An Ethical Movement

Western receives support to incorporate ethics into the classroom.

Kennedy Sievers/Senior Staff Writer

Western’s business school, and eventually Western in general, is getting a major ethical upgrade. Western and the business school have recently been included as part of an initiative to incorporate ethical thinking, learning, and behavior into daily curriculum.

The Daniels Fund Ethics Initiative (DFEI) is intended to promote ethical behavior in educational institutions. The fund was started by Bill Daniels, the pioneer of cable television in the West, who made his fortune in Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming.

Daniels chose to use some money to endorse and encourage ethical behavior in colleges across these states. Initially, eight colleges received a part of the $2.5 million fund: Colorado State University, New Mexico State University, University of Colorado Colorado Springs (UCCS), University of Colorado Denver, University of Denver, University of New Mexico, University of Utah, and University of Wyoming.

The initiative proved to have positive results across the business schools in all of these universities. Since it proved to be successful, the fund was renewed in 2009 with three new additions: Colorado Mesa University, Northern Colorado University, and University of Colorado Law School.

There are several stipulations in gaining and maintaining these funds for universities, one of which is outreach to other educational institutions and the business world. As a part of this requirement, UCCS created the Southern Colorado Higher Education Consortium (SCHEC) this year.

They included eight schools into the consortium, one of which was Western. The consortium functions as a support system for Western to incorporate ethics into its curriculum. The fund was intended to begin in the business schools at these universities in order to teach students how to present themselves in the business world once they leave college. However, it is the hope that once Western establishes a good curriculum within the business school, the school and students will be able to transfer their ethical lessons into the other departments across campus.

Since it was only started this year, the consortium is still in the beginning stages right now. Western has appointed faculty member Michael Vieregge, professor in the business school, to spearhead the ethical movement.

Vieregge is excited to incorporate this into the business department, but also across the whole campus. “Ethics is not just an issue with business. We have business issues with ethics but the same is true with physics or somebody in biology. You are always confronted with dilemmas where you have ethical issues,” he said.

The hope is that people will learn ethical behavior and thinking before entering the professional world and making an ethical mistake because of a lack of education. One mistake can cost people their jobs, and the goal of this consortium effort is to give people the tools they need in order to effectively handle issues in the workplace after graduation.

Students can benefit across campus from this new program. Despite it being so new to Western, Vieregge has high hopes for the education that students will receive about ethics. “Students are getting involved in national ethics competitions, ethical conferences, so that they saw that kind of a progression. It’s the same on most campuses; there are also other departments buying into it and looking at it from their perspective as well,” he said.

There are already some notable changes happening in the business school because of this program. On Thursday, November 3rd, a group of six students traveled to Colorado Springs to compete in an annual statewide ethics competition. The students able to participate this year were Canyon Mueller, Jack Millard, Michael Feng, Warren Knutsen, Erik Hillman, and Jake Veronda. This was Western’s first time competing in this competition; six schools presented their pitches.

The students compete in teams of two and are given three weeks to analyze a case with multiple ethical dilemmas, and then have ten minutes to present their solutions to a panel of eight to ten judges from different professional realms. The teams are scored on the content and format of their presentation.

Western’s teams were commended for their strong use of formatting; fitting so much information into ten minutes is not an easy task, and they did extremely well, especially considering that this was their first competition. Vieregge hoped to learn about the structure of the competition and give both himself and the students experience with it in order to compete in future competitions as effectively as possible.

Vieregge says that he is proud of the students for getting together during a busy time of the semester and traveling to compete in this competition. “I’m not really worried about where we end up. I’m just proud that the students decided to take the challenge. It’s a busy time right now in the semester, and on top of that trying to prepare for this is quite a commitment, so I think that’s more important,” noted Vieregge.

He is also excited to get Western’s name in the ethical debate community, win or lose. He believes it is important “for Western to be out there. People see us and see who our students are and how they perform,” he said.

This competition was a great learning opportunity for the students who were able to participate. Vieregge really wants them to “do well for what they try to do. It’s a learning process and I think it’s invaluable to have to do this. You have a limited amount of preparation time, and you have to be very concise and very convincing. Whatever you put in your presentation has to count.”

Being part of SCHEC has already had some great benefits for students, and Vieregge hopes to further those benefits across the campus. He would like to have a speaker series discussing ethical dillemmas and solutions, and he wants feedback from other departments about how to include ethics in daily lessons.

Vieregge hopes for the program to expand throughout Western as a whole, although that process may take some time. He hopes to potentially start student clubs, compete in more competitions, and make ethical behavior a common occurrence on the Western campus.