The business of international aid

As president and CEO of Catholic Relief Services, Carolyn Woo brings a strong sense of leadership and vision to the organization, which was founded by the U.S. Catholic bishops to provide international relief and development assistance.

With a background in strategic planning and the experience of serving as dean of a major Catholic business school—the University of Notre Dame’s acclaimed Mendoza College of Business—Woo also brings a sharp business acumen to running an agency dependent upon the support of others to carry out its work.

In these excerpts from the interview we conducted with her for our May 2013 issue, Woo discusses business ethics, funding challenges, and passing on the faith.

How did you become interested in studying business?

My academic training was in strategy. There are very few people who specialize in strategy and strategic planning. I was 21 years old when I decided that I wanted to get a Ph.D. in strategy, although I don’t know why I did it. It was a new field, people didn’t know much about it and neither did I.

But it was the opposite of my undergraduate major, which was economics. I wanted something really broad, but it might not have been the best major for a person without experience. I grew to love it though. And now my role and my contribution to CRS is to make sure that we are strategically on track and that we are organizationally healthy in fulfilling our mission.

Having worked at a Catholic business school, how important do you think it is to teach ethics and values to business leaders in today’s world?

Development cannot take place without business, because in the end, business is there to create jobs. They don’t only create a market for products, but behind the products are people and talent. If there’s no market, there’s no place for exchange, and we will be tending to our own little plot somewhere. Continue reading


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