Ethics pushed amid financial crises

The School of Business will undergo an undergraduate curriculum overhaul to sharpen the school’s focus on ethics, social responsibility and rigor, its top administrator said Thursday.

Amid global financial crises and Wall Street meltdowns, dean Doug Guthrie wants budding business leaders at GW to maintain a social conscience.

“I really want to build a business school that is centered around the concept of embeddedness and a real sense of how the school and the students think about the relationship between business and society,” Guthrie said.

The dean aims to increase cross-disciplinary studies within the University, saying that business students who also study philosophy, as an example, would better grasp the importance of business ethics.

Faculty will discuss curriculum reform this fall, and will likely vote on changes to be implemented next year, Guthrie said. No specific plans for courses have been decided.

An ethics program could become a drawing point for students, alongside the school of business’ highly ranked international business program, but could shrink the admissions pool, Guthrie projected.

“This is not going to be for every student. It’s part of us taking a strong position on this, and that’s probably why a lot of schools are wishy-washy on it,” Guthrie said. “On one hand, schools can say you care about ethics and sustainability and social responsibility, but on the other hand, they don’t want to turn off all those students who want to work on Wall Street, who are only interested in shareholder value.”

The school of business was the first school in the country to offer a graduate-level certificate in responsible management, modeled after the United Nations Principles for Responsible Management Education in 2009.

The move may help boost the school’s rankings, including those by the Bloomberg Businessweek magazine, which ranked the School of Business No. 59 overall in its annual undergraduate rankings this year, but only No. 71 in ethics.

Geoff Gloecker, a staff editor who helps compile the magazine’s rankings, said that while most undergraduate business schools have ingrained social responsibility and sustainability in their curricula, Guthrie’s focus on ethics is unique for a dean.

“The ethics piece is one that business schools are figuring out is very important, and needs to be offered in specific classes and discussed in every business course that they take. By the time the student graduates, you want it to be built in their psyche,” Gloecker said.

The school may also heighten course rigor, Guthrie said, to buck the pattern of undergraduate business schools being soft on academics. According to the most recent National Survey of Student Engagement, business majors spend less time studying than students in any other field.

“I would like for us to not only be deeply engaged with leveraging all the intellectual opportunities around the University, especially at the undergraduate level, but also for us to be viewed as the most rigorous honors college of the University,” Guthrie said. “We have some work to do in that area.”

The Hatchet has disabled comments on our website. Learn more.