Ethics Education Grows in Importance for MBA Candidates. (Catholic Colleges and Universities)

Article excerpt

A master's of business administration--an MBA--degree means money and lots of it. Business Week magazine reports that even in today's slumping economy, graduates of the nation's top 30 MBA programs can expect a first-year post-graduate salary of nearly $130,000.

But is an MBA bad for the soul?

A spring 2000 Aspen Institute survey of 512 MBA candidates revealed that more than 80 percent of those finishing the first year of a program placed "maximizing shareholder value" as the top responsibility of a corporation; significantly, the survey showed that the further along a student is in their MBA quest, the more likely he or she is to put a premium on shareholder value. Other considerations--service to the community, treatment of employees, environmental policies of the company--finished far behind.

"When asked about the primary responsibilities of the company, students give greatest attention to shareholder return--a reflection of the powerful place shareholders occupy in the first-year curriculum," Aspen reported.

Aspen would get a very different answer if it asked that question today, says Colleen Monahan Arons, a second-year student at Georgetown University's McDonough School of Business. The corporate scandals of 2001-2002--Enron, Arthur Andersen, Global Crossing--have led today's MBA candidates to "connect the dots" and put a "strong and solid business model" ahead of short-term profitability. Though recognizing the importance of profitability, today's MBA candidates have a far greater appreciation that the drive to boost stock price can "totally distort what you think about a business," says Monahan Arons.

As president of the 125-member Georgetown chapter of Net Impact--a "network of emerging business leaders committed to using the power of business to create a better world"--the 27-year-old New Hampshire native has to think a lot about corporate ethics. As a key player in the organization's 12-member conference planning committee--their 10th annual event will be held in Washington Oct. 25-27--she has to put that thought into action. More than 600 current MBA candidates and several hundred Net Impact "alumni" will attend the conference. Among the topics to be discussed: corporate social responsibility, corporate codes of conduct, community development and "green investing."

Georgetown, like many other business schools, requires MBA candidates to take a business ethics class in their first year, and students can opt for classes with a moral component in their second year. …