Enron and WorldCom are now only reminders of what not to do in
business, at least if you want to stay clear of courtrooms.
Corporate scandals highlight the importance of a solid education in
ethics—something the Robert H. Smith School of Business focused on
even before the big-name business scandals erupted.
The Smith School’s Business Ethics Experiential Learning Module
(ELM) is one component of the school’s effort to teach students
right from wrong in the business world. Required for all full-time
MBA students, the module focuses on business ethics with an up-close
view from guest speakers, role-plays and even a trip to federal
The ELM actually began in prison in 1996—the first year
accounting professor Stephen Loeb, director of the program, took a
class of MBAs to Allenwood Federal Prison Camp in Montgomery, Pa. As
full-time MBA enrollment grew, the Smith School added visits to a
federal prison located in Maryland in 1998.
Last spring, the MBA class of 2006 made the trip to the federal
prison in Maryland to hear inmates talk about their life
experiences. Students heard the inmates recount the unethical and
illegal decisions that resulted in prison sentences, and also had
the chance to ask questions and tour the facility.
Loeb suggests the experience has a very powerful effect on
students. The prison visits were followed by the second component of
the ELM, a day-long session in early May that began with MBA
students presenting group skits that explored business ethics. Loeb
suggests a great deal can be learned from the role-playing scenarios
and interesting discussions often result.
program culminated with afternoon presentations from Smith School
Dean Howard Frank and guest speakers Mark Belnick, the former
general counsel of Tyco International, and William N. Shepherd, a
Florida statewide prosecutor.
Belnick captivated the audience with the story of his harrowing
experience standing trial for 14 felony corporate crimes he didn’t
commit and for which he was eventually found not guilty on all
counts. Shepherd talked candidly about the process of white-collar
In addition to the ELM, Smith offers a three-part lecture series
each semester. Loeb invites guest speakers to talk about some facet
of ethics in business.
Smith’s ethics education also includes undergraduate- and
graduate-level elective courses, and several faculty members
incorporate ethics lessons into other coursework. The
program also includes an ethics component.
The Smith School’s ethics programs give students some context and
living, breathing examples of how unethical decisions in business
can impact all aspects of their lives. The programs also provide
guidance for how to make ethical choices.
Speakers such as Belnick, a practicing attorney, offer a
first-hand account of tough situations in the real business world.
Belnick told students to always seek out the ethical option.
“Clients have the right to ask, but you need to know when to say
‘no,’” he said. “Find another way—a better way, a legal way—to do