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For Business Professor, Guatemalan Corruption is Personal

Manning School’s Jose Godinez Studies Corporate Accountability, Compliance in His Native Country

Jose Godinez with Chris Kowalewski and Jose Solis Photo by courtesy
Asst. Prof. of Management Jose Godinez, center, is working with Transparency International's Chris Kowalewski, left, and Jose Solis, a faculty member at the Universidad del Valle de Guatemala, to study business-related corruption in his native country.

08/12/2019
By Ed Brennen

Jose Godinez remembers the first time he came face-to-face with corruption in his native Guatemala.

Godinez, now an assistant professor of management in the Manning School of Business, was a teenager getting his driver’s license at a government agency in Guatemala City. When he pulled into the parking lot, Godinez was approached by two people who offered to take him through the back door of the building and get him whatever kind of license he needed – general, commercial, tractor-trailer – for a price.

Godinez wasn’t interested in their shortcut.

“No. I will get my driver’s license the way you’re supposed to,” he told them before going inside and waiting in line “for a few hours” to take the test – which he flunked.

“I realized that it shouldn’t be like that,” he says. “I studied and did the right thing, but the system was there for you to bribe someone, so I failed.”

Experiences like that help explain why Godinez has gone on to research business ethics, specifically how to promote transparency and protect against corruption.
Jose Godinez in the Pulichino Tong Business Building Photo by Ed Brennen
The Manning School's Jose Godinez has helped develop a master’s program in corporate compliance at the Universidad del Valle de Guatemala.

And it’s why Godinez is collaborating with the Universidad del Valle de Guatemala (UVG) in Guatemala City to launch a master’s program in corporate compliance – while also working with the school to conduct a survey on business-related corruption and bribery in Latin America.

“The idea for this master’s program is to create a system for businesses to be accountable,” says Godinez, who helped UVG develop the curriculum and is teaching one of its first courses this summer, primarily online but also with one week on campus in Guatemala City in August.

“Everyone has the potential of doing the wrong thing, so you need a system that prevents you from being tempted in the first place,” he says. “You need to have the checks and balances and the measures to see if you’re doing what you’re supposed to be doing.”

Godinez began working with UVG last year through a connection he made at Transparency International, a nongovernmental organization that produces an annual “Corruption Perceptions Index” of 180 countries and territories. According to the 2018 index, Denmark is ranked the least corrupt country, while Somalia ranks last at 180. Guatemala is 144th, just ahead of Russia; the United States is 22nd.
Jose Godinez and Dean Sandra Richtermeyer with officials at UVG Photo by courtesy
Manning School of Business Dean Sandra Richtermeyer, center, joined Jose Godinez, third from right, last year at the Universidad del Valle de Guatemala to announce the schools' collaboration.

“This whole master’s initiative is because Guatemalan businesses went to Transparency International and said, ‘We need to show that we’re doing the right thing,’” says Godinez, who notes that the first cohort of students were sent by the Guatemalan Chamber of Commerce and other business associations.

Godinez will collect data from these first participating businesses and conduct a longitudinal analysis (studying a series of observations from many respondents over time) to assess the program’s impact.

“Hopefully, if businesses start adopting these systems, it will be part of the solution,” Godinez says. “I would like to see a ripple effect. Other businesses have to see that it’s a good deal to do the right thing.”

Despite having the largest economy in Central America and a wealth of natural resources, more than half of Guatemala’s citizens live below the poverty line. Godinez attributes this to corruption.

“I was aware of the corruption growing up, but when you’re immersed in the culture, sometimes you don’t see the problems,” says Godinez, who left at age 23 to further his education in the United States and Europe. He holds a bachelor’s in business management from Johns Hopkins University, a master’s in international business from the University of Manchester in England and a Ph.D. in management from the University of Edinburgh Business School in Scotland.

Godinez joined the Manning School in 2017 and teaches international business and business ethics. He is also working with the Donahue Center for Business Ethics and Social Responsibility to help the Manning School join the Principles for Responsible Management Education (PRME), a United Nations-supported initiative that promotes the balance of economic and sustainability goals in business schools around the world – including UVG.

Godinez hopes to eventually take Manning School students to Guatemala on a study abroad program focused on social entrepreneurship.

“I think it would change perspectives and make students more appreciative of what they have,” he says. “If they could work with people there to create a business solution to a problem, students would be very well-served.”