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Fordham Professor Develops Ethical Toolkit for Business Students


A Fordham professor joined forces with one of the world’s largest professional services firms to design a “toolkit” that instructs business students around the country on ethical conduct.

Barbara Porco, Ph.D., director of program development at the College of Business Administration (CBA) and 20-year member of the accounting faculty, began designing the multi-module toolkit, “The Ethical Compass,” last June. She collaborated with the ethics and compliance group at accounting giant KPMG on the project.

“It’s important to the profession to get ethics into the classroom,” Porco said. “Most financial accounting textbooks do not address ethics issues in a meaningful way, and there’s little time in a professor’s schedule to prepare lectures pertaining to ethics.”

So Porco got to writing. The result is a toolkit that includes interactive video, role-play scenarios and case studies that tackle some of the most challenging topics in accounting ethics. The toolkit has also won an award; the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) voted it the “Best Practice or Program—Educational Programming—Employer” for 2008.

“We aimed to create ethics material that could be presented to students at any point in their college studies,” Porco said. “I’m thrilled that it has been recognized and is being used by other universities.”

The toolkit is offered to colleges and universities at no cost, courtesy of KPMG.

“This program bridges the gap between the ethical challenges students are experiencing on campus—for example, issues of cheating—and the challenges they will likely face when they enter the accounting profession,” Porco said.

More than 100 faculty members at nearly as many colleges and universities have ordered the toolkit, according to Blane Ruschak, KPMG’s director of national recruiting.

“It’s very flexible,” he pointed out, explaining that professors and instructors can use as much or as little of the toolkit as they need.

Porco, who has held senior positions at PricewaterhouseCoopers, has been researching ethics for decades. Perhaps that is why Donna Rapaccioli, Ph.D., dean of CBA, approached Porco a couple of years ago and asked her to develop content for Rapaccioli’s freshmen enrichment program that would ready them for the tough world of business.

“These were students who have no business experience whatsoever, so I thought, why don’t we do something that follows the Jesuit tradition? Something with ethics?” Porco said.

It was then that Porco approached KPMG to help create the enrichment program, which was jointly instructed by Fordham professors and KPMG representatives. The positive reaction it elicited prompted KPMG and Porco to consider how they could encourage other professors to address similar issues in their classrooms.

Enter The Ethical Compass. The toolkit, Porco said, helps students take personal responsibility for acting ethically.

“For most college students, the default position when faced with an ethical challenge is to do nothing,” she said. “The Ethical Compass highlights that not doing anything is a decision in itself. Our profession will be enriched if students joining public accounting firms understand the importance of reflecting decision-making and have the critical-thinking skills to recognize an ethical dilemma.”


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