The COVID-19 pandemic that we are experiencing now is like nothing we’ve seen in our lifetimes. However, Biola has been through this before. As President Corey shared earlier this month in a community video, Biola faced the Spanish flu pandemic in 1918 when it swept through Southern California, including the Bible Institute of Los Angeles. At that time, Biola cancelled face-to-face classes for six weeks, and faculty gave students modified lessons, assignments and exams akin to correspondence courses, the state-of-the-art technology of the time. God was faithful then, and God will be faithful now.
Biola University and the Crowell School of Business have responded to the current health crisis with state-of-the-art technology. Two weeks ago, our faculty utilized the time during the canceled Missions Conference to move all courses to a remote learning format, and on Monday, March 23, our courses restarted utilizing online and remote digital technologies to complete the Spring 2020 semester.
Because we’ve already embraced online education at Biola with a robust technology skillset and infrastructure, Crowell faculty were well-equipped to respond to this rapid transition for our students. Over the past several years we’ve moved our on-campus MBA program to a blended format, launched an online Post-Traditional Undergraduate (PTUG) B.S. degree in Business Management and last year we launched online versions of our MBA and Master of Management in Non-Profit Organizations programs.
I am proud of the way Biola’s leadership is guiding this university through this crisis. Please pray for continued wisdom and crisis management insight for Biola President Barry Corey, Provost Deborah Taylor, the President’s cabinet, Chief of Campus Safety John Ojeisekhoba, the Biola Board of Trustees and all faculty and staff who are working diligently to stay on mission and keep Biolans safe.
As Christians we often and rightly search scripture for wisdom and guidance in our current circumstances. At churches across our country and around the world, virtual and remote congregations are hearing their pastors and teachers mine the scriptures for passages that strengthen faith, hope and love in “such a time as this.”
As leaders and managers of businesses, non-profit organizations and civic organizations of all kinds, we find an ancient example of leadership-in-crisis in the book of Genesis. Recently, I enjoyed reading “The Joseph Road: Choices That Determine Your Destiny” by Jerry White, international president emeritus of The Navigators. While Joseph as a young man lacked the self-awareness and humility necessary to maintain a positive relationship with his brothers, a series of injustices and harsh experiences eventually molded Joseph into a person of deep faith, wisdom and obedience to God. At the same time it became apparent that Joseph was becoming a skilled manager and a gifted and insightful leader.
Genesis 41:41 reads, “So Pharaoh said to Joseph, ‘I hereby put you in charge of the whole land of Egypt.’” And in Genesis 41:55 we read, “When all Egypt began to feel the famine, the people called to Pharaoh for food. Then Pharaoh told the Egyptians, ‘Go to Joseph and do what he tells you.’"
So, what was the result?
“When the famine had spread over the whole country, Joseph opened the storehouses and sold grain to the Egyptians, for the famine was severe throughout Egypt. And all the countries came to Egypt to buy grain from Joseph, because the famine was severe in all the world,” says Genesis 41: 56-57.
What can we learn from Joseph and Pharaoh’s crisis management approach? No doubt we can learn about being prepared, staying the course, and the importance of supply chain management, but I want to highlight one other lesson.
Faced with a crisis, Pharaoh delegated his authority to a team member uniquely qualified to manage this crisis with foresight, planning and logistical skill. Joseph had become an expert at managing under stress while serving in Potiphar’s dysfunctional household, and later in Pharaoh’s prison when he was tasked with managing his fellow prisoners. We know that God has given people different natural and spiritual gifts and abilities, and Pharaoh’s decision to elevate Joseph to this position of leadership made maximum use of Joseph’s unique background for Egypt’s benefit.
In our organizational response to this COVID-19 pandemic, leaders must lead, but we must also utilize the unique crisis management abilities of key team members to address the unique challenges we face in our industry or locale. As leaders we must inspire and motivate everyone in the organization to make the needed sacrifices to fulfill our mission and purpose. But the effectiveness of our overall crisis management response and the ongoing success of our organization will depend on our ability to identify and utilize the gifts and abilities of those uniquely wired and prepared for such a time as this.
As an opportunity to learn from global leaders on how they are responding to the global challenge we are facing, please join us for a Q&A webinar with theologian N.T. Wright on "Christian Leadership in the Midst of a Pandemic” on Tuesday, April 7, 9-10 a.m. PST. Our partnership with the Entrepreneurial Leaders Programme will allow the Crowell community to join with a select group of business leaders from around the globe in thinking through our response in this global challenge. There is no charge, but participants need to register. The webinar will be recorded and made available to all who register. Register here.
Our work continues at Crowell, even as all Biola staff and faculty are working remotely. Here are some highlights of exciting things we are working on at the Crowell School of Business and also recent events and updates.
Last summer Paul Sohn joined our faculty to champion our effort to establish a truly distinctive program we’re calling the Career & Calling Roadmap. This roadmap brings together the many elements necessary to guide and equip Crowell business undergraduates into careers aligned with their individual giftedness and calling. Our challenge: How can we design and deliver an integrated curricular and co-curricular roadmap that is clearly articulated for the different business majors and concentrations, yet customizable to fit various job functions and industries? Our goal is to create a best-in-class approach that other institutions can emulate. I hope you will join us in praying that our design efforts will bring success for our students.
I am also pleased to announce that the Crowell School of Business is now a partner organization with the Entrepreneurial Leaders Programme, referenced earlier, held each summer at the University of Oxford. Talbot and Crowell Professor Scott Rae will be joining N.T. Wright and John Lennox as faculty for this week-long executive program at Oxford’s Wycliffe Hall, a permanent private hall of the University of Oxford. The 3rd Annual Oxford ELP will take place August 16 – 22, 2020, and we will continue to plan for and monitor the COVID-19 situation as it may impact Oxford ELP 2020. Learn more about the ELP here.
This program “equips Christian marketplace and entrepreneurial leaders to be difference-makers in their spheres of influence,” said Rick Goossen, director of the program. “The ELP is the premier course of its kind, and attracts Christian business people from around the globe and world-class faculty from Oxford and other noteworthy institutions.”
In addition, the first Distinguished Speaker Series event of Spring 2020 for Crowell graduate students (MBA, MM, and MPAcc) featured Bob Doll, chief equity strategist and senior portfolio manager at Nuveen Asset Management and a dear brother in Christ. Bob shared wisdom from his heart about his own challenges as a man of faith in the workplace, how he lives out business, ministry and life and he gave his 2020 Economic Outlook. I hope you will read the blog post on Bob’s timeless wisdom on business and serving Christ in the workplace.
For those of you who have been friends of the Crowell School of Business for some years, I want to share with you that our prior dean, Larry Strand passed away last month. We paid tribute to the enduring legacy he left on the Crowell school.
I am so thankful for the uniquely-gifted team surrounding me at the Crowell School of Business, and the faithful leadership and management they are heroically exemplifying as we seek to serve our students and friends of the school in these rapidly changing circumstances. May you experience God’s presence, faithfulness and peace as you work together with those around you to meet your challenges over these next number of weeks.