Manning School Sends Team to International Business Ethics and Sustainability Event

IBESCC competitors practice their presentation Image by Ed Brennen
Manning School of Business seniors, from left, Meredith Buckley, Nick Valenti and Nick Caraco practice their presentation for the International Business Ethics and Sustainability Case Competition in Los Angeles.

By Ed Brennen

As members of a business development and research team at a leading pharmaceutical company, Nick Valenti, Meredith Buckley and Nick Caraco have a can’t-miss opportunity for the board of directors.

For 25 minutes, the trio presents the legal, financial and ethical challenges of producing and marketing a male contraceptive drug. They assure board members the drug will earn the company billions of dollars in profit – while at the same time revolutionizing the way men and women share in the responsibility for birth control.

“This drug would level the playing field,” Buckley tells the board as she concludes the PowerPoint presentation. “It would give both men and women control over their reproductive health and ability.”  

It’s not really a board presentation, though, but actually a case study that Valenti, Buckley and Caraco – all students in the Manning School of Business – are presenting at this week’s International Business Ethics and Sustainability Case Competition (IBESCC) at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles.

“I wanted to see what a competition is about and take a deeper dive into how companies look at business ethics and corporate social responsibility,” Valenti, a senior business administration major from Ashland, says of taking part in the competition.

This is the second time the Manning School has sent a team to the event, which attracts dozens of undergraduate and graduate student teams from business schools around the world. Last year, five Manning School students competed in Boston at what was then called the International Business Ethics Case Competition.

Nick Valenti, Meredith Buckley and Nick Caraco pose with Elissa Magnant Image by Ed Brennen
Team members, from left, Nick Valenti, Meredith Buckley and Nick Caraco traveled to LA for the IBESCC with Elissa Magnant, co-director of the Donahue Center for Business Ethics and Social Responsibility.

With the addition of “sustainability” to its name, the competition now requires teams to focus on ethics issues that relate to one of the 17 globally adopted U.N. Sustainable Development Goals, which cover a wide range of social, environmental and economic issues.

The UML team chose gender equality, albeit through a case study that judges may not expect.

“There are four teams doing something on Juul (e-cigarettes), but we’re the only one dealing with male contraception,” says Buckley, a senior business administration major from Salem, Mass., with a concentration in accounting. “We think it’s a distinct topic that not a lot of people talk about, but at the same time gets a lot of media attention.”

The UML team is led once again by visiting instructor Elissa Magnant, co-director of the Donahue Center for Business Ethics and Social Responsibility, which is funding the trip. Senior Elianna Makiej, one of the five students to compete last year, has helped out as an informal advisor to the team.

“They are incredibly hard-working students, and I am so proud to work with them,” Magnant says. “I am very excited to see them compete.”

Buckley and Caraco, a senior business administration major from Burlington, presented on the topic of male contraception in Magnant’s Business Ethics course last semester. 

“Meredith actually chose the topic, thinking I would hate it,” says Caraco, whose concentrations are in marketing and management. “But as I read more about it, I became more interested. Why should only women face the burden of contraception? Males should hold some responsibility.”

Impressed by their work, Magnant then invited the students to use it as a case study at IBESCC this spring. Valenti, who took the Business Ethics course as a junior, was invited to join the team, as well.

Students receive feedback on their presentation Image by Ed Brennen
The team gets feedback on their IBESCC presentation from Asst. Teaching Prof. Deb Casey.

The students had to overhaul the original course project to fit IBESCC rules, choosing to play the role of a research team at Pfizer. Valenti says it was a tricky process, but one that helped him develop patience and appreciation for feedback.

“Through trial, error and collaboration with the team, we figured out the best way to present the topic,” says Valenti, whose concentrations are in management and analytics and operations management.

In addition to the 25-minute presentation, the team will deliver condensed 10-minute and 90-second versions to judges.

In the weeks leading up to the competition, the team practiced their presentation in front of faculty members Deb Finch, Deb Casey and Louise Durand, who offered feedback on everything from the substance of their talking points to the color of their PowerPoint slides.

“Their feedback was so helpful,” Buckley says. “I’d never really done an executive, business-style presentation before. This is way more structured than academic presentations we do in class.”

While in Los Angeles, the students have also been invited by the Undergraduate Admissions office to meet with prospective UML students and talk about their experiences at the university.

“I’m super excited,” Buckley says.

“We’re looking to place at the competition and bring home an award,” Valenti adds.