School of Management Students Discuss Ethics with Prominent Business Leaders

Posted: March 20, 2007 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Jennifer Freeman

As part of a comprehensive strategy to expand course offerings in corporate governance and business ethics, the School of Management (SOM) added a new honors seminar course to the curriculum this spring.

Sponsored by United Bank, the course allows 20 SOM students – undergraduate and MBA – to connect with some of the nation’s most prominent business leaders.

Designed to expose students to the diverse and complex topic of business ethics, speakers discuss corporate governance and ethics issues facing today’s organizations. The seminar offers regular small group discussions, with the added opportunity to dine with the guest speaker, student facilitator of the week and course professor.

“Given the widely publicized concerns about business ethics, the School of Management is dedicated to providing multiple opportunities to educate our students about ethical situations and decision making,” says Alison O’Brien, associate dean of undergraduate programs. “We want our students to be prepared to identify potential ethical dilemmas and know how to proceed when faced with them.”

SOM class with Warren Buffett
The School of Management honors class was invited to visit with investor Warren Buffett, center, in February.

O’Brien and Coleman Raphael, emeritus dean of SOM when it was known as the School of Business, serve as instructors for the course.

A signature component of the course this spring was a two-day class study tour to Omaha, Neb., for a session with investor Warren Buffett. Mason’s SOM was one of the select business schools in the country invited. The study tour included a visit to Buffett’s headquarters, a two-hour program and lunch with Buffett, as well as a visit to a furniture manufacturing plant in Omaha.

The course explores the ethical and corporate governance issues facing executives from a variety of backgrounds in business, health care, education, government and nonprofit organizations. Each week, guest speakers present a brief lecture on his or her topic, followed by a group discussion.

Some of the other speakers scheduled to present this semester include Mason President Alan Merten as well as

  • Tony Nicely, president and CEO, Geico

  • James DeGraffenreidt, president and chairman, Washington Gas

  • James Consagara, president, United Bank

  • Jill Stelfox, president, Defywire

  • Norm Augustine, former CEO, Lockheed Martin

“The opportunity to meet with industry giants such as Tony Nicely, Norm Augustine and, of course, Warren Buffett, is the chance of a lifetime,” says Christopher Green, an MBA student currently enrolled in the course. “I have learned finance, accounting, statistics and other fundamental tools of management in the MBA program, but all the book knowledge in the world will not add up to anything without the ethical backbone to help steer a manager to make the right decisions.”

“I registered for the seminar because I realized it was a great opportunity,” says student Amanda Anderson. “I felt that the weekly discussions with various business leaders would add significantly to my MBA education.”

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