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Ethics In Business School

Business is heavily influenced by ethics. From Amazon’s latest minimum wage hike to Apple’s fight with the FBI over encryption, most choices include some ethical question at its center.

For business leaders, training in ethics starts at business school.

“Each and every business school applicant will face ethical dilemmas throughout their career,” Robert Föehl, an executive-in-residence at Ohio University College of Business, tells US News. “It’s a given. And these situations are uncomfortable and stressful, with many of the corresponding decisions having significant ramifications for one’s career, family and livelihood.”

Ilana Kowarski, a reporter at US News, recently discussed how business school applicants can find an MBA program that emphasizes ethics.

Look At The General Coursework

Experts suggest that applicants evaluate a number of characteristics surrounding ethics coursework to determine if a b-school offers solid training in ethics.

“The first step is to identify whether the MBA program requires a course in business ethics at all,” Föehl tells US News. “After all, some business schools haven’t placed a high value on educating students to be the principled leaders that businesses need.”

It can be helpful to see if other courses in the business curriculum also discuss ethics.

“Students need to ask if ethics is integrated into all classes,” Scott MacDonald, the director of the MBA program at the University of Dayton’s School of Business Administration, tells US News. “Does the curriculum integrate ethics into finance, marketing, operations etc. or does the program just offer a stand-alone ethics class? How ingrained is ethics in the DNA of the school?”

Format of Courses

Discussion-based ethics courses are also another quality of a b-school that offers strong training in ethics, experts say.

“I have attended many very good lectures on ethics, and that certainly qualifies as a legitimate method to convey ethics instruction, but I do think that the opportunity to participate in the conversation makes a huge difference,” Leigh Hafrey, a senior lecturer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Sloan School of Management who teaches courses on professional ethics, tells US News. “It gives the student ownership … and invites them to take an active stance on issues of major concern to all of us and the organizations in which we work.”

Maura Herson, assistant dean of the MBA program at MIT, offers a similar piece of advice.

“Values vary,” Herson tells US News. “It’s not like there’s one set of right and one set of wrong, and so being able to have open discussions is important,” she says.

A New Generation

More and more business schools are deciding to incorporate ethics into their curricula. And experts say it’s because a new generation of students have placed significant importance on business ethics.

“The good news is that students’ mindsets are evolving,” Nunzio Quacquarelli, CEO at QS Quacquarelli Symonds, writes in a LinkedIn article. “Once upon a time, they did not stress a desire for an education in this area.”

But that’s changing.

According to a study co-published by The United Nations’ Principles for Responsible Management Education, half of the students surveyed would give up “more than 20% of their initial financial benefit to work for a company that cares about employees.”

Additionally, the study found that students report ethics as “the most important responsibility” for businesses.

Paul A. Argenti, a professor of corporate communication at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth, argues in an NPR piece that perhaps we should be giving Millenials more credit when it comes to business ethics.

“Although each generation bemoans the faults of the following ones, perhaps it’s time we give Millennials credit where credit is due: They are forcing business to do good while doing well,” Argenti writes. “Companies need to rise to this challenge quickly or risk becoming an anachronism.”

Sources: US News, LinkedIn, The United Nations’ Principles for Responsible Management Education, NPR