Encouraging Others to Build Cultures of Honor and Integrity in their Business Schools

Topics: Blog, Spotlight

More than 10 years ago, the Smeal College of Business at Penn State launched the Smeal Honor Code as a supplement to the university’s existing academic integrity policy. Not only did the code underscore the values of the college, but it provided a means for students to hold each other accountable and for faculty to hold students accountable to academic integrity standards. The code also provided students with a foundation for developing an ethical mindset prior to entering the professional workplace.

Over time, the Honor Code has persisted and the college’s commitment to honor and integrity has evolved to include integrity standards outside of the classroom (e.g., in the job search), involving students, faculty, staff, and even alumni and recruiters. Although some of these changes naturally evolved with time, the college has also made a broad commitment to promoting a culture of honor and integrity throughout the college, not just in the classroom. Today, the college has an honor and integrity director, a half-time administrative support position dedicated to honor and integrity, and an honor and integrity operating budget. The dean has also embedded the college’s commitment to honor and integrity in its strategic plan and has made “honor and integrity” a standing topic in his regular talking points to students, faculty, staff, and alumni.

This spring, my colleague Linda Treviño, Distinguished Professor of Organizational Behavior and Ethics at the Smeal College of Business, and I published an article titled, “Building a Culture of Honor and Integrity in a Business School” in the Journal of Management Education, providing an overview of the college’s honor and integrity program. The program itself draws on the multisystem ethical culture framework developed by Treviño (1990) and updated by Treviño & Nelson (2017). The framework involves a series of formal systems (e.g., executive leadership, selection system, policies and codes, orientation and training programs, performance management system, authority structure, and decision processes) that need to align with a series of informal systems (e.g., role models and heroes, norms, rituals, myths and stories, and language) to support ethical behavior. In the article we provide an overview of the honor and integrity program and all the formal components and informal components in place to support ethical behavior at the Smeal College of Business. We also reveal the challenges associated with developing and maintaining a culture of honor and integrity.

Our hope is that the article will not only serve as a resource for organizations already engaged in promoting honor and integrity in their communities, but also a source of encouragement for other organizations interested in getting started—and building cultures of honor and integrity in their own communities. Moving on from here, we encourage you to start a dialogue in your communities, with your department chairs, deans, or provosts. If you have questions about getting started, please do not hesitate to contact us: Jennifer Eury at jld345@psu.edu and Linda Treviño at lt0@psu.edu.

 

 

About the Author
Jennifer L. Eury, Ph.D. is a clinical assistant professor of management and organization at the Smeal College of Business, and an affiliate faculty member in the Rock Ethics Institute at Penn State. She teaches courses in management and organization, ethical leadership, and leadership and change in organizations, and she studies individuals’ and organizations’ responses to identity threat, and organizational culture, specifically how culture can foster integrity and ethical behavior. Her research has been published in the Academy of Management Journal, Academy of Management Perspectives, and Journal of Management Education. Prior to joining the Smeal faculty on a full-time basis, Jennifer served as Smeal’s honor and integrity director and an instructor in management and organization from January 2014 to June 2017.
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