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Championing Business Ethics at the UNL College of Business

When students enroll in a course at the UNL College of Business they are usually signing up for an Ethics course whether they are aware of it or not. That is because ethics issues reach into over 90% of the courses currently being taught at the College. Janice Lawrence a professor at the School of Accountancy has been leading the efforts to integrate Ethics into the student experience for over ten years.

“The main mission of the Ethics program is to foster the ethical dialogue and get ethics integrated into the current curriculum. We decided we wanted ethics to be important even before the Enron situation made it the thing to do.”

Lawrence, who serves on the board of the UNL Ethics Center, helps facilitate workshops for faculty and graduate students to explore ways to integrate ethics issues into the classroom.

“Right now we’ve been using computerized ethical simulations where the students can do dynamic scenarios online. They can make different choices and the program will analyze the choices students make and give feedback. So that’s a way to practice making ethical decisions before they’re out in the real world.”

Another undertaking of the Ethics program is to bring in a major speaker annually to talk about ethics issues in the business world. Recently Aaron Beam, a co-founder of HealthSouth, came to speak at UNL about fraudulent activities that he committed in the 1990’s. Beam was later prosecuted and served prison time for his wrongdoings.

“Those stories catch the student’s attention,” said Lawrence. “They really seem to enjoy hearing those stories about either a person that catches someone or those that did something wrong. They put themselves in that person’s experience where they tried to right a wrong or where they got caught in a slippery slope.”

Beam’s talk brought in about 1,500 people to the Lied Center.

“We outgrew the auditorium in the Nebraska Union. We make it free so there’s no ticket required. We invite people from other educational institutions and we even have students from high schools bus in from little towns and from Omaha.”

Daily Nebraskan article of the event.

Published: October 27, 2010