San Francisco to Nicaragua and Vietnam.
Last year, Sama received AOM’s Innovation in Entrepreneurship Pedagogy Award for her work on GLOBE. But the program is just one of several efforts she has introduced to prepare students for ethical leadership throughout the world, including the College’s Global Destination Courses and the new Center for Global Business Stewardship.
Using Business to Fight Injustice
The initiatives, Sama noted, reflect the University’s Vincentian mission. “St. Vincent de Paul possessed formidable management skills,” she said, “and he believed in using them to fight injustice on a broad scale. Today, the scale is global.” A 17th-century priest and social reformer, Vincent established the Congregation of the Mission, which founded St. John’s in 1870.
Sama introduced Global Destination Courses in 2010. Since then, enrollment in the business-centered study abroad courses has risen 50 percent. Students participate in an online, “residential” component followed by a weeklong travel portion comprising visits to business and governmental leaders in other countries. Those who enroll for the fall semester go abroad during the winter intersession; in the spring, the travel segment occurs in May.
Launched in January 2012, the Center for Global Business Stewardship promotes faculty research on international business ethics. Sama is the Executive Director; R. Mitchell Casselman, Ph.D., is the Director and an Assistant Professor of Management. Although the center is based in the Tobin College of Business, its aim is to generate interdisciplinary scholarship, with a Library of Congress number and a “white paper” series.
Pursuing the Mission
Animating this research is St. John’s membership in U.N. PRME (Principles for Responsible Management Education), a voluntary agreement among collegiate business programs to embrace “six principles of responsible management.” The initiative, which the University joined in 2010, is a framework for preparing new generations of ethical managers. “Joining this effort is another example of the strength of our Vincentian mission,” Sama noted.
That mission, Sama observed, addresses concerns at the heart of her own scholarly interests. A “business ethics scholar,” she pursues her work as a Vincentian Research Fellow, a faculty position created by the Vincentian Center for Church and Society to advance the University’s focus on social justice. “It’s a very good fit,” said Sama. “I remain interested in the social issues involved with management, and how business—and business education—can work to improve society rather than damage it.”