Dean's Blog
Nicole Thorne Jenkins

Commerce for the Common Good: Remarks from the Inaugural Connaughton Speakers Series

On April 28, 2023, we welcomed Bain Capital Co-Managing Partner John Connaughton (McIntire '87), UVA President James E. Ryan, and a senior panel of industry leaders for an inspirational conversation exploring leadership in the global marketplace at the intersection of commerce and the common good. Today's businesses are being challenged to define how their work impacts all stakeholders, not just shareholders. Together, the group examined how commerce can and must be constructive forces in addressing society's greatest challenges and creating a positive impact on communities.


Thank you to everyone for joining us today for the Inaugural Connaughton Speaker Series. This event has been a long time in the making, and it’s truly exciting to be here with all of you.

I would like to welcome President Ryan; our esteemed principal donor, John Connaughton; our guest panelists, Victoria Budson, Kurt Harrison, and Sarah Williamson; numerous Commerce board members; and of, course, the students, staff, and faculty from the McIntire School, as well as all other members of the University and Charlottesville community.

Today’s launch of the Connaughton Speaker Series was born of a strategic partnership between the Connaughtons – John and Stephanie — the University of Virginia, and the McIntire School. John and Stephanie created a transformational endowment in support of an idea that we call Commerce for the Common Good.

2021 marked the centennial anniversary of the School of Commerce, and in 2022, we officially celebrated 100 years of educating the next generation of business leaders. We paused as a community and took pride in all that the School had accomplished and, together, we started to consider very seriously what could and should come next. The shared energy of the community was incredible…

We were staring ahead into our second century – eager to build upon our strong and enduring reputation, getting radically honest about what we do well and what could be better, and seeking new and different ways to use commerce as a catalyst…to help our community make meaningful contributions to society.

In talking with John, it became clear that we shared a similar definition of commerce. That is — at its core — “commerce” is the purposeful exchange of goods, services, and ideas to strengthen and advance society.

And this commerce education here at McIntire is unique, in that it empowers our graduates to become leaders who shape global business with integrity, purpose, and a fundamental understanding of how commerce can contribute to the common good. Unique to UVA, our students have the benefit of being able to draw upon their rich liberal arts foundation gained in their early years in the College to leverage critical thinking and deep inquiry to find ways to apply new thinking to business endeavors.

It became evident that, helping our community to adopt a lifelong mindset — one in which they learned to ask, “How can I create value and improve lives through commerce?” — was the single most impactful thing we could add to an already excellent student experience.

And from there, we began to construct this new philosophy of Commerce for the Common Good. This idea is rooted in a belief that the Connaughton’s share with McIntire: that business can and must be a constructive force in addressing the enormous issues facing our society and our economy.

This Schoolwide effort is taking on many shapes: It is informing our curriculum – as evidenced by our slate of signature courses exploring the intersection of business and society that will launch in the next academic year; it is informing our programming – like the event you are enjoying today; it is permeating our research culture as demonstrated by the work our faculty are doing in the areas of ethical artificial intelligence, sustainability, and wellness in the workplace, to name a few; and it is informing our allocation of resources – as several need-based scholarships are being deployed.

Commerce for the Common Good is McIntire’s interpretation of the University of Virginia’s aspiration to be an institution that is both Great and Good.

At the McIntire School, we know that the future of commerce requires a new kind of visionary leader. One with an education that is like no other. One that reflects deeply upon Jefferson’s vision for citizen leaders. One that views commerce as a core mechanism for helping society to solve its grand challenges.

Today’s businesses are being challenged to define how their work impacts all stakeholders, not just shareholders. Commerce for the Common Good is a consideration of how business can be a force in delivering value that improves lives and safeguards our planet.

It invites a new way of thinking that is inclusive and integrative. It informs a proven yet always evolving curriculum that is both innovative and applied. It calls for a way of working that is cooperative and collaborative. We know that the ability to solve big problems and effect structural changes that are long lasting requires our community to continue to recognize and perpetuate both economic value creation and capture.

Careful, constant exploration of business and society through the collective lens of ethics, leadership, communication, intuition, and analytics is the key to seeking new ground through purposeful exchange. In addition to evolving business acumen, we believe that the next generation of business leaders will require empathy, accountability, and agency. And we believe that leaders are not born – they are educated…and inspired.

To that end, the very essence of Commerce for the Common Good has been conceived as a prism for lifelong decision-making across a lifetime in commerce: It is an individual call to leadership requiring inspired reflection about the task at hand, the stakeholders, and the systems that frame what is possible; it requires deep awareness about one’s personal values and a thoughtful evaluation of the consequences, both — intended and unintended — of one’s decisions and their downstream impact on the world.

Commerce for the Common Good is how we take the McIntire experience from educational to transformational.

And it is, without a doubt, how we can deliver on our vision of developing global leaders who will change society and commerce.

Find out about all the exciting things happening in the McIntire community. Visit our news page for the latest updates.

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