Division of Labor Facilitates Ursuline Success

UrsulineBlanch Douglas/Summer School Morning/Mrs. Hansson

One of the main focal points of Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations is the concept of the division of labor, which is when large jobs are broken down into small components, thus resulting in increased productivity and wealth of a community or nation. Adam Smith believes that every nation is to be regulated by two different circumstances, “first by the skill dexterity, and judgment with which its labour is generally applied; and, secondly, by the proportion between the number of those who are employed in useful labour, and that of those who are not so employed.” The division of labor always increases productivity immensely because it allows laborers to gain specialized knowledge of a certain task and also reduces the amount of time the laborers must spend on the task. A modern day high school is a perfect example of how the division of labor produces success and efficiency.  Ursuline Academy is a shining example of how the division of labor and specialization produces a world class learning experience, thereby promoting the wealth of the community.

When Ursuline Academy of Dallas was founded in 1874, the division of labor was basically non-existent. There were a small number of Ursuline sisters and each had numerous fields of labor. Because of the lack of specialization, only a limited number of students could be educated.  Some Ursuline graduating classes had fewer than five girls graduating because the lack of staff did not allow there to be a division of labor. Adam Smith gives the example of a pin-maker to explain the importance of the division of labor. He states that “a workman not educated to this business nor acquainted with the use of the machinery employed in it, could scarce, perhaps, with his utmost industry, make one pin in a day, and certainly could not make twenty.” This example relates to the first years of Ursuline Academy and the lack of laborers. The small number of nuns running the school meant that each nun had multiple duties and had to teach multiple subjects even if they were not educated in all of them.  The number of courses offered, and the number of programs supported was miniscule compared to today’s offering.  If there are more workers working together specializing in specific jobs to make the pins, and if there are more nuns specializing in separate fields, the production would increase drastically.

There is no doubt that the division of labor promotes wealth. According to Adam Smith, “the nature of agriculture, indeed, does not admit of so many subdivisions of labour, nor of so complete a separation of one business from another, as manufacturers.” Unlike the nature of agriculture, Ursuline is in the business of manufacturing educated, well-rounded citizens that will enhance the well-being and wealth of the communities in which they live.  Ursuline Academy is a community in which the subdivisions of labor are necessary in order to achieve maximum productivity.  Over the years, Ursuline Academy has increased its division of labor so that the school can not only improve, but also grow. There are now approximately forty departments within the school offering a plethora of educational opportunities to its customers.  In order for it to run efficiently, the school requires a great degree of specialization.

Ursuline Academy offers scores of courses and each course falls in a specific department.  Take for example, the science department. Ursuline Academy’s science department consists of a large number of teachers and various science courses offered to the students.  There is a wide range of science courses offered, including biology, chemistry, physics, environmental science, geology, engineering, digital application, and forensic science. Within these types of sciences there are several classes to choose from. All students are required to take physics whether it is Physics I, Physics I Honors, Physics II Honors, Empirical Physics, or AP Physics. I believe the pioneering women who founded our academy would be duly impressed! Recent Ursuline graduates attribute their success as engineers, doctors, and researchers to the education they receive from teachers in the Ursuline Science Department.

Adam Smith promulgated that “each individual becomes more expert in his own peculiar branch, more work is done upon the whole, and the quantity of science is considerably increased by it.” A teacher that excels in biology should teach only biology rather than teaching physics and chemistry as well. When a teacher tries to teach all the different science courses, the teacher will not be as productive as he/she would be specializing in only one. When a teacher devotes all of his/her time in one specific course, the students will be better educated.

The administrative department is certainly a very significant department at Ursuline Academy.  The role of this department as a whole is to manage the staff and operations enabling the teacher to just teach. In the 2012-2013 school year, Ursuline Academy had an excellent administrative department that consisted of very important people with significant and different roles. Mrs. Bourgeois served as the Principal, Sister Louis as the Director of Mission and Heritage, Mrs. Kane as the President, Mr. Koehler as the Chief Financial Officer,  and Mrs Oates as the Director of Communications. Each of these people specializes in one part of the administration in order for it to run efficiently. President Kane is responsible for the overall administration of the Ursuline community, interacting with the Board of Trustees, managing the search for a new Principal, and overseeing the financial health of our school.  If the president of the school attempted to handle all of the principal’s roles, the finances, and the communications, none of those occupations would be as efficient and the amount of production would decrease.

Another department with a key specialization is the development department.  In fact, the development department in many ways facilitates the increasing specialization and division of labor found throughout the entire Ursuline community.  The Director of Development at Ursuline manages a staff of several people that are responsible for all fundraising for Ursuline Academy.  Not only does she direct the annual campaign, but she and her staff coordinate dozens of parent volunteers for phonathons, luncheons, and dinners to raise the necessary funding to support the many programs and scholarships that contribute to the overall wealth of Ursuline Academy.  In addition, the development department occasionally initiates major capital campaigns to support the physical plant expansion of the community, enabling yet more specialization and progress. The development department has enabled Urusline to serve students from all socio-economic backgrounds, thereby serving the entire community.

The extra-curricular programs offered at Ursuline Academy offer yet another example of how division of labor and specialization promote the wealth of the community.  The expert soccer coaching staff has produced over twenty consecutive state championships.  This result would be highly unlikely if the coach was required to teach cheerleading, theater, and calculus as well!  The Wealth of Nations states that “the improvement of the dexterity of the workman necessarily increases the quantity of the work he can perform; and the division of labour, by reducing every man’s business to some one simple operation, and by making this operation the sole employment of his life, necessarily increases very much the dexterity of the workman.”  Ursuline has multiple coaches to coach the different sports so that the coaches can concentrate on only one sport. Ursuline offers approximately nineteen athletic teams, each with an experienced and specialized coaching staff. Other extra-curricular programs are also offered, each with a specialized staff.  This breadth and diversity of offerings, which enrich the students and community, would not be possible without increasing specialization.

The addition of the department of the global village in recent years has significantly widened the footprint of Ursuline Academy. It enabled Ursuline to move beyond an excellent college prepatory school to a model for preparing young women to impact underdeveloped countries. Ursuline graduates now have a keen awareness of the needs of undeveloped countries through first-hand experience.  Ursuline women now are not only prepared for academic challenges, but committed to improving the lives of others. The global village has enabled Ursuline students to partner with people in countries such as China and Uganda. This division of labor has not only allowed Ursuline Academy to thrive but in years to come will contribute to the success of people in places across the globe.

Ursuline Academy has prospered greatly over the years and has become an excellent college preparatory school for young women. Ursuline provides an array of learning experience and has a professionally knowledgeable faculty in which each member of the staff specializes in only one or two fields of endeavor, strengthening the quality of instruction, the breadth of experience and the productivity of the Ursuline Community.   This leads to a great increase in the “wealth of the Ursuline community”. The division of labor has not only allowed the Ursuline community to prosper and flourish, but also has increased the number of graduates over the years.

Smith, Adam. The Wealth of Nations. , 1776.


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