Elizabeth Collier, PhD, BA’92 is a believer in Jesuit education.
After graduating with her bachelor’s from Creighton University, Collier received graduate degrees from two other Jesuit schools: A Master of Theological Studies degree from the former Weston Jesuit School of Theology and a PhD in Theological Ethics from Loyola University Chicago. Her husband, Jeremy Langford, works at Loyola, and the couple has one child at a Jesuit high school and two more soon to be enrolled.
“My time at Creighton provided experiences that completely changed the trajectory of my future. Before college, I had not heard of the Jesuits and did not know anything about Jesuit education or Ignatian spirituality,” says Collier, who was awarded the Rev. Tom Schloemer, SJ, Outstanding Student Leader award in 1992. “Although I started out pre-med, a combination of outstanding, thought-provoking professors in required theology and philosophy courses, spring break service trips, along with retreats and leadership opportunities that I had as an RA, piqued my interest in pursuing different service-oriented options after college.”
Today, Collier builds on concepts she began studying at Creighton as a professor and endowed chair of business ethics at Dominican University in River Forest, Illinois. She also serves as chair of the North American chapter of Principles for Responsible Management Education (PRME), a United Nations-led initiative that provides resources to colleges and universities that commit themselves to integrating sustainability, responsibility and ethics into their business curricula.
Collier has also published three books: Religious and Ethical Perspectives on Global Migration, with Charles Strain; Global Migration: What’s Happening, Why, and a Just Response, with Charles Strain and Catholic Relief Services; and Good Business: Catholic Social Teaching at Work in the Marketplace, with Thomas O’Brien and Patrick Flanagan.
After graduating from Creighton, Collier participated in the Institute for Latin American Concern program, which provides Creighton students and professionals with immersive service-learning experiences in the Dominican Republic. She then joined the Jesuit Volunteer Corps, spending a year in a pro-bono legal aid office in Houston where she worked as a paralegal for political asylum applicants fleeing violence in Central America.
In Houston, she says, she was introduced to Catholic social teaching, a body of Church thought that guides reflection and action in the social, political and economic spheres. Several Creighton faculty and Jesuits later encouraged her to pursue graduate work to delve deeper into Catholic social teaching and immigration-related issues.
Collier says her academic interests lie at the intersection of Catholic social teaching, business ethics, economics and immigration policy. In the classroom, she says, she strives to create a course experience “that provides business students with a deeper understanding of how business people can use the unique and powerful potential of business to make a significant difference in peoples’ lives.”
She engages her students in service learning activities, such as helping low-income families prepare their taxes or Federal Student Aid applications. She also challenges MBA students with assignments in which they create for-profit business ventures that alleviate elements of marginalization in local and global communities.
Collier’s teaching and research are also impacted by her role as chair of the North American chapter of U.N.’s PRME initiative. Among other things, the initiative works to promote the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals which address global challenges related to poverty, climate and justice.
Working with the chapter’s steering committee, Collier and her colleagues create structures that will serve U.S. and Canadian schools that have signed onto the program. In her courses, Collier integrates PRME principles and engages in linked learning opportunities with colleagues in international business and international economics courses.
“Students are surprised to learn about businesses that are very concerned with how they treat their employees, the way in which they handle waste, the way they source, and impact on the planet,” Collier says. “While the media tends to focus on bad actors, of which there are many, I hope to plant seeds in students’ moral imaginations that businesses are and can be a force for good. A career in business may be the vocation that you’re called to in life and how you will serve the community.”