Andrew Gunter knows the value of a graduate degree in organizational ethics and compliance, even though he doesn’t have one. The 2011 School of Law graduate and corporate compliance and ethics manager for Target Corp. is certain that an LL.M. in this growing field could have impacted his career.

“I would have come into this role with a better understanding of the roles of compliance and ethics at an organization – how it differs from the law department, as well as the various elements of an effective compliance program,” Gunter said.

Without a degree emphasizing compliance, Gunter has had to learn on the job. And he’s not alone – compliance officers have long been trained by the companies they work for, eating up valuable time and resources that might otherwise have been spent keeping companies safe from risk.

Enter the sea change. With the passage of large federal undertakings such as the Affordable Care Act and the Dodd-Frank Act, the regulatory environment is becoming even more challenging for companies and entire industries. Along with the new federal regulations comes a need for people who can effectively interpret the rules. That’s where the University of St. Thomas School of Law steps in with two new graduate programs – a master’s degree and an LL.M. – set to enroll their first classes this fall.

“The compliance field has seen tremendous growth over the past decade, not just in the number of jobs, but in the complexity of the challenges that confront compliance professionals,” said Carolyn Brue, Cargill’s assistant general counsel and assistant vice president for ethics and compliance, and member of the law school’s Organizational Ethics and Compliance Advisory Board. “This growth suggests that our field is ready for a graduate-level degree program, and St. Thomas has set a high standard by creating an academically rigorous program that reflects the interdisciplinary nature of compliance work.”

Indeed, companies around the world say regulation and compliance risk is their No. 1 threat. The number of private sector compliance jobs increased by 122 percent over the past decade in the United States, with an 18 percent increase in positions reported between 2009 and 2012, despite high unemployment nationwide.

Among just a handful of graduate programs available in this field in the United States, the School of Law’s new degree programs benefit from a national reputation for professional leadership and ethics education. The School of Law, including the Holloran Center for Ethical Leadership in the Professions, and its academic partner, the Opus College of Business, including the Center for Ethical Business Cultures and the Veritas Institute, are known nationwide for their research and programming on ethics and professionalism. Opus is home to one of the largest business ethics faculties in the world.

Industry Connections Ensure Relevance

Developed with the guidance of leading compliance professionals – such as Brue – working in major corporations, the Master of Studies in Law (M.S.L.) and Master of Laws (LL.M.) degree programs can be taken on a full- or part-time basis, and completed in one to two years. J.D. students also can benefit from the law school’s strengthened focus on compliance. The J.D./ LL.M. dual degree option allows students to complete both degrees in three years, and the optional J.D. concentration in compliance enables students to focus their coursework without pursuing an additional degree.

With a broad selection of elective courses, each program can be tailored to fit the needs of individuals interested in all sectors of compliance work.

“The University of St. Thomas School of Law’s compliance programs set the foundation for a career in the fields of compliance or risk management,” said Yvette Hollingsworth, executive vice president and chief compliance officer for Wells Fargo, and advisory board member. “There is an immediate demand for talent that understands legal theory, laws, regulations and rules applicable to financial services, pharmaceuticals and other industries.”

Most of the talk surrounding the compliance field focuses on the financial, health care and business sectors, but Andrea Smith ’07 knows compliance education has a much wider reach. As associate director of compliance for University of Minnesota Athletics, Smith counsels coaches, student-athletes and staff on NCAA rules, providing interpretation and guidance on what the rules mean and how they impact each group.

The new programs at St. Thomas, she said, will help set up new compliance professionals for success in any position focusing on rules, regulations and ethics.

The School of Law’s 20-member Organizational Ethics and Compliance Advisory Board has been heavily involved in program development to ensure Smith’s assertion rings true. Board members will continue to be active in shaping the coursework to guarantee it remains cutting-edge and relevant to meet the needs of corporations.

Board member Tom Schumacher, vice president and chief ethics and compliance officer for Medtronic, believes the programs make for “an academically rigorous practical learning opportunity to provide expertise in navigating complex legal requirements and principles.

“In our highly regulated global business environment,” he said, “I see a real opportunity for professionals across many disciplines to meet the rising need for compliance expertise.”

Leading compliance professionals will join law and business faculty in teaching the courses.

Strength in Ethics Sets St. Thomas Apart

Like Gunter and Smith, many School of Law alumni already hold compliance positions with nationally recognized organizations. As vice president and director of business line compliance testing for U.S. Bancorp, Justin Windschitl ’05 spent years working as an attorney for the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis before taking on his current role, where he oversees a 105-person team. As general counsel for Hazelden Foundation, Jennifer Lohse ’05 wears two hats: attorney and chief compliance officer.

“In health care,” Lohse said, “everything is an opportunity for a compliance incident.”

Though they didn’t complete law school with degrees in compliance, each graduate was impacted by a focus on integrating ethical principles into their professional identities, a key component of the School of Law’s mission since its 1999 founding.

The strong ethical leadership component of the new programs, Smith said, will offer students “the tools and understanding” of how ethical issues might arise in compliance work.

“As corporations navigate today’s regulatory and governance challenges – and position themselves to meet those that have yet to emerge – they will need to depend on professionals who know how to follow the rules, but who also can think critically, motivate others, and respond to change without losing sight of business objectives or core organizational values,” School of Law Dean Robert K. Vischer said.

For Gunter, that means working to ensure Target’s chief compliance officer has appropriate oversight of the company’s various compliance programs and that the embedded business compliance teams have the tools and resources they need to build their program.

To sweeten the deal, Gunter said, while Target Corp. doesn’t routinely hire new law graduates for attorney positions, the company does hire new attorneys for its compliance teams.

For more information on the School of Law’s new graduate degrees in organizational ethics and compliance, visit www.stthomas.edu/law/compliance.

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