LOWELL -- Ethical dilemmas in the professional world can crop up at any time in any field, from nursing to computer science, accounting to engineering.
To educate students about how to navigate them, UMass Lowell established the Richard and Nancy Donahue Center for Business Ethics and Social Responsibility.
"Any single managerial decision can completely change the reputation of a company, so it's extremely important for students to study ethics in order to avoid morally wrong decision-making," said business administration major Nicole Mackie of Mansfield, adding that such education will also help individuals make the right choices. "Not only will it help us in our future professions, but it will also give us a solid set of values and morals to guide us through our personal lives."
The center opened a year ago within the university's Manning School of Business. Faculty members Erica Steckler and Elissa Magnant serve as the center's co-directors.
"Ethics are a part of everyone's careers and social responsibility is a core value of many of our students. These topics resonate powerfully and they're important to our faculty," said Steckler, a professor of management.
Over the past year, the center has been busy on many fronts. Chief among them is providing opportunities to UMass Lowell students to participate in leadership training and competitions that explore real-world business case studies in ethical, social and environmental sustainability.
Next month, the Donahue Center will launch a new ethics competition to test students' critical-thinking skills just as UMass Lowell's DifferenceMaker Idea Challenge encourages them to pursue entrepreneurship education and opportunities. The student team that wins the ethics contest will advance to a competition for college students from around the world presented by the Institute for Business Ethics and Sustainability in the spring.
The Donahue Center is also providing students the opportunity to complete the Ethical Leadership Certification Program offered by the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy's Center for the Public Trust.
Magnant, who was honored this year by UMass Lowell's Student Government Association with its Excellence in Teaching Award, was drawn to the field of business ethics through her work as an attorney and past as a business owner.
"Having my own business and law office gave me a lot of experience with how doing business could be done well," Magnant said.
The Donahue Center has been represented at conferences in New York and Chicago, and the center has also partnered with the International Humanistic Management Association to offer faculty members training opportunities in the field.
"The broader our network goes, the better it is for UMass Lowell and our students," Magnant said.
"I think our students have a chance to apply this awareness and knowledge and go out and make a real difference in the world," Steckler said.