Feature Story

OWU Students Attend National College Ethics Symposium

January 13, 2016 – by Megan Ellis

Ohio Wesleyan students participate in the College Ethics Symposium, where they learn to handle ethical issues as future business leaders.

‘We gained a lot of perspective,’ Attendee Says

Four Ohio Wesleyan University students and their faculty chaperone traveled to Hilton Head, South Carolina, during fall semester to join 100 college students and 25 faculty members for an intensive, three-day ethics symposium.

Their attendance at the College Ethics Symposium (CES) was made possible with support from Fred Manske, OWU Class of 1961.

The symposium was started 39 years ago by a group of business leaders who believed many college students were unprepared for the business world because of their lacked experience dealing with and facing ethical situations.

At the CES, students participate in intensive case-study discussions about ethical issues in the workplace. In addition, they hear prominent leaders discuss their career journeys and the difficult ethical decisions they have made along the way.

The CES goes to great lengths to create small, diverse groups to spur respectful debate. The students learn how to disagree and have a healthy debate in a respectful and positive manner. After the CES, when students are professionals and are asked to do something they are not comfortable doing, they will be better prepared to cope, react, and deal with the situation.

Manske began providing support for OWU students to participate in the CES four years ago. He says the best learning process is by observation, and the CES provides the best opportunity for students to learn by observing, participating, and acting through real-life, practical ethical situations. Manske shares a goal with the leaders of the CES: “To teach students that they can be successful and ethical.”

Manske says the CES is unique in that it is faith-based, but adds no particular faith or views are prominent, and all are welcome.

This year, OWU students Raina Graham, Tyler Jenkins, Nicole Nitti, and Vinay Raj traveled with management professor, Dr. Glenn Bryan, to participate in the CES.

The students were hosted by a friend of Manske’s who says he prepared ethical questions to ask the group after each day’s events and was impressed by the deep conversations.

Manske, too, says he observed the “OWU students have been outstanding and of the highest caliber.”

The four Ohio Wesleyan students who participated in the CES say the experience was very beneficial in preparing them for real-world issues.

Raina Graham ’16 says: “The College Ethics Symposium provided an opportunity to engage in ethical discussion from multiple perspectives. Being in a small group setting allowed individuals to openly share their experiences and reflect on the different ways ethics can be present and interpreted. As a group, we worked through cases to better understand the ethical paths that can be taken and the various ways actions will be perceived. Overall, the College Ethics Symposium was rewarding and insightful. Hearing from and working with those who have been in the workforce for many years as well as our cohorts who we will be working alongside in our careers brought a form of diversity and knowledge to the table that enabled us to be open and exposed to various perspectives, views, and beliefs.

“I would recommend anyone interested in gaining a more well-rounded view of their age group’s beliefs and who are interested in creating a sound understanding of their ethical stance, to attend this symposium. It creates an environment that combines fun and learning with the opportunity to interact with individuals from various schools and backgrounds.”

Tyler Jenkins ’16 says: The trip was an extremely memorable experience that really enhanced the curriculum. As future leaders in society and business, having an ethical conscious and the frameworks to guide tricky decisions is critical. The students who attended had extremely diverse backgrounds. Through the case discussions, it became evident that the distinctive set of values and life experiences really foster unique ideas on how to handle a situation. Coupled with guidance and anecdotal insights from the immensely successful facilitators, we gained a lot of perspective and learned valuable lessons.

“Beyond, the group sessions, the rest of the trip was a lot of fun. We were able to attend sessions with successful entrepreneurs, executives, war veterans, and the like. It was also neat to meet peers, our host families, and to talk with other members of the community. All of this happened in a few days while enjoying the gorgeous ‘low country’ sunshine.”

Nicole Nitti ’16 adds: “Prior to the conference, we received a series of case studies on a variety of ethical issues. Upon arriving, we met in small groups and discussed these cases. In these groups, we grappled with a series of ethical dilemmas, many of which we will likely encounter in our adult lives. These issues are hard to discuss—lines are blurry and there are never any firm answers or resolutions. Speaking (and even debating) with students proved to be both a challenging and rewarding experience. It forced me to step outside of my comfort zone and vocalize my opinions on controversial issues. I was very open about my values, even during times where they ran counter to the group. Having the ability to work through these cases really challenged me to think about what I would do in various situations in both business and life. The students in my group all came from different backgrounds, and hearing what they had to say forced me to view these cases through a different lens.”

Vinay Raj ’16 concludes: “I found the College Ethics Symposium to be a great opportunity to really dig deep into some of the ethical issues that we deal with in real life. We might cover ethics in one or two class periods in some of the classes that I have taken in college, but this symposium was an opportunity to really explore some of the dilemmas in depth. … The cases were all from real scenarios, which made the discussions relatable. The focus, however, was on acknowledging and understanding other viewpoints and rationale instead of coming to a conclusion. In order to achieve that, the groups were comprised of students from all different schools and there was a mix of conservative and liberal ideas. It was both interesting and enjoyable to discuss some really sensitive topics with people from such different walks of life and with conflicting ideologies.”

Learn more about Ohio Wesleyan’s Department of Economics and about the university’s Woltemade Center for Economics, Business and Entrepreneurship.