THE PILLARS: Your back ground, you’re from Hong Kong?
DR. ERNEST LIANG: Yes, I was born in Hong Kong in a Christian family. I graduated from college in Hong Kong and then went to the University of Chicago for my graduate education.
THE PILLARS: What degrees did you pursue?
DR. ERNEST LIANG: I got a masters in urban economics and urban planning, in finance, and then received a PhD from the joint study of economics and geography (or economic geography).
THE PILLARS: For 25 years you were in the corporate world. What did you do?
DR. ERNEST LIANG: What I found out in academia is that the knowledge that was incubated in the ivory tower is very rarely applicable to the business world and for the business people who are in the trenches. I decided to go into the corporate world and started out as chief economist for a regional economic consulting firm. Later I worked for a public software company as a treasurer and moved on as a CFO in another soft ware company. Finally, I ended up at Halliburton, which is the number two oil field services company. I ran the corporate finance group there before I went into investment banking. After 10 years working on business transactions, I decided that God had another plan for me — the phone call came from a former dean of the College of Business at HBU. I said it was time and I moved here.
THE PILLARS: Now you lead the Center for Christianity in Business at HBU. What was the genesis of this unique business networking ministry?
DR. ERNEST LIANG: I had a strong passion about integrating faith and work, and by extension, about faith and learning. The dean and I decided we should try something like this called the Center for Christianity in Business. That was back in 2008.
THE PILLARS: Explain what the Center is about, your speakers and their topics, the enrichment and the spiritual factor.
DR. ERNEST LIANG: The Center has one mission — to empower, challenge, and equip Christian business leaders so they can integrate their faith into their work space. We do this through a variety of initiatives: Three times a year we put on luncheon events for local business people and we invite our students to attend. This has been very successful. We also publish a journal called the Christian Business Review, which is kind of the Christian alternative to the Harvard Business Review – high quality, practical articles for the Christian marketplace professional. We also have a mentoring conference which is geared toward the student body. We invite local CEOs to HBU to give their testimony to students – how they run their business as a believer and also give them their personal testimony on the challenges and the failures they have as a Christian business leader. This year, we launched a new initiative which is social media. We have engaged an outside firm, a fine Christian man who runs his own publishing business, to help us put the social media platforms which include forums, podcasts, and blogs.
THE PILLARS: Now the Archie W. Dunham Business School here at HBU is a growth engine. Why is it growing and why is it so attractive?
DR. ERNEST LIANG: The business school itself has a very unique mission because we have one thing that other business schools do not have a Christ-centered message. What the Center does is to actually bring the Christian business community on to campus to show the students in person how that works. The church does not really prepare our young people well for connecting their vocational desires with their spiritual identity. We try to fill that gap. The students really get first-hand knowledge of how these successful business people, who are also strong Christians, run their business and how they don’t have to be afraid of acting and practicing their beliefs and their faith as a worker.
THE PILLARS: Who are some of the other notables that you have had come speak and that you feel have had a distinctive message?
DR. ERNEST LIANG: We have a long list of speakers who really stand out. Most recently we had Robert Duncan, founder and chairman of Transwestern, and Howard Tellepsen, CEO of Tellespsen Cos., who talked about faith and how the company is leveraged on faith. Other guests we had include Mark McCollum, CFO of Halliburton; Norm Miller, Chairman of Interstate Batteries; Ron Blue, founder of Kingdom Advisors; Archie Dunham, ex-CEO of Conoco- Phillips, and Andrew Card, former chief of staff under President George W. Bush, among others. A long list of distinguished people.
THE PILLARS: Who discipled you? Coming from Hong Kong, not really the bastion of Christianity, quite like Houston, how did you get so solid in your faith?
DR. ERNEST LIANG: I think I just learned from everybody and I enjoyed studying the Scripture. And I think that I learned a lot from the churches that I attend, especially Drs. Ed Young and Wallace Henley at Second Baptist Houston, my home church. I have also taught Sunday school for practically all my life, and you just have to keep learning.
THE PILLARS: Is a business major a compelling career to follow for a prospective student and why?
DR. ERNEST LIANG: Absolutely! I think that God created work for a purpose. It’s a co-creative thing because we are created so we can do good work for God. There is a story about this guy going to a village and finding some workers building something and the first worker says, “Well this is so hard, I don’t know what I’m doing. I’m just trying to make something of this dome.” Then the other guy says, “Well I’m trying to make a statue of a big building, I don’t know what it is. But it’s not very interesting.” And finally the third guy said with excitement, “I am building a cathedral!” That’s the purpose in it, right? So that’s the co-creative mandate that we have. Then we have communal purpose in business because, as John Wesley said, the original constitution of man, is the relation between brothers — being in a communal environment within an organization, within a business. That is the original purpose of how we have been created. Business is the only institution under the sun that actually creates value – you can grow by building something from nothing. God has a really interesting purpose for us to do just that through the business enterprises.
THE PILLARS: If I’m the young person, is there the prospect of a good job in today’s America if you have a business degree?
DR. ERNEST LIANG: I think so. I think that everybody, whether they actually find their dream job on the first try or not, should try something. I think every job has a God purpose intended in it. Even though they might not like the job, they will learn something from that so they can move on to a better job along the way.
Ernest P. Liang, PhD
Director, Center for Christianity in Business
Associate Professor of Finance
Director, Center for Christianity in Business (CCB)