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Business Prof Awarded Scholar’s Retreat

Charles Hannema’s fall retreat combined business research with the beauty of Lake Michigan.

Charles Hannema went home again. The associate professor of business was selected to receive a semester-long Scholar’s Retreat at a cottage on the shores of Lake Michigan, near Holland, Michigan—the area where he grew up. His family, including his 87-year-old mother, still resides there, so the fall 2016 opportunity was “providential,” he says.

The Scholar’s Retreat came courtesy of the Council for Christian Colleges & Universities in partnership with the Issachar Fund, which supports scholars and leaders seeking religious and scientific truth. Scholars and artists apply for a retreat opportunity from six weeks to one academic year in length at a fully furnished cottage on the shores of Lake Michigan. The goal is research, reflection, writing, and production of scholarship or creative work in one of the Issachar Fund’s four areas of inquiry: science and faith; technology, medical care, and human dignity; Christ-like virtues in a pluralistic world; and creation care.

Hannema’s semester-long focus of study was to examine the ethical tensions and tradeoffs that occur in the acquisition and application of data to help organizations improve their decision-making. The tradeoff between the usefulness of data and the invasiveness of data merits discussion, he says, particularly by Christians. “If we as Christians don’t speak into setting some boundaries around what’s appropriate for acquisition as well as application of data, organizations may tend to push the limits,” he says. “Then we end up with either hyper-regulatory intervention to prevent that, or data that is violating appropriate boundaries.”

His research included surveying members of the Bethel Biz alumni network, an organization of Bethel University business alumni, to determine emerging marketplace trends. Hannema credits two colleagues for their contributions to the survey process: Jeff Stitt, an adjunct business faculty member with 30 years of experience in market research; and Jeff Jacob, associate professor of economics, who helped with data analysis. Following analysis, research results will be brought back to the Department of Business and Economics, for faculty and students to further understand how organizations use big data in decision-making and explore common language for data acquisition and analysis. “Part of the outcome I’m trying to derive from this is helping educate the next generation of Christian business leaders as to how to walk those ethical lines, how to establish ethical boundaries, in an emerging market of data that’s unproven,” he says.

Hannema created a proposal to present his findings at professional events associated with the Christian Business Faculty Association and the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs. He also prepared a 30-page paper to submit for publication, perhaps as a book chapter.

The time away, in a place so familiar, was a gift, Hannema says. “I love Lake Michigan—I grew up there,” he explains. “It’s where God speaks to me most, in the beauty of creation, the water and the waves. It was a providential chance to do research in a beautiful setting, to benefit students, and to create further exposure for Bethel’s programs.”

Learn more about Bethel’s business programs for undergraduates, adult undergraduates, or graduate students.

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