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By Liz Warren-Pederson

The annual High School Ethics Forum — initiated in Tucson in 2007 — is now operating in three cities. The forum expanded to Phoenix in 2009, and launched in Los Angeles in April. The forum is organized by undergraduate students on the Eller Board of Honor and Integrity (EBHI) and sponsored by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC).

“It has been so well-received in Tucson and Phoenix by students and superintendents over the years that when we broached the idea of taking the program on the road, PricewaterhouseCoopers didn’t hesitate,” saidPaul Melendez, EthicsPoint Distinguished Lecturer in Business Ethics and director of the Eller Ethics Program.

Amanda Wacker (BSBA Finance and Marketing ‘12) and Ryan Washko, EBHI members, traveled to Los Angeles earlier this month for the forum.

“First, the students broke into groups with a PwC leader to discuss three cases written by Dr. Melendez,” Wacker said. “The cases were aboutTake Two Interactive, Facebook, and Negative Equity. Then they broke for lunch and listened to the keynote speaker, Patrick Kuhse.”

Twenty-eight juniors in the Academy of Business and Finance program atDowntown Magnets High School attended the event. The academy program introduces students to the world of entrepreneurship, accounting, economics, corporate finance, and international relations.

“Business ethics is an important issue — now more than ever,” said Academy coordinator Sam Dovlatian. “It is evident we must begin preparing high school students who are headed into careers that will require financial and ethical decision making for the impact their decisions will have on their career, family, and ultimately, the world. I was excited to have our business students participate in Dr. Melendez’s business ethics forum through our school community partner, PricewaterhouseCoopers.”

“The students were very receptive to the material,” Wacker said. “They had a really good understanding of all the stakeholders and came up with very good ideas regarding the three different cases.”

“While the students have been exposed to business on a general level, they have not had the opportunity to discuss and present on ethical issues that arise in the decision making process of employees, bankers, or CEOs on a deeper level,” Dovlatian said. “It also brought real-world issues into their perspective and gave students the opportunity to think about the consequences and impact of the financial and business decisions we have to make on a daily basis.”

The Downtown Magnets High School hosted Los Angeles's first High School Ethics Forum.

The Downtown Magnets High School hosted Los
Angeles’s first High School Ethics Forum.

Wacker said a high point was Kuhse’s presentation: his personal story of an ethical crisis brought the issues to life for the students. “It really made them think about how personal ethics can have a huge effect on their lives,” Wacker said.

“At the end of the day, the students gained a valuable lesson in lifelong ethical decision making,” Dovlatian said.

“The students were very perceptive and engaged, and the whole event was made even better with facilitation by PwC,” Melendez added.

“The most exciting part of being involved in the High School Ethics Forum is being able to see the students’ understanding of ethics grow,” Wacker said. “It is also very exciting to participate in and stimulate discussion among the students. They really do become passionate about the topics and form strong opinions!”

In 2011, the Forums were held in Los Angeles on April 11, in Phoenix on April 15, and in Tucson on April 29.