Business Ethics Team Tackles Real-Word Dilemmas

Students Confront Issues by Combining Ethics and Critical Thinking

Marist College strives to provide students with the academic environment to find deeper meaning and challenge the status quo. Students of the school of Management’s Ethical Decision Making in Business class are given this learning opportunity with the Business Ethics Team. The class explores and debates worldly topics through an ethical and business perspective.

“This is a great opportunity for business students,” explained Dr. Joanne Gavin, who teaches the applied ethics class and leads the team. “I choose which students will make up each team; usually they’re the those who are the most comfortable and effective presenting their arguments. It’s a fun group, they enjoy it.”

The class was split into two teams and given 15 ethical dilemmas from the Association for Practical and Professional Ethics (APPE) to explore throughout the semester and challenged to analyze them from all possible perspectives. These topics range in difficulty and reflect current political, economic, and social issues in our society. Gavin says this assortment of dilemmas gives the student a “multidimensional view” that helps them tackle these current event issues.

“The varying topics stretches the students outside of their comfort zone,” Gavin explained. “It’s my job to get them to see every side of every possible argument. I’m constantly poking holes in their logic to keep them thinking. I’m the world’s best devil’s advocate.”

The team’s argumentative skills are then put to the test in the Intercollegiate Ethics Bowl (IEB). Here, the students from both teams go head-to-head with teams from colleges in the Northeastern region and compete in an ethical debate. There are three preliminary rounds, where teams take turns presenting, defending, and arguing a case given to them by a moderator from the set of 15 dilemmas. A panel of judges extends the team’s response for further justification and evaluates their answers based on intelligibility, focus on ethically relevant considerations, avoidance of ethical irrelevance, and deliberative thoughtfulness.

“Being involved in the competition has definitely helped me develop my critical thinking skills,” said Madeline Heusted ‘16, who was inspired to join the team as a rewarding means to challenge her way of thinking. “The topics are never easy and there is never an obvious answer, but they’ve given me the foundation to truly develop my own beliefs and values and understand other perspectives.”

The top eight teams move on to the Quarter Finals. From there, the four winning teams go to the Semi-Finals and then the top two teams go to the Finals. This year’s IEB was held in November at St. Joseph’s University in Long Island, NY and Marist’s team ranked fifth out of 18 teams, leaving them one place away from qualifying to compete in Nationals. In 2014, the team came in first place out of 24 teams from 16 colleges and universities.

“Participating in the competition has helped me develop valuable skills,” said team member Rachel Pfister ‘16. “Ethics is a part of the everyday business world and learning how to think critically and make strategic decisions will help me in the future both professionally and personally.”

Amanda Stagnaro ‘16, Rachel Pfister ‘16, Maura Sullivan 16, Joseph Theall ’16, Joseph Guida ’16, and Benjamin DelGiorno ’16 will participate in the International Business Ethics Case Competition in April. They are competing in the undergraduate division against esteemed business schools from around the world. The students will present their stance on CNN’s political debate coverage and its struggle to balance profit and social responsibility in a 30-minute presentation called “Keeping Up with the Candidates.” The students will also engage in a 30-minute Q&A by the judges after they present.

According to the team’s research, CNN has increased its advertisement fees by 40% and has portrayed the debates in a way that is comparable to reality television. The presentation will offer extensive insight into the ethical, legal, and financial ramifications of this complex and multifaceted issue. Team member Benjamin DelGiorno says that being a part of this presentation has greatly developed his problem solving and critical thinking skills, which he will apply to “real world situations” after he graduates in May.

“Having this experience will assist me greatly as I enter the real world,” he said. “I’ve developed advanced analytical skills, practical research skills, and strong public presentation abilities. Using these skills, I will be able to think about issues from different perspectives and take an ethically-minded approach to everything I do.” 

Written by Emily Belfiore '16

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