June 2019

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 and Linda Treviño at .



It's not easy to talk to people about their errors, whether those people are students who violated academic integrity or employees whose performance did not meet expectations. When people receive feedback they perceive as negative, criticism of a choice that was made, or simply have a less than positive experience, it "sticks in [their] minds" and they "just perseverate on it", according to Dr. Alison Ledgerwood of UC Davis.

I get this.

I had a fantastic childhood and loving parents, but when I narrate my most vivid childhood memories, they are often of those moments that I perceived as painful or negative at the time. I often wondered why my memory is better at retaining the negative than the positive. Dr. Ledgerwood says that "evolutionary, this tendency for our minds to focus on negative information, to perseverate on them, could have been very adaptive in our ancestral path" - in other words, if we remember the location where we saw a predator, we'd be able to avoid it and stay alive. This ancestral brain doesn't always work well for us now though because those survival skills are not as necessary and so instead, we ruminate on the negative too often and for too long rather than capturing and reflecting on it just long enough to learn from it.

It also means that having conversations about a "negative event" (like an allegation of cheating) can be extremely painful for people. And, if these conversations are painful, how can they be productive or helpful?

According to Crucial Conversations, people cannot have these conversations if they don't feel safe. This aligns with Dr. Ledgerwood's theory that our focus on the negative or scary is hard-wired into our evolutionary trajectory. It also aligns with Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, which reminds us that people have to feel safe before they can focus on higher level things like morality or integrity.

If people do not feel safe, they cannot hear you - they will either want to fight or flee (violence or silence, in Crucial Conversations language). People will feel more safe when you're delivering bad news if, as the deliverer of that news, you: are clear on your positive intent for having the conversation (e.g., to achieve results for the person, for yourself, for the organization); have separated the facts from the stories you might otherwise tell yourself; and then you share those facts, speaking tentatively, while asking for the other person's path or story and encouraging testing of the ideas. You can also make the other feel safe if you are able to create a "mutual purpose", that is searching for a goal that will benefit all involved.

These ideas of safety, positive intent, focusing on the facts, speaking tentatively, asking for the other person's path, testing of ideas, and creating "mutual purpose" all seem to be incorporated into the practice of Restorative Justice, which has been gaining ground in the non-academic student conduct side of higher education and seems to be just picking up traction on the academic integrity side of the house. However, not all of us are ready for Restorative Justice yet.

So, I'm wondering - could the fundamentals of Crucial Conversations be utilized in more traditional resolution meetings (i.e. where you go over the evidence with the student and the student is assigned sanctions if responsible)? If so, what could that look like? Have you incorporated any of these fundamentals into your conversations with students?

Let's start this crucial conversation in the comments section below.

This is a different kind of post.


First, I want to announce that I have a new editorial team for the Integrity Matters! Blog. Joining me are Courtney Cullen (University of Georgia), Brenda Quaye (Miami University of Ohio), and Ceceilia Parnther (St. John's University). We've been discussing changes to the blog which we plan to roll out in August, so stay tuned for that.


Second, aligned with some of the changes we've been discussing, I want to try an experiment. So, for this post, I've enabled the comments section to see if we can start some interesting, respectful, honest, responsible, fair and trustworthy conversations in response to blog postings. I want to see if we get too many trolls or if our readers and members would find value in a forum for high level discussions.


So, here it goes. I'm going to start this experiment with a simple premise and question:


Let us assume, for argument sake, that one reason some of our students go to online contract cheating providers, editing services, tutoring services, and file sharing sites is because they are not getting what they need from us, when they need it. Our students live in a 24/7 world, but colleges and universities still operate (predominantly) on a Monday-Friday, 8-5 schedule. So, if a student is working on their assignment at midnight and they have a legitimate need for help, to whom can they turn? If they are finishing their paper at 3 am, is an on-campus writing tutor available for help?


The answer is likely no. So, here's the question for discussion:


Instead of making our students work around our schedules and/or guess which online companies are legitimate/integrous and which ones are not, should we be offering 24/7 academic help services? For example, we could contract with a third-party provider or we could band together and create our own global organization so that writing tutors in London at 8 am, for example, could be helping students in San Diego at midnight. The issue, of course, is ensuring that we are providing quality support to our students with integrity; in other words, our tutors and academic support staff would need to be trained to help, not cheat. Many of our libraries figured this out a while ago when they created WorldCat Library - not only can you search libraries from around the world, but you can ask a librarian for help and someone is always available.


What do you think? Could this idea  prevent cheating while providing our students with more supportive learning environments? Or, would we just be catering to students' procrastinating tendencies when we should be teaching them to be more responsible, to manage their time, and develop the strategies for working within professional standards and structures with integrity?


Post your thoughts below and let the discussion begin!



