Engaging Tomorrow’s Leaders at Baylor’s 2017 Ethics ForumDec. 18, 2017
For two weeks every fall on the Baylor University campus, hundreds of students and business professionals gather to break bread, listen to inspirational speakers, and face off in head-to-head (philosophical) combat. Otherwise known as the Dale P. Jones Business Ethics Forum, this annual event engages tomorrow’s leaders today in discussions of major ethical issues plying the modern business world.
Divided into three main parts, the event features: 1) keynote speeches by distinguished business leaders; 2) the internal Hankamer Business Ethics Case Competition, for Baylor undergraduate and full-time graduate students; and 3) the National MBA Case Competition in Ethical Leadership, to which teams of graduate students from the country’s top schools with a reputation for ethical leadership are invited—all expenses paid.
Since 2005, the Ethics Forum has been organized by Dr. Mitch Neubert, Chavanne Chair of Christian Ethics in Business and professor of Management at Baylor. Prior to his appointment, the event consisted of a one-day luncheon and panel only. Partnering with colleagues from the Marketing, Finance, and Entrepreneurship departments, Dr. Neubert expanded the Ethics Forum to the multi-day affair that it is now, complete with “experiential activities to give students new and additional opportunities for thinking about ethics.”
As he says, “We’re expecting they’re talking about ethics in class, but we’re providing a forum for them to hear from business leaders who are out in the world and living lives of integrity … as well as from people who failed to make the right decision, and as a result have experienced consequences that we can learn from.”
Jeb Bush and Bill Simon (former president and CEO of Wal-mart) spoke at the 2017 Ethics Forum, themed around “Beltway Business.” Previous guests have included Steve Green (president, Hobby Lobby), Dina Dwyer-Owens (Co-chair, Dwyer Group), and a few “white-collar criminals” who explained why they committed their crimes, how dangerous crime can be, and how students can avoid following in their footsteps. “We hope that the folks we bring in are role models of ethical behavior,” explains Dr. Neubert. “They’re often Christian (though not always) and free to talk about how their faith impacts their ethics.”
The experiential components of the Ethics Forum—the Hankamer Competition and the National Case Competition—center around a business case developed internally and inspired by current events. In 2017, the case profiled Samsung, whose acting chair was sentenced to five years in jail following a corruption conviction. Teams of students compete against one another to research the case, analyzing what went wrong (and why) and offering recommendations as to how the company should resolve the situation or prevent the same from happening again.
Both competitions are judged by recent Baylor MBA alumni, who bring their practical expertise and their training in “servant leadership” to determining how realistic and how ethical students’ proposed recommendations are. Kim Steele (Austin) and Keith Allan (Dallas), both of whom graduated from Baylor’s Executive MBA program in May 2017, returned to the Waco campus this year as National MBA Case Competition and Hankamer Business Ethics Case competition judges, respectively. In addition to the chance to win monetary prizes, according to Dr. Neubert, case competitors “benefit from hearing that immediate feedback from the judges on their presentation and content. [For their part,] the judges also like to interact and give that live feedback.”
Kim Steele is the senior manager of Corporate Marketing at AMD. She volunteered her time as a judge this year because she values servant leadership, which encourages students to support one another and their communities. On a panel of three other alumni judges, she observed four of the 12 visiting schools: LSU, BYU, Auburn, and Kansas State. Kim says she appreciated “the relevance of the case and how it challenged the students to create solutions that were ethical, sustainable, and beneficial to Samsung as a whole.” Tasked with evaluating the presentations in terms of professionalism, style, and content, she found the teams to be evenly matched. “The amount of preparation was evident in the breadth of recommendations presented and associated risk assessment,” she asserts.
Keith Allan is the manager of Fraud Investigations and Dispute Services for Ernst & Young. He judged five of the ten teams composed of Baylor MBA students, and was “very impressed” with the caliber of their presentations. Having done his own research on the case in advance, and having arrived with his own set of recommendations in mind, he found it “rewarding to see the perspectives of the different groups—the approaches they took and the different levels of competency they had. The judges learned as much as the students learned,” he affirms. Keith opted to participate because “it was a privilege to attend Baylor, and this was an opportunity to give back and stay connected to the university.”
The Ethics Forum is made possible in part thanks to Baylor’s strong alumni network. Dr. Neubert establishes that expectation from the beginning of his Leading with Integrity course, which EMBA students take during their first semester in the program. “We talk about the importance of ethics,” he says, “and I tell them: ‘When you graduate, I’m going to invite you to come back and instill these principles in our undergrads.’” Like Kim and Keith, alumni tend to jump at the prospect. “It ends up being a first-come, first-served situation,” says Dr. Neubert. “I often have more volunteers than I need.”
Keith would “absolutely” participate as a judge again. Adds Kim: “You can’t go 21 months interacting with other individuals on a consistent basis and completely disconnect yourself from the Baylor community. I still feel a direct connection to my cohort!”
At the conclusion of the 2017 Ethics Forum, Dr. Neubert and others launched a study to document if and how student attitudes and perspectives change over the course of the two-week experience. Anecdotally, student participants have shared that it’s a valuable exercise for several reasons. They cite the “good practice” of preparing a speech and presenting it before a panel of judges—the way it compels them to articulate their thoughts clearly. A non-required event, it also builds their resumes. “The case competition is something they can talk about in their interviews,” notes Dr. Neubert, “and employers are very impressed with individuals who have competed in or won competitions related to ethics.”
The 2018 Business Ethics Forum will take place in November.
ABOUT HANKAMER SCHOOL OF BUSINESS
Baylor University’s Hankamer School of Business provides a rigorous academic experience, consisting of classroom and hands-on learning, guided by Christian commitment and a global perspective. Recognized nationally for several programs, including Entrepreneurship and Accounting, the school offers 24 undergraduate and 13 graduate areas of study. Visit www.baylor.edu/business and follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/Baylor_Business.
ABOUT BAYLOR EXECUTIVE MBA
Designed for the high-achieving, working professionals, the Baylor Executive MBA program is rigorous and relevant. The 21-month curriculum is delivered in a cohort format, one night a week in Austin, TX and one weekend a month in Dallas, TX. Both formats allow professionals to balance the demands of working full-time while completing an MBA.