Students travel to Belgium and England to study the effects of the global economy and find themselves defending American foreign policy

Today’s business leaders have the enormous responsibility of balancing the short-term expectations of investors while building for the long-term and serving multiple stakeholders. Regardless of company size or location, the pressures are intense.

St. Thomas students experienced this dynamic firsthand in June when 24 Ethics, Culture and Business students participated in a unique study abroad program that took them to the heart of the European Union – Brussels, Belgium, as well as London and Cambridge, England – for an intensive and personal look at business ethics and corporate social responsibility.

Led by course facilitators Ken Goodpaster, Tom Holloran and Terri Hastings, students were confronted and stimulated by experiences that highlighted challenges multinational corporations face when dealing with ethical business practices as well as the complicated realities of globalization from a European perspective.  

Among many corporate site visits, students had the opportunity to learn firsthand how the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) was able to align values and action during its coverage of the war in Iraq. In a private meeting, BBC executives spoke about their stakeholder approach in developing BBC’s core values and how these values guided their decision making.

 In a timely coincidence, on the evening prior to the BBC visit many of the students viewed a BBC televised debate, titled “What the World Thinks of America.” The debate examined world opinion on American foreign policy as well as cultural, economic and military power. The program was anchored by the release of an international survey that captured popular prejudices and convictions about America. Overall, the opinion of America was not a particularly glowing one:

• On average, 18 percent gave America a favorable rating. • When given a list of words to best describe Americans, “free” and “arrogant” were the top two results.• When asked if America was a better place to live than their own country, only 18 percent agreed.

Knowing that some students had viewed the televised debate, BBC executives utilized the students as a focus group to gauge American reaction to the program. The resultant dialogue was intense and spirited. Many students questioned the conclusions reached, the method of data collection and whether there was bias in the debate format.

The BBC executives were grateful for the insight offered by the students, and many of them stayed on for continued informal discussions.

Summer 2004 will mark the third time the University of St. Thomas College of Business and the Center for Ethical Business Cultures (CEBC) will co-sponsor a graduate-level study abroad. In addition to visiting Brussels, Paris and Fontainebleau, students also will visit Caen and the Normandy landings to commemorate the 60th anniversary of D-Day.

The St. Thomas International Education Center began accepting applications in September 2003 for Ethics, Culture and Business: A European Perspective in a Global Economy.