By Cameron Hurst, '19
One glance at Heather McDivitt’s resume will make one thing perfectly clear: a love for learning.
With one undergraduate degree, three master’s degrees and a Ph.D. to her name, the Olean native has had quite the journey around the world before returning home to work at St. Bonaventure University as assistant athletic director for Academic Support in 2013.
“I loved being able to work with the coaches and the students and the parents kind of serving as that link between athletics and faculty, providing another layer of support and helping students find those resources on campus,” McDivitt said of her previous role.
Fast forward to 2018 when, after having just finished her MBA at St. Bonaventure, McDivitt was approached by Dr. David Hilmey, dean of the School of Arts & Sciences, to join the Department of Philosophy after a re-organization of curriculum and several retirements.
Having a background in education, including serving as a professor of religion at Wingate University in North Carolina and having served as an adjunct professor in St. Bonaventure’s former Clare College, McDivitt knew she would enjoy the experience. But, the idea initially put her in a bind.
“It was hard after five years leaving athletics because I got to know the coaches and the tight-knit department,” she said. “But, it was also good timing because I had hired an assistant athletic coordinator (Joel Rosencrance) for men’s basketball and other teams and this was a perfect time for me to step away because he knew my role. He was a natural, easy fit.”
Now, after one year on faculty serving as a visiting assistant professor, McDivitt has already added more to her curriculum vitae, including her recent selection to attend a seminar, titled “Business and Catholic Social Thought,” presented by the Lumen Christi Institute. The seminar was held June 2-5 at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana.
McDivitt became aware of the seminar from accounting professor Dr. Joe Coate, with whom she had presented a paper, along with assistant professor of finance Dr. Mike Gallagher, on the influence of St. Francis and Luca Pacioli on Catholic Social Teaching.
The seminar was designed “as an introduction and immersion into Catholic social thought for graduate students and faculty in business schools.”
“It was really rich because people came from different backgrounds,” she said. “The presenters were from the fields of ethics, finance, and management. We had people with backgrounds in philosophy, theology, and MBA directors.”
Not only were participants diverse in their intellectual backgrounds, but they were also diverse in their regional backgrounds with members hailing from Mexico, Peru, Costa Rica, Argentina, Nigeria, Portugal, Poland, and Italy.
“It was a very small group of people from around the world, from different academic disciplines coming together to talk about business ethics and higher education,” she said.
“How are we helping support our young business leaders? How are we providing them the foundation, the tools to be good accountants, to be good in finance, to be great marketers and managers? And, what does the Catholic tradition provide whether we teach at a Catholic university or state university? It just was an incredibly diverse group of scholars and backgrounds sharing ideas.”
Not only were sessions valuable, McDivitt said, but so were moments during which the group spent a meal together.
“The meal times were very intentional times to chat with different people, to break off,” she said. “I wouldn’t call this a retreat — it was a seminar because we had homework — but because we stayed in the same hotel, we had breakfast together, we had lunch together, it was almost like a retreat in that sense.
She added, “Usually, when you go to a big conference, you have all of these little sessions for people to break out. But from the first dinner to the final lunch and Mass, we traveled as a group and we were with each other from 8 a.m. to 9 or 10 at night.”
One conversation proved to McDivitt how similar students and learning styles are outside the United States.
“The last night I had a great conversation with a man from Mexico and the female participant from Nigeria and we were just talking about basic teaching techniques and class participation. It almost reassured me when the young woman from Nigeria said, ‘I can’t keep kids off their cell phones!’ I laughed and thought, ‘Well, it’s not just here (in the United States)!’”
She added, “We shared some of our teaching frustrations, but then also what we get out of teaching ethics, to see those ‘lightbulb moments,’ to hear back later from students, about how a case study or something we’ve talked about has made an impact. That was really interesting.”
McDivitt plans to share all of her findings with faculty members in business and philosophy.
“We have a really extensive and helpful tradition of values and ethics and guidance. It’s kind of my role to share this with others in the School of Business and to find ways — on campus or in the classroom or extracurricular programming — to help get the students excited about some of our Franciscan tradition and resources.”
And, though her time being with her colleagues at the seminar has concluded, McDivitt said they have all remained in touch.
“We’ve set up a listserv and a website where we’re sharing syllabi and ideas about research and case studies,” she said. “It was just a great opportunity.”
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