Editor’s Note: This article was completed as an assignment for a class in the A.Q. Miller School of Journalism and Mass Communications.
Mary Gentile, senior research scholar at Babson College in Wellesley, Mass., facilitated a workshop called “Giving Voice to Values” as a part of the ConocoPhillips Excellence in Business Ethics Initiative on Monday. The presentation took place in the K-State Alumni Center.
Established in 2009, the Initiative has provided K-State students with resources to grow in leadership and self-development through lectures, applied workshops, case competitions and panel discussions that reach hundreds of students every year.
The program of study was originally sponsored by funds from the Aspen Institute, an international nonprofit, and the Yale School of Management.
Today, Gentile’s curriculum is funded by Babson College and the Toyota Company. Though originally designed for students obtaining a master’s degree, the program is now taught to undergraduates and is being piloted worldwide.
Gentile focused on how students can voice their values in the workplace.
“Rehearsal is important on impacting people’s behavior when teaching about ethics,” Gentile said.
Jenna Scherer, senior in family studies and human services, attended the event as a requirement for her Ethical Dimensions of Leadership class.
“My teacher thought it would be a good experience for us,” Scherer said.
Scherer said ethics is a large part of what her class discusses and getting insight from an expert is helpful.
According to Olivia Law-DelRosso, program coordinator of the Ethics and Responsible Citizenship Initiative and graduate student in counseling, Gentile has already met with several professors at K-State, and there are plans to incorporate this curriculum in leadership studies, business and philosophy classes, among many others.
“The initiative is through the College of Business, but we always encourage students from every college to come join the events,” Law-DelRosso said.
The workshop promoted socially responsible and ethical behavior in the workplace through a curriculum at the college level. The College of Business is ranked by the Aspen Institute and was therefore put in touch with Gentile.
Gentile, former professor at Harvard Business School, slowly began consulting other business schools. Gentile was recruited by Columbia University to help build a curriculum guide for their students.
After asking Columbia University students a simple question about their ethical experiences in a working environment, her research on courage and altruism taught her that people who are able to voice values were able to do that with someone they looked up to at a younger age.
The program’s purpose is to build awareness, teach analysis skills and focus on action.
“Instead of asking ‘what is the right thing to do?’ we think we already know what to do,” Gentile said. “We know you have values it is just sometimes hard to get that across in the workplace.”
Professors teaching the curriculum touch on specifics that could be brought up in a place of work, such as intellectual property rights or privacy.
“This is a good thing,” Gentile said. “We need to discipline our thinking.”
The mission of the College of Business is to provide national leadership in the development of educational programs that prepare students for the ethical challenges in business.
What is important for students, Gentile said, is that they are provided with the tools and practice.
“Ethics are easy if they are black and white,” she said. “Yes, it is also easier in the classroom because it gives you the practice, so that when you are in a more high-pressure environment, you will already know what you are going to say.”
Anyone interested in viewing materials for the ethics initiative can visit givingvoicetovalues.com.