It is with profound excitement and deep gratitude that I write this as the newly appointed Dean of Biola University’s Crowell School of Business. This moment, for me, is a culmination of a lifelong journey — a journey marked by faith, service and a strong passion to make a positive impact in the world. To say that I am tremendously humbled and honored to join such an esteemed institution as Biola University would be an understatement. It is a privilege that I embrace with a heart full of humility and great anticipation for the transformative journey that lies ahead.
My path to this role has been paved with experiences that have not only shaped my career but also my values and beliefs. I have had the privilege of working with iconic companies such as Amazon, General Motors and Bank of America. These experiences have provided me with invaluable insights into the challenges and opportunities that believers in business face today.
If there is one profound lesson I have learned through these corporate experiences, it is this: being a believer in business today is both a tremendous opportunity to influence others and a significant challenge in confronting counter perspectives. In a world where the pursuit of profit often overshadows higher purpose and where ethical dilemmas can test one's convictions, those who strive to integrate their faith and values into their professional lives can sometimes feel like lone beacons in a sea of compromise.
However, it is precisely in these moments of isolation and challenge that our faith and values become a guiding light, illuminating the path we must tread and guide others toward. In this mission, we have a profound opportunity — a sacred duty, even. It is our opportunity as a community to shine light in dark places and to wield influence through our unwavering commitment to “Business as Ministry.”
It is a vision that encompasses much more than profit-seeking endeavors — it is a calling to serve and uplift others while steadfastly holding onto our faith and values. This vision revolves around three foundational areas of focus: Character, Relationships, and Impact.
We firmly believe that character is the bedrock upon which lasting success is built. In an era where ethical lines can blur and compromise can seem like a shortcut to success, unwavering honesty, reliability and transparency in both word and action are qualities that not only distinguish individuals but also earn them the trust of others. These qualities are not mere virtues to aspire to — they are the very essence of who we are. Our mission, harmoniously aligned with Biola's overarching vision, revolves around “equipping students in mind and character.” We recognize that while market forces may shift and quarterly statements may come and go, a person's character and how they reflect the image of God is eternal.
The challenges of business can be daunting, but they are made more bearable and surmountable through meaningful relationships. The early believers, as depicted in Acts 2:42, understood the power of fellowship rooted in a common faith and purpose. Today, the need for genuine relationships has only grown more critical. My experiences in the corporate realm have underscored the profound impact of social connections on performance, innovation and emotional well-being. Crowell graduates are uniquely equipped not just to succeed in business but also to cultivate environments where encouraging one another is essential for both individual and collective growth.
At the Crowell School of Business, we are committed to imparting knowledge and skills that drive measurable business impact. However, as someone who has witnessed the dynamic challenges of the business world, I understand that traditional metrics only scratch the surface. The ultimate challenge, which transcends mere success, is to create Kingdom impact — positive change that aligns with God's purpose and reflects His character. My experiences have taught me that our graduates are not just business professionals — they are agents of service, champions of ethical character and architects of meaningful relationships. They are driven to make a profound and lasting difference in the lives of customers, employees and the broader community.
“Business as Ministry” is more than a catchphrase — it is our guiding philosophy. As we embark on this noble endeavor together, I am filled with confidence that our shared expertise, dedication and commitment to our mission will continue to foster an environment deeply rooted in Christian values and principles. While also ensuring that we are developing exemplary business leaders and professionals, equipped with the skills necessary to elevate their respective domains, spanning the diverse landscapes of finance, accounting, marketing, analytics and entrepreneurship.
At Crowell, we wholeheartedly believe that choosing a career in business can be one of the most profound decisions made toward living a life of service and significance. Whether in the realms of profit or nonprofit, public or private, established brands or innovative startups, our commitment to nurturing ethical leaders remains unwavering. Our goal is not only to prepare students to excel in the business world but also to be beacons of character, builders of meaningful relationships and agents of lasting impact.
Please know that my door is always open for meaningful discussions, creative initiatives and personal support as we continue to pursue academic excellence and spiritual impact. At the Crowell School of Business, we are here to serve and support you on this remarkable journey.
Dr. Arena has more than 20 years of experience in Fortune 100 companies. He served as Senior Vice President of Leadership Development at Bank of America, where he co-designed and launched the Center for Future Banking. He then served as Chief Talent Officer at GM, where he led business transformation by introducing innovative initiatives resulting in growth for the company, which led to his 2018 book, Adaptive Space: How GM and Other Companies are Positively Disrupting Themselves and Transforming into Agile Organizations.
Most recently, Dr. Arena served as Vice President for Talent and Development at Amazon Web Services (AWS), where he successfully managed the talent and development portfolio and helped grow the business from $26 billion to nearly $75 billion in three years.
As a scholar and researcher, Dr. Arena spent two years as a visiting scientist with MIT's Media Lab, studying network theory. He served as a faculty member of the Masters of Science in Organizational Dynamics Program at the University of Pennsylvania and as a design thinking coach at Stanford University, and adjunct professor at both McColl School of Business at Queens University of Charlotte and at Pfeiffer University. He received his doctorate in Organization Development from the Union Institute and University, his MBA from Wheeling Jesuit University and his bachelor of science degree from PennWest California University.
Read Arena's latest report for HR Exchange Network is How to Make Hybrid Work Effective, Engaging, and Empowering.