Ethics in the Business World

Posted by Joseph Phillips, Jr. on Wednesday, April 18, 2012 at 9:53 AM PDT

Ethics in the Business World was held on April 17th.  Throughout the day, professionals from the business community visited 55 Albers classes (undergraduate and graduate) to discuss ethical challenges they have faced in their career and how they resolved them.  The 55 classes were visited by 39 different professionals, meaning a few people visited more than one class.  Only one class was unable to participate.


We had some excellent visitors participating in the program.  Speakers included Jim Sinegal (former CEO of Costco Wholesale and Senior Executive in Residence for the Albers School), Gary Scott (former President of Bombardier Airplanes), Brian Webster (CEO of Physio-Control), and Robbie Bach (former President of Microsoft Games and Devices).  Gary gets the prize for visiting the most classes - four!!


The concept of Ethics in the Business World was proposed to us by the advisory board of the Center for Business Ethics.  Their thought was to have business leaders come to classes to expose students to some of the ethical dilemmas they are sure to face in their careers.  They thought that many classes might participate, but we challenged ourselves to have ALL classes meeting on that day to participate.  We got about as close to that as you can! 


We also envisioned complementary activities throughout the day, so from that grew an alumni event in the morning featuring Professor Marc Cohen (Assistant Professor of Business Ethics), and Stan McNaughton (CEO of PEMCO insurance, who also spoke to a class later in the morning).  We collaborated with the College of Science and Engineering so that they would schedule their Boeing panel discussion on engineering ethics to take place on the same day.  Undergraduate students starting a campus chapter of Net Impact organized a panel discussion at the end of the day on socially responsible investing.  Net Impact is a non-profit that encourages business students to see business as means for social good.  The bottom line should be about more than profits, but also people and the planet.


As you might imagine, with classes meeting throughout the day, the event was something of a logistical nightmare.  How to match all the speakers with all the classes??  No worries there.  Aaron Hayden, the graduate assistant for John Dienhart, our Frank Shrontz Chair of Business Ethics, was able to put that all together, including getting all the necessary parking passes (mid day visitor parking is something of a challenge!).  Aaron managed all the details and entertained our guests throughout the day.  It is not easy to get people to come in during the middle of the workday when some classes were meeting, but we managed to do it, thanks to the commitment of many of the volunteers.


Ethics in the Business World makes a statement to our students. It reinforces for them the importance of ethical business practice and alerts them that doing the right thing is not always easy.  Nevertheless, one must hold to one's core values and recognize the importance of ethical business practice both for long run professional success and the effective functioning of our market economy.


Many thanks to all the business leaders who participated in Ethics in the Business World!  It was a very successful event, and we plan to do it every year.  The students were the beneficiaries of the collective wisdom of our 39 volunteers.  I want to thank the faculty who surrendered some of their valuable class time to participate in this event.  It is another demonstration of their alignment with and commitment to the SU and Albers mission!