Bloomberg Businessweek did a number of 2012 surveys with graduating MBA students. One of the topics assessed was how well their business curricula integrated ethics. The students were asked to rank their program’s ethics offerings on a scale from 1 to 6, where a 1 score means “poor” and a 6 score means “outstanding.” Here are the Bloomberg Businessweek top-rated business schools and their student-assessed ethics scores (Geoff Gloeckler “MBA Rankings: Top Schools for Ethics”):
5.87—Notre Dame (Mendoza)
5.56—IESE Business School
5.55—Texas A&M (Mays)
5.42—Brigham Young (Marriott)
5.29—Carnegie Mellon (Tepper)
Those numbers look pretty good to me. Business schools are doing some things right. Professor Jared Harris with the Darden School of Business describes a required first-year MBA course on business ethics, and he is careful to clarify the weightiness of the content:
“This isn’t a course in enumerating ‘good’ and ‘bad’ business practices. Rather, its focus is on helping students build their ethical decision-making frameworks by confronting difficult, nuanced cases where values play a role.”
I greatly appreciate this approach because extremely difficult situations can and do arise that will challenge your ability and willingness to exercise your ethics. Harris’ description of the course content also emphasizes the complexity of building an ethical framework that will perform well when confronted by ethical and moral dilemmas.
I especially like the comment of Philip Negri, a Notre Dame MBA student:
“Our ethics curriculum is . . . integrated seamlessly within every course and every lesson.”
Regardless of whether your business-school curriculum has a dedicated ethics course, integrating the ethical consideration into every course is the most important objective. That approach most accurately mirrors the real world because no boundaries exist for where ethical challenges might arise. If our MBA graduates cannot address ethical issues in the real world, then all the business training only stands to be misused and abused.
The hope is all incoming students would already possess an intrinsic, positive ethical sense. Unfortunately, we know that is not always the case. By building ethics into our business-school programs, we at least have the opportunity to inculcate it where it does not exist, and refine it where it already exists.