MBA cohort’s presentation on ethics impresses local leaders

December 18th, 2014

Think final exams are hard? Try trading places with a graduate student in the part-time MBA program in the Boler School of Business.


For a five-week, one credit course called “Ethical Decision Making,” 14 students (who all have jobs) were tasked with assembling a “TED-like” talk on ethics to a board of six high-ranking officials in different areas. In addition, the cohort of 14 students were handed a list of 60 tasks to complete in a five weeks’ time.


How’s that for a group project?


The cohort’s hard work came to fruition on Tuesday, Dec. 16. The students unveiled the presentation in front of nearly 40 guests, including the six aforementioned prominent leaders from the Cleveland area who served as judges of the project.


Held in the reading room of the Dolan Center for Science and Technology, the event consisted of the 20-minute presentation by two members of the cohort, a group ethics discussion and a critique of the presentation.


The presentation held high stakes for the students in the course. The grade for the course would be significantly dependent on the presentation quality, which would be judged by the and the panel of six local leaders.


The six officials, chosen by the course’s instructors (Dr. Scott Allen and retired Coast Guard Rear Admiral Michael Parks), included leaders from WJW-TV, WEWS-TV, MetroHealth, the U.S. Coast Guard, Gilmour Academy and Open Doors Academy.


“It puts more skin into the game for them, having to present to such big leaders,” Allen said.


As a group, the students spent over 1,200 hours on the project. Allen and Parks instructed the cohort to conduct an extensive amount of research, requiring the students to contact prominent members of the community for their opinions on ethics.


“It taught them to break down barriers,” Allen said. “They contacted CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, government officials, even a U.S. Senator. They had a lot of conversations with powerful people.”


Everything culminated in Tuesday’s presentation. Despite the high stakes, most members of the cohort showed little tension as the event began.


Ruth Rachel Przybojewski, a member of the cohort, opened the presentation with a true story of a man who made unethical decisions. To protect the man’s identity, she referred to him as “Fred.” Fred had a nice life with a wife and four children, but his unethical decisions forced his life to take a turn for the worse.


Fred began an extramarital affair with a woman and embezzled millions of dollars to keep her happy. Once his wife found out about the affair, she filed for divorce. After Fred was caught for stealing all of the money, he went to prison, and became inmate 25409 (also fictitious to protect “Fred’s” identity).


Following Przybojewski’s lead-in, current student Matt Diamond took the floor to explain the ethical decision making model that the class had designed. “The decisions you make define you,” Diamond began. Diamond attracted attention with several statistics, including one in particular: the class surveyed John Carroll University students and found that 74 percent admitted to violating a policy at the University.


Przybojewski and Diamond then revealed the decision-making model – an apple. The core was explained as the values that people believe before a decision even arrives.


“You have to know your core and follow your seeds,” Diamond said.


The model was expressed through the acronym SEEDS. The first S stood for “Sense,” or realizing that there is an ethical dilemma. Diamond used the example of speaking with his own mother. He asked her, “How do you know if there is an ethical dilemma?” She replied with, “You just know.”


The E stood for “Explore.” Diamond explained that you should define the problem by finding out the “who, what, when, where, and why.” The second E stood for “Evaluate,” or to assess the decision to be made. Current student Grace Weppner was quoted in this portion: “Am I making my family proud?”


The D represented “Decide,” or making the final, ethical decision. CEO of Progressive Insurance, Glenn Renwick, was quoted under this category: “There are gray situations, but not gray decisions.” The last S stood for “Study,” signifying that one should look over the results and reflect on the entire dilemma to become stronger for the next decision.


Przybojewski wrapped up the presentation by stating that if Fred had followed the ethical decision making model, then he would have not ended up as prisoner 25409.


Following the presentation, each of the six tables of two members of the cohort, former students, and a panelist had a discussion about the presentation. Each judge/local leader gave the presentation a grade.


“I’m very proud of the ground they traveled in the last few days. They had no formal presentation experience in this program,” Parks said. “The way they came together warms the cockles of my heart.”


After the breakout groups, audience members were invited to give feedback on the presentation. One panelist called it a “top-notch delivery” and stated that each of the five points of the SEEDS model was powerful. Many of the audience members loved the simplicity of the model and agreed that they were engaged in the presentation from the beginning.


Vice President and General Manager at WJW-TV, Paul Perozeni, said that Przybojewski and Diamond were “better than most presenters in my corporation.” Perozeni went on to say, “I gave them a 100 percent, and that is not like me at all.”


When asked about how she thought the presentation went, Przybojewski said, “I think that no one left with a question.”


As cohort and the audience filed out of the reading room at the event’s conclusion, cohort member Pat Breslin joked, “I think I’m going to go nap for a couple of days.”


The rest will be well-deserved: the cohort received an A on the presentation.