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 PCSB students win national business ethics competition

Academics; Around Campus; BusinessStandard
Team members say their liberal arts education prepared them well for the 41-school initiative.
​​A team of Providence College School of Business (PCSB) students captured first place in the 8th annual Berg Cup, an international business ethics competition that involved 41 schools. 

The team claimed a $4,000 cash prize and will be recognized with the engraving of the College’s name on the Berg trophy alongside such recent champions as the University of Calgary, Yale University, the U.S. Naval Academy, and the University of Virginia. 

Members of the championship team were accountancy majors Connor Barrett ’16 (Malverne, N.Y.), Cristian Higuita Montoya ’16 (Greenville, S.C.), Kristin Michels ’16 (Eastchester, N.Y.), and accountancy and history double major Benjamin Swiszcz ’16 (Cumberland, R.I.). 

“I am so proud of the four PCSB students who participated in this multiple-round competition along with 40 other schools,” said Dr. Sylvia Maxfield, dean of the School of Business. “Their participation was one of the inaugural year activities of our new Program on Ethics in Business Education. This is validation of our commitment that PCSB graduates will be leaders with the knowledge to make sound decisions and the integrity to make responsible ones.”

Maxfield expressed gratitude to former PC Board of Trustee member Michael T. Smith '65 and his wife, Jane, whose generous support in the area of business ethics made the students’ success possible.

The Berg Cup is held at the University of Pittsburgh each spring. Competing for the first time in the case study initiative, PC was one of eight schools to advance to the semifinals and then was selected for the final round along with the University of Calgary, the University of Vermont, and the University of Pittsburgh.

“We are grateful to have had the opportunity to represent the Providence College School of Business at the Berg Cup. Our success was truly a team effort,” said Swiszcz. 

Swiszcz and his peers extended appreciation for the encouragement and support offered  by Dr. Patrick T.  Kelly, associate professor of accountancy, department chair, and director of ethics in business education, and Jacqueline Elcik, assistant dean for assessment, graduate programs, and student engagement in the PCSB.

Kelly said the team’s performance was a testament to the caliber of students in the PCSB. He noted that the competition’s rules did not allow teams to receive preparation assistance from outside sources such as faculty. He underscored the significance of business ethics and being exposed to challenging situations such as those posed in the Berg Cup competition.

“All business students can expect to be faced with ethical challenges during their careers,” said Kelly. “PC’s preparation in business ethics, as well as the Berg Cup competition, will prepare students for that one day when they have to face that ethical decision that may be the most significant challenge of their careers.”

Elcik pointed out that what makes the Berg Cup competition unique is that the students who compose the teams must represent the same organization or group. PC’s four students are members of the Accounting Association, which will receive the funds awarded to the school.  

Zika virus at center of competition

This year’s case study posed a hypothetical business scenario in which a pharmaceutical company was tasked with developing a viable business approach to handle the outbreak of the Zika virus. Teams were asked to consider ethical, financial, and general business circumstances in their solutions. 

“We found that our four years of business education deeply rooted in the liberal arts was invaluable in a competition that required us to synthesize ethical and financial considerations,” said Swiszcz.

Barrett said the team’s solution consisted of partnering with the World Health Organization (WHO) and setting up a three-step plan: contain, treat, and cure. Montoya noted, “We essentially came up with an integrated corporate social responsibility initiative that encompassed partnering with the WHO and the three-step plan.” 

“Ultimately, I think the competition’s value was that it enabled us to understand the ethical decisions businesses face on a day-to-day basis and how firm leadership always has to maintain the balance between its fiduciary and ethical responsibilities,” said Barrett.

Michels said one of the benefits of the competition was that it forced teams to operate independently. She explained that this helped her gain a better understanding of a real-world business experience and allowed her to visualize how business ethics would be incorporated in her future career.

“Being ethical in the business world is extremely important to me,” said Michels. “I hope that my future in the business world involves not just revenues and bottom- line numbers, but a full corporate responsibility approach.” 

It was the consensus of the team that its liberal arts education played a significant role in its success. 

“Through the educational framework of the Providence College School of Business, we were able to incorporate both technical business skills and a rich liberal arts tradition that provided us with a distinct, balanced viewpoint on issues of business ethics,” said Barrett. 

“It was this unique mix of both business and the liberal arts that we felt separated us from some of the other schools that participated,” he added. 

Kelly similarly emphasized that the team’s liberal arts background helped it succeed. He also attributed the team’s accomplishments to the school’s participation in the annual Collegiate Ethics Case Competition in Arizona last fall. Sponsored by the Eller College of Management at the University of Arizona, it is a competition similar to the Berg Cup. Swiszcz and Montoya represented the College. The students’ own talent and drive also were evident, said Kelly.

“I believe our students stood out in this competition because they are talented and hardworking students with strong communication skills, a well-rounded education, and a solid liberal arts background,” he said. 

TOP PHOTO: Team members are, from left, Connor Barrett ’16, Cristian Higuita Montoya ’16, Kristin Michaels ’16, and Benjamin Swiszcz ’16.
STORY INSET PHOTO​: From left are Michaels, Swiszcz, Barrett, and Montoya.


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