Meet the MBA Class of 2021: The Go-Getters

Father Arthur Joseph Ssembajja

University of Notre Dame, Mendoza College of Business

“Human, Servant, Good, Happy, Faithful, Warm, Visionary, Caring, Multi-talented, and Spiritual.”

Hometown: Kasese, Uganda

Fun Fact About Yourself: I dance best while looking at my reflection in the mirror.

Undergraduate School and Major: Pontificia Universitas Urbaniana, Rome (by affiliation) – Philosophy and Theology

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Diocese of Kasese – Director of Studies at the Diocesan Minor Seminary (St. John the Evangelist Minor Seminary Kiburara).

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: Teaching mathematics to my ordinary level students and helping all 15 of them to pass it (100%) in 2018 final national examinations with a record seven distinctions. This was the first time it happened in that seminary’s 26 years of existence.

What quality best describes the MBA classmates you’ve met so far and why? My MBA classmates are so warm. Given the fact that I am an international student, I need a lot of help and direction to successfully transit. My classmates are key in this process. They are friendly, understanding, ready to help, resourceful, team players, and we have shared a number of meals together. Simply put, they are warm.

Mendoza is known as a purpose-driven MBA program that asks students to “Ask more of business.” What is your mission and how will Mendoza help you realize it? I derive my mission from scripture, Jn 10:10 NIV; “…… I have come that they may have life and have it to the full.” A full life is holistic and complete. A complete life is a life built in the mind, the hands, and the heart. As a Catholic priest, I preach to people’s hearts. With the MBA, I will enrich their minds and empower their hands. I hope to do this in Church circles and in the local community back in Kasese and Uganda at large through better leadership and refined administration and management. Mendoza College of Business will help me to realize this based on its reputation for producing good managers and administrators; its rich intellectual and multi-cultural tone from all over the world; its wide network; and the way all these beautifully interact with the Catholic values and thought on which the University of Notre Dame was built.

Aside from your classmates, what was the key factor that led you to choose this program for your full-time MBA and why was it so important to you? The key factor that led me to choose the full-time MBA is the community I live in back in Uganda. I am a Roman Catholic priest from a third world country, Uganda, serving in the mountainous western district of Kasese, which is drowning in poverty, disease, cultural tensions. and poorly-distributed resources. The people in the community where I am serving (most especially women), have decided to come together in small groups to make a contribution towards improving their lives through saving schemes and different business ventures. These people constantly come up with these brilliant ideas without the slightest idea of how to implement them, manage them for productivity, and maintain them for sustainability. The major reason for this gap is a lack of knowledge in the proper formation of these concepts and their management and administration. It is at this point in time that these people turn to “their priest” for advice and guidance. Unfortunately, the priest is also equally lacking in knowledge in the field of business management and administration. This has, therefore, prompted me to pursue an MBA such that I can be more relevant to my community. I am devoting two years out of my community in order to learn as much as I can such that I can return to them and serve them better. I feel I am asking more of myself and more of business.

What club or activity are you looking most forward to in business school? Management and Finance club. I will also not miss any home football game – Go Irish.

What was the most challenging question you were asked during the admissions process? During the zoom interview, Joseph Sweeny asked me: “Any questions for me?” I found this challenging. I think I was not ready for that question at the time it came.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? I felt this was my moment to challenge myself more for the better. I had served my community and recorded some success and I felt I needed to equip myself better for the long walk ahead. The MBA, at this point in my career, is a step towards that bigger and better dream.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? I did not apply anywhere else. For me, it had to be Mendoza College of Business of the University of Notre Dame.

How did you determine your fit at various schools? Business can be taught anywhere, but values and Catholic Identity cannot be found anywhere. The business world is very competitive, but it is supposed to also be a family. I call this the dualism of existence. Values, Catholic Identity, Belonging, Balance, Community, Fellowship, Brand, and Family Bond were key in making my decision for the business school to attend. Mendoza just turns out to be my only and perfect fit. I actually do not fit here, I belong here. I am part of the family.

What was your defining moment and how did it shape who you are? The day of my priestly ordination (June 24, 2017) by Bishop Francis Aquirinus Kibira, Bishop of the Diocese of Kasese is my defining moment. I have always wanted to be in a position of service to people and for me that meant being a priest – a spiritual leader of people. I took 14 years plus two preparing myself for this moment. I am who I am today because of this moment. “Plus two” is a very unique time of depth in my life. Ordinarily, after 14 years of priestly training, one is presented for ordination. That was the case with me too. However, my ordination did not come until two years later. Some administrative conflict in my diocese caused me to be sidelined and informed that I could not be ordained. That hurt me very badly. It seemed as if my life had just been flushed down the pipes. At that moment, all my days turned dark.

In the midst of all this darkness, the words of prophet Isaiah (55:8) came alive for me, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts nor are your ways my ways, says the lord.” The prophet Isaiah was in agreement with actor Belly Allan in the Flash, who said that, “We keep planning for life and life keeps planning for us, too. What matters in the end is if we accept what life brings our way and keep running towards the end.” I picked myself up and continued the run, faster, bigger, and better. I had dreamt of something small. The Lord opened my eyes to dream bigger and better. The results of that run, the bigger and better dream were evident in that defining moment – my ordination day in the Diocese of Kasese. On that day, my bishop told me, “Arthur the Lord who gave you all those talents and who has permitted your ordination, surely has a plan for you. I do not know what that plan is but I am sure that it is big beyond our imagination and it is for the good of His people. I am in Mendoza College of Business today because of this moment. Everything I will ever do, all the service (which is my ultimate goal) that I will ever render, I will render it as a priest. This is my mark; this is my brand; this is who I am – my identity. I am going to even be better packaged after my MBA at Mendoza.

Where do you see yourself in ten years? Having started multiple income-generating projects for single mothers in the Diocese of Kasese.

Having opened a microfinance saving scheme for the community in the Diocese of Kasese.

Sitting on the board of Centenary Bank, a Catholic founded a commercial bank in Uganda.

Pursuing my Ph.D. in investment finance.

Planning to retire into academia probably at the University of Notre Dame.

Questions about this article? Email us or leave a comment below.