Faith in the workplace is a growing part of management, according to Dr. Judi Neal, director of the Tyson Center for Faith and Spirituality in the Workplace at the University of Arkansas.
Neal spoke Thursday (Oct. 6) during the second Fall 2011 session of the 360 Leadership Series. The series was created by a group of business professionals to provide professional development and networking opportunities in the Fort Smith region.
Neal is professor emeritus at the University of New Haven and academic director of the Master of Arts in Organizational Leadership program at the Graduate Institute.
In an interview before her remarks, Neal said she was a single parent in her late 20’s when she attended college. Some of her financial support came from scholarships targeted toward single parents.
“They helped me tremendously,” Neal said of the scholarships. “At that time, I figured I had two choices — go on welfare or return to college and make something of myself.”
She did the latter, graduating from University of New Haven in West Haven, Conn., at the top of her class. She later earned a doctorate at Yale University.
“I am proud to be here with what I call Edgewalkers,” Neal said during her remarks to the group. “They are people who walk between worlds, and build bridges between different world views. Edgewalkers are needed in today’s world more than ever.”
Neal said the Tyson Center for Faith and Spirituality in the Workplace was founded by John Tyson through the Tyson Family Foundation with a $2 million grant. The Walton Foundation matched the grant.
“Faith and spirituality in the workplace is the fastest growing area in the field of management,” Neal said. “The Tyson Center is an interesting anomaly as it is not located in a faith-based school. I am a state employee and as such have several challenges to keep church and state differentiated.”
The Tyson Center works with students, faculty, researchers, business leaders, entrepreneurs, faith leaders and the environment. Neal said examples of faith and spirituality in the workplace include chaplains, faith work groups, servant leadership and silence and prayer rooms.
According to Neal, characteristics of an “enlightened” organization include:
• Employees feel their jobs are a calling;
• Employees are comfortable bringing their whole selves to work;
• Work is an opportunity to grow and make a difference and contribute to something that matters;
• Leaders are enlightened and compassionate;
• The organization is value-centered, and;
• The organization has a mission to make a difference.
Neal said a common connection between faiths is in sustaining the environment.
The Tyson Center is hosting an international faith and spirit at work conference Nov. 7-9 to discuss how “we all come together and care for God’s creation.”
This article was written by Linda Kaufenberg with our content partner, The City Wire. She can be reached by email at [email protected].