Earning an MBA

Article excerpt

Only 24 hours had passed since they had first received the case. But now they were the experts - or at least had to act like it. Before a panel of three judges, the four MBA students outlined their solution for a small defense firm considering a buy-out.

This team of MBAs was just one of nine, all from different universities, that gathered at the Hankamer School of Business in November 2009 to participate in Baylor University's third annual National MBA Case Competition in Ethical Leadership.

Case competitions are common in MBA education. They offer students an opportunity to consider realistic business challenges, develop solutions and present those solutions to actual professionals.

Chris Lang, a Baylor MBA student and case competition participant, explained, "These contests force you to think critically, solve problems quickly, work with a diverse mix of people and present your findings convincingly, all of which are skills that businesses look for."

Case competitions are held all over the world and address every business category - marketing, operations, strategy, etc. "Everything but ethics," explained Anne Grinols, assistant dean for faculty development and college initiatives.

Although Baylor's ethics theme for its competition is rare, the need for ethics in business is becoming increasingly evident in the wake of the current economic crisis and numerous corporate ethical breaches.

"Ethics have always been a part of who Baylor is from a mission perspective," said Gary Carini, associate dean of graduate programs. Ethics are fundamental, always "on the front burner."

Adding to that base, Carini described how Baylor is trying to "create a values-oriented framework" that incorporates ethics, corporate social responsibility and environmental SUStainability. Carini said the objective is not just to develop programs about ethics, but to develop a mindset that students will maintain after graduation, a foundation from which they will lead ethically.

"People do what they're incentivized to do," Grinols said. If only making money matters, negative results are inevitable But when students are trained in ethics and equipped with the courage to do the right thing - even when that requires sacrifices - long term success is much more likely.

"At Baylor, we want to develop MBAs with a clear sense of their own ethics," said Mitch Neubert, Chavanne Chair of Christian Ethics in Business.

The key is to prepare students now for the difficult ethical challenges they will face later. "Nobody walks in intending to be unethical," Carini said.

To ensure students are prepared - able to recognize ethical dilemmas, equipped to develop solutions and instilled with the courage to implement the most ethical choices - the emphasis on ethics education begins early and continues throughout the program. Carini first "plants the seed" when he discusses the honor code with new students at orientation.

Once in the classroom, Baylor takes an interdisciplinary approach to teaching ethics. Patricia Norman, associate professor of Management, said, "We focus on ethics not by having a stand-alone class, but by integrating ethics discussion in all our courses. . . relevant for the specific topics they [professors] cover in their classes."

"Ethics needs to be pervasive in everything," Grinols added.

In addition, faculty members select a news article twice a semester about an ethical business breach. Within one week, all instructors cover that story in their classes from their disciplines' perspective. Baylor also regularly invites corporate ethics officers to speak to MBA students. …