Curriculum Conference encourages ethical culture in business and academia


CSL’s National Center for Professional and Research Ethics (NCPRE) and the Center for Professional Responsibility in Business and Society in the College of Business hosted a Curriculum Conference in May to encourage discussion between academic and business professionals about ethics and professional responsibility.

“The goal was to share ideas and learn from others who are pursuing the same objective in different ways. We believe that we can learn from one another and reduce the reinvention of the wheel,” said Gretchen Winter, the conference co-convener and executive director of the Center for Professional Responsibility in Business and Society.

Curriculum Conference attendees participate in roundtable discussions during this year's ethics conference, which focused on building an ethical workplace culture.
Curriculum Conference attendees participate in roundtable discussions during this year's ethics conference, which focused on building an ethical workplace culture.
The condeference, titled “Connecting Silos: Sharing Ideas and Best Practices in the Teaching of Professional and Research Ethics,” brought together people from industry and academia to discuss how to measure ethical culture, ways to integrate ethics and ethical approaches across organizations and how to encourage faculty members to incorporate ethical considerations and discussions into courses and curricula, among other topics.

“Our research and professional endeavors are all dependent upon the integrity of and trust in those around us. Creating and maintaining environments in which the well-meaning can find ways to succeed in the face of pressures and incentives is increasingly important,” said C. K. Gunsalus, NCPRE Director and research professor in CSL. “At the same time, busy faculty can find it daunting to incorporate concepts and the skills relating to professional integrity into already-full curricula. Bringing together those who are teaching academic courses across a range of disciplines with those who rely upon ethical workplace approaches by their employees leads to exciting exchanges and makes a lot of sense.”

When Winter joined the University of Illinois after a career in industry, she found that universities were concerned about developing an ethical and compliant organizational culture and noted that companies had typically invested substantially to achieve the same objective.

“Clearly there were opportunities to exchange ideas and best practices,” Winter said. “The investment a company makes in educating and training employees on various aspects of professional responsibility, ethics and compliance is not necessarily replicated in a university; a university’s approach to teaching and implementing responsible conduct of research practices may not necessarily transfer easily to a business setting. Yet discussions about ways these very different organizations try to achieve the same objective – creating ethical organizational cultures – demonstrate that they have a great deal in common and can all learn from one another.”

The two-day conference included panel discussions, speakers from industry and academia, demonstrations and presentations by attendees. Over 30 people attended the conference, including those from Deloitte, Accenture, Integrated Project Management, Purdue University, Utah Valley State University, Clemson University and Texas Tech University.

Talks at this year’s conference included panels on ways to increase organizational buy-in for ethics education and programming, climate surveys to measure ethical culture and how external funders and accrediting agencies affect ethics.

“Academics have significant concerns about the integration of research and teaching and about integrating ethics into both,” said Creighton University Robert B. Daugherty Chair in Business Ethics and Society Beverly Kracher, who attended the conference the last two years. “I loved that the conference is small enough to allow for real interaction and learning from each other.”

This is the third time Winter and Gunsalus have teamed up to host a Curriculum Conference. Each year, the conference has brought in different speakers and focused on a different theme. Past conferences addressed integrating ethics into the classroom and measuring success in relation to ethics. This year’s topic was an information exchange of proven strategies and new ideas about ways to build a culture and climate that supports implementation of ethical and professional responsibility standards.

“People who hire and supervise others in the real world are desperate to hire people who have the ‘whole package,’ with substantive knowledge plus ‘soft’ skills, such as basic responsibility, working well with others and ethics,” Gunsalus said. “There’s so much to be gained by sharing ideas, resources, techniques and working together to address some of the big challenges by bringing together leaders in the area of ethics, so we can cross-fertilize as we incorporate these ideas into business and academia.”