The Academic Integrity Office at the University of California, San Diego will be posting THREE new positions in the coming days: a Senior Case Coordinator, Case Coordinator, and an Education Coordinator. These positions were created, in part, as a result of some major policy and procedural changes to be implemented in the Fall 2019 quarter. (Keep an eye on academicintegrity.ucsd.edu this week for the job postings!)

While this is fantastic news, and I’m very excited about the changes coming forward this year, it also means that in less than 4 months, we have to ready a larger AI Office and the entire campus community to act according to the new procedures. Needless to say, as the primary lead on this change, I’m struck at times with overwhelming feelings of anxiety and vulnerability. In other words, will I be able to pull this off?

And that’s when I remember to go back to ADKAR - a tested and proven model for the people side of organizational change.

I decided to talk about ADKAR in today’s blog post not only because I’m thinking about change, but because I know that others struggle with it as well. How do we get faculty to report academic integrity violations according to policy? How do we move students’ perceptions of cheating and change their behaviors? How can we get our institutions to make the changes necessary to respond to the increasing threat of contract cheating?

These are the questions with which many of us struggle and the ADKAR model might help us answer.

So, today, I’m going to do a brief introduction to the ADKAR model. I’m no expert, but I have had training on the model and have studied organizational change for a while (starting in my Ph.D. program).

ADKAR is an acronym for: Awareness, Desire, Knowledge, Ability & Reinforcement. It is a model of change tested with over 4500 participants over the last 20 years. And, in that testing, they found that people are most likely to be able to change if they first have an awareness that change is needed and helpful. Think about it - why would anyone change their behaviors or minds if they weren’t even aware of the need for change? Why would faculty report cheating if they weren’t aware of the downsides of not reporting or the upsides of doing so? You see this awareness phase in many models of change,  so it appears to be universal. Think about awareness weeks or months (think Black History Month); in our world, the International Day of Action Against Contract Cheating is a method for generating awareness. Raising awareness requires multiple communications in multiple mediums, all of which are sending a consistent message to the entire organization.

Next, after awareness is generated, we need to inspire in people a desire to make the change or support the change that is being presented to them. Ideally, you involve the most highly impacted people in the planning of the change; after all, it is quite difficult to generate desire in people if you are presenting them with a change with which they were previously unaware or uninvolved in (hence why the first step is so critical). But, you cannot always do that. So how do you create this desire? People can often be naturally selfish so usually the desire must be seeded by what is in it for them. Will their lives be easier, better or more fun? Will it better enable them to reach their goal(s) or achieve something? This is tricky in the world of academic integrity because for students, cheating can be an easy way to achieve a short-term goal (i.e., a grade). What ADKAR tells us is that unless we figure out a way to generate in students a desire to change from cheating to integrity, then our other efforts to prevent may be wasted efforts. We can create this desire by listening and understanding objectives, removing barriers to the change, make it personal, and provide incentives for the changed behaviors.

Once people have an awareness of the need for change and a desire to support that change, we must help them gain the knowledge that is needed to implement that change. Without knowledge, awareness and desire is useless. Think of the person who is aware that they have diabetes and need to change their eating habits, and they have the desire to do so, but they cannot change because they are unable to differentiate between detrimental and beneficial eating habits. Likewise, faculty may have an awareness that active learning can enhance integrity and learning, as well as the desire to flip their classroom, but they need knowledge of active learning pedagogies before they can actually make the change. So, when we’re looking to change faculty academic integrity practices on our campuses, we have to keep in mind that some practices will require more knowledge growing activities than others. Knowledge-growing activities include formal training and education programs, one-on-one coaching, and active communities of practice. Being cognizant of the need to grow knowledge will keep us from asking too much too fast of our faculty, students, and staff.

After there is awareness, desire and knowledge, people now need the behaviors and skills that will make them able to implement the change. This means training programs have to be implemented to tool up our students, faculty and staff for the change, and ongoing training needs to be available so people feel supported - especially within the first year of the change. For example, if we want our faculty and staff to be better able to detect contract cheating, we need to train them in the methods for spotting the usual signs as well as methods for speaking to students about their concerns. If we want students to make better ethical decisions under stress and pressure, then we need to equip them with the skills necessary to make those better decisions.

Finally, once there is the awareness, desire, knowledge and ability, people need reinforcement to make the change “stick”. This means that we need to keep our focus on the change for a year or two by collecting data on change progress, so that we can identify where there are gaps, pockets of resistance, or skill deficits; this will enable us to implement appropriate performance management and training so that people can continually refine and advance their skills. And, we need to celebrate successes and wins (small or big). Ensuring that people are supported in their change efforts and celebrated in their change successes, will weave the change into the fabric of the organization over the long-term.

That’s the ADKAR change model in a nutshell. Of course, everything is always easier said than done. So, I’ll write another blog post a year from now to let you know how/if the ADKAR model helped me manage change on my campus.