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Business Ethics Education

As one of its three core competencies in ethics, entrepreneurship, and sustainable business practices, the University of Wyoming College of Business launched its current Business Ethics program in 2005 under the guidance of Professors O.C. and Linda Ferrell.  Endowed by the Daniels Fund, and run through the Bill Daniels Chair of Business Ethics, the program is a statewide initiative that draws on and reinforces Wyoming's existing reputation as a highly ethical place in which to do business.  The Business Ethics program advances research and teaching regionally and nationally via the Daniels Fund Ethics Consortium of ten business schools and one law school across the Rocky Mountain West.

The College believes that exposing students to "real world" decision situations and interactions with senior business and government decision makers, as well as integrating ethical decision making methods throughout the business curriculum, are essential for students as they prepare to assume roles in today's fast-paced, globalized business world. Wyoming businesses, community colleges, and NGO's use the program as a business ethics and social responsibility resource, while providing living examples of ethical decision making challenges in return.

Bill Daniels Chair of Business Ethics

Kent Noble

As the Bill Daniels Chair of Business Ethics, Kent Noble's responsibilities include:

  • Teaching undergraduate and graduate students

  • Serving as a resource for Wyoming businesses and the state’s community colleges

  • Developing nationwide visibility for UW’s business ethics initiatives

  • Representing the College of Business in the Daniels Fund Ethics Initiative Consortium

What is Your 9th Principle?

We teach business ethics at the University of Wyoming, and one of our main objectives is to help students develop a framework they can use for ethical decision-making. The framework we use in class is the Daniels Fund Ethics Initiative Principles (see below).

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We believe these principles are constant foundations – not relative to a specific situation – and that doing what is right prevails over self-interest when the two appear to be in conflict.

When you think about it, principles have been around a long time. Obvious examples include the 10 Commandments and the Golden Rule, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

And because principles have been around a long time, people have been violating them a long time!

So why do we step away from principles such as the Daniels Fund Ethics Initiative Principles and others?

The simple answer is because we are human. That said, I believe stepping away from our principles has become too commonplace. Many of us tend to compromise our principles without giving them much thought. Yes, we know what we should do, but too often doing the right thing just doesn’t seem practical – besides, everyone’s taking short cuts, right?

To help with this issue, we have developed a student exercise called the 9th Principle – please note there are eight Daniels Fund Ethics Initiative Principles.

The 9th Principle is designed to connect with students on an emotional and inspirational level. In other words, the purpose is to inspire students to want to live a principled life – a life that reflects the Daniels Fund Ethics Initiative Principles. 

By successfully making this right-brain connection to ethics, a student’s 9th Principle can help them maintain standards that are consistent with the student acting at his/her best.

With this information as a backdrop, I will share my 9th Principle as an example, while also providing an illustration of how it might be used.

Let’s say I am struggling with an ethical situation and there’s a chance I will be stepping away from principles that are important to me. Maybe it’s because I really don’t feel like taking a stand on a particular issue. Sure, I know it’s wrong but everyone else is doing it—this time, I’ll just go along to get along—or perhaps it’s a situation where I really stand to gain financially if I will just compromise my principles this one time. 

Regardless of the issue, I wanted a 9th Principle that was so meaningful it would cause me to stop and think, “What are you doing? Of course you are not going to compromise your principles. This situation isn’t worth it—no situation is worth it!”

To that end, my 9th Principle is “Live each moment like your kids are watching.”

Perhaps it’s because when I was four and my younger sister was three our father left home and never came back—or maybe it’s because when I was 11 and my younger sister was 10 our mother married a man who didn’t have to love us and treat us like we were his own, but he did. All I can tell you is I absolutely want to be the best role model I can possibly be for my kids. That’s a job I take very seriously—in fact, it is the most important job I have.

And now that I’ve integrated my 9th Principle into my decision-making process – I have a North Star that clearly lights the way. The thought of interacting with my kids as I consider an ethical dilemma makes it appreciably easier for me to embrace the Daniels Fund Ethics Initiative Principles.

To be clear, I am not saying I was a poor decision-maker before I started using my 9th Principle, but here’s what I am saying – I am a better decision-maker now.

That’s exactly what we want for our students—a 9th Principle that will help enhance their ethical decision-making abilities. 

Does this exercise work for all students? Unfortunately not. Integrating a 9th Principle into your decision-making process requires discipline and a sincere desire to make better choices. However, for those who do make the commitment, I feel confident they will experience better results.

What about you? Do you have a framework you use for ethical decision-making? If not, I am inviting you to search deep within yourself to find an inspirational/emotional connection with something that is meaningful to you. In other words, what is your North Star? What will inspire you to make the right decision when no one is looking? What will help you embrace principles such as the Daniels Fund Ethics Initiative Principles? What is your 9th Principle?

Contact Us

Management & Marketing

1000 E. University Ave.

Department 3275

Laramie, WY 82071

Phone: (307) 760-7860

Email: knoble@uwyo.edu

1000 E. University Ave. Laramie, WY 82071
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