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Learning that Being Good is Good Business

Friday, April 12 2019 04:21pm

In the annual Robert L. Foehl Annual Ethical Leadership Case Competition, students inside and outside the College of Business learn to recognize and address ethical issues in business.

In March 2019, five teams competed for $2000 in prize money at the 4th Annual Robert L. Foehl Ethical Leadership Case Competition. This year, all teams researched and presented on the same topic—food insecurity—but each from a different stakeholder perspective. According to Emerging Leaders director and event coordinator Dr. Andrew Pueschel, 16 teams of four registered for the competition in February, and 13 gave preliminary presentations. Of those 13 teams, five were chosen to present their case studies before a panel of expert judges the night of the event.

Event sponsor Rob Foehl, who is the OHIO executive-in-residence for business law and ethics and a COB alumnus, says this process allows students to “step outside their coursework and look at a case or scenario not with just a business eye but a critical ethics eye as well. It allows them to put together a course of action that aligns good business with being good.”

In addition to exposing students to business ethics, the competition challenges them in other ways as well. “It is a simulation of what business practitioners do in real life,” Pueschel said, “and it gives the students a chance to work on their teamwork, time management, research, critical thinking, analytical, and presentation skills.” Watching other teams’ presentations allowed each student to see the issue of food insecurity through multiple lenses, Foehl noted, broadening their perspective of the underlying issue.

Another extremely valuable component of the competition was the Q&A session that followed each presentation, and participants were fortunate to have ethics expert Foehl, along with two local food insecurity experts, as judges. Dr. Theresa Moran is the director of the food studies curricular theme at OU and is involved with several community food initiatives in Athens County. Keith Wasserman is the founder and executive director of Good Works, Inc., which has been serving people struggling with poverty for more than 38 years. Everyone present benefited from the judges’ insightful and challenging questions, especially, according to Foehl, the students who had to think on their feet and maintain composure when contemplating a question that they hadn’t anticipated.

Before the final awards were presented, Wasserman inspired the students and observers with wisdom gained from decades of experience as a servant leader in our community. Along with other advice, he urged the students to cultivate a teachable spirit; develop new ways of thinking about failure, power, humility, and sacrifice; and think about the long-term impact of their actions and decisions.

This year, the first-place winners of $1,000 were MBA students James Axsel (also the winner of an individual award), Luke Edwards, Ellen Baranack, and Nicholas Fryman. This team presented on O’Bleness Hospital and its role in addressing food insecurity in Athens County. Brooklyn Bungard, Nick Fee (individual award winner), Jess Halverstadt, and Nate Woodhams, a team of students from Pueschel’s Leadership in Practice class, won $600 for placing second with their presentation. Earning $400 for third place were Emerging Leaders members Jenna Goldberg (individual award winner), Jacqueline Pawloski, Isabelle Scott, and Casey Shows. David Miller and Andrew Smith also won individual awards.

Overall, Foehl was pleased with the students’ ability to step into various stakeholders’ shoes to analyze the issue of food insecurity in Athens County. “It’s my pleasure to be able to continue sponsoring organizational ethics based programming for students inside and outside the College of Business,” he said. “It’s the whole reason for my gift, and I’m happy the team has been able to put together such great events.

Learn more about the Robert D. Walter Center for Strategic Leadership