Partnership Allows Students to See Business Ethics in Action

Team of UNC Students with Business Owners

Members of the team of UNC students whose report earned Dairy Specialists a Better Business Bureau 2010 Torch Award for business ethics pose with company owners. Pictured are (left to right): Dairy Specialists co-owner Bob Brown; UNC students John Coker, Brett Chaponot, Kyle Inouye, Joshua Messer and Kelsey Pierce; and Dairy Specialists co-owners Randy and Linda Sorensen. Photo courtesy of the Better Business Bureau

A partnership between the Better Business Bureau and the University of Northern Colorado allows students in business ethics classes to see firsthand the value of the concepts they're learning in the classroom.

Since 2003, teams of students in UNC business ethics classes have been researching and then preparing reports on area businesses nominated for the BBB's annual Torch Award program.

The awards recognize businesses that demonstrate exemplary business ethics, uphold high standards in relationships with customers, suppliers and shareholders, show honesty and integrity in marketing and advertising, and give back to their communities.

Students in Assistant Professor of Management Keiko Krahnke's fall semester "Contemporary Issues in Business and Society" course formed teams in September and spent most of the semester working on reports on businesses that had been nominated for a 2010 Torch Award.

They presented their reports in December as a final project for the course, and then BBB judges used the reports to select businesses for awards in competition categories based on employee numbers.

Each team used a variety of methods to substantiate that its randomly assigned business met the criteria for an award. They conducted visits to observe operations; interviewed owners, management teams and employees; and checked out the nominee's website. In some instances, they examined training, safety and operating manuals, and interviewed customers.

Regardless of their research techniques, the students saw businesses "doing well by doing good," a concept Krahnke said more and more companies are following as their owners or managers begin understanding that being socially responsible is "good business."

The Torch Award program, which also includes student teams from Colorado State University and the University of Wyoming, has additional real-world benefits for students, according to Pam King, CEO of the Better Business Bureau for northern Colorado and Wyoming.

"Every year, we have stories of students who get jobs or gain mentors through the Torch Award process," King said. "It's a win-win-win situation."

Such was the case this year for UNC senior Kyle Inouye, a member of the team whose report convinced contest judges that Dairy Specialists of Evans was worthy of a 2010 Torch Award in the category for businesses with between 12 and 49 employees.

BBB officials who observed the December presentations in Krahnke's classroom were so impressed by Inouye, the team's de facto leader, they offered him an internship starting in January with the bureau.

Interestingly, Inouye was assigned the task of organizing the Torch Awards ceremony, held April 15 in Loveland with more than 300 people attending, including members of his team.

However, Inouye was most excited by the fact that Dairy Specialties, which provides services and equipment for dairy farms, won a Torch Award.

"All the team members were really happy that Dairy Specialists won," Inouye said. "They're an awesome company and we just wanted to do a good job with our report."

- Gary Dutmers

Of Note
Earlier this year, UNC was awarded a five-year, $1.25 million grant by the Daniels Fund to help support programs in business ethics. A portion of the grant is being used to create the Bill Daniels Distinguished Professor of Business Ethics within the Monfort College of Business. Professor Michael Martin, the professor named to the new position, will assess ethics instruction in the college, both develop and teach ethics curriculum that will be designed for new and existing business courses, and connect efforts to address ethics throughout the university, including incorporating ethics instruction into introductory college courses open to all incoming freshmen. More information, read the news release at http://www.unco.edu/news/releases.asp?ID=924.

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