Six Western students recently took home first-place honors at the ninth annual University of Colorado Colorado Springs (UCCS) Business Ethics Case Competition. The competition, sponsored by the Daniels Fund Ethics Initiative Collegiate Program, prompted students to create solutions to real-world, ethical business dilemmas and propose them to a panel of expert judges, industry professionals from various corporations across the nation. Eighteen teams from 11 higher education institutions across the state attended the competition.
The Western undergraduate students, Audrey Coffey, Evan Leathers and Ian Wilson, were prompted to create a crisis management solution for an international contracting firm in regard to situation wherein a new employee shared sensitive company information expressing political views on social media. The team had three weeks to review the case, create a response to the situation and prepare a 10-minute presentation of the findings.
Leathers used guidance from professors and material from his classes at Western to help him and his team prepare. While preparing for the competition, the team received consistent feedback from professors, particularly Dr. Michael Vieregge and Dr. Jeffrey Dykes, and utilized materials learned in specific business classes like Business Law and Marketing to help guide their efforts. Leathers explained that even if the team was uncertain about the accuracy of their answer, their confidence and preparedness helped them deliver their content in a collected, professional manner.
The graduate students, Robert Brower, Christina Bruno and Kenneth Middleton, were faced with a different ethical case involving a research hospital that accidentally exposed hundreds of patients to a deadly prion disease. The graduate students acted as a consulting firm and crafted guiding actions to help the hospital’s crisis management team respond to the situation. The graduate students were also given three weeks to prepare their 10-minute presentation, which included an executive summary and supporting documents for review. Bruno explained that feedback from Western business faculty challenged them to thoughtfully analyze the situation to create their response.
“Jeffrey Dykes, Jessica Laramie and Michael Vieregge supported our team as faculty advisors and provided feedback that challenged and elevated our thought process. We are grateful for their time and investment in making us think more critically,” she said.
Besides earning first-place awards, the competing students also gained important professional skills that will help them in their careers after Western. Leathers explained how examining a case from a variety of viewpoints and being open to feedback can help a team deliver a viable solution to even the most complex problem.
“Ethics is a topic often swept under the rug, and it was challenging to tackle the problems from a new perspective. One of the most important skills I took away is how to use different perspectives to help project your solutions to others. Being able to take criticism from judges and your peers is crucial for growth,” he said.
He went on to explain that personal advancement can be achieved through participation in unfamiliar activities.
“If you are looking to become a stronger public speaker, put yourself into uncomfortable situations like mock trial, an acting class or marketing, because the only way to get better is by doing,” he said.
Western’s School of Business emphasizes hands-on work and experiential learning in order to develop marketable, experienced graduates. Active engagement from students in experiences like business competitions and conferences like this will help them prepare for careers after graduation.
Story by Katie Lyons and Kassia Lawrence