Rand Park is known for his highly engaging lectures.

An analytical approach to ethics in BA 2005

Monday, May 15, 2023

Students lean forwards in their seats, entranced as Professor Rand Park paces back and forth across the front of the room. Their eyes follow every movement of his hand gestures, every stroke with his marker. Today’s lesson? Ethics in supply chains.

BA 2005: Business Ethics, Corporate Responsibility & Sustainability provides students a foundation to make business decisions in their future. By utilizing case studies and real-world examples, BA 2005 prepares students for whichever career path they choose. 

“What I hope to do is give students a common vocabulary and toolkit, so that when it comes to thorny ethical questions that they aren't just going with their gut reaction, but they’ll instead actually sit down and think through the decision,” said Park.

The course spends the first few weeks providing students with that common vocabulary. Students begin the course learning about the Stage Theory of Moral Development, which categorizes analytical levels of decision making. These stages help students consider the ethical implications of different business decisions and the trade-offs that come with them. 

Once the students have developed a common vocabulary, Park introduces several case studies, where students apply what they have learned to real instances of ethical failures in businesses. Students learn about Enron, the 2001 financial collapse, and the mortgage crisis of 2008. Through these case studies, students learn about real-life business decisions and the great impacts they can have.

“I remember specifically the Enron case. I was very, very confused during the reading, but then we came into class and went over it and the timelines specifically,” said Shikha Ray ‘26 BSB. “The case analysis was super helpful for figuring out what actually happens because the cases are so complicated.”

The course also showcases instances where businesses have made good ethical decisions, including instances of collaboration between companies to pursue a societal benefit. 

“A lot of companies say a lot of things about what they’re doing to positively benefit the environment or society,” said Park. “We will work on categorizing the different types of activities so we can determine how effective they are and whether those companies are truly engaging in activities for the greater good.”

Near the end of the course, lessons get more topical, focusing on how ethics is relevant for every industry of business. For example, students will dive into ethical marketing practices, ethical supply chain management, and ethics in human resources

“This class is a skimming of the surface, more of a synthesis kind of class. So as a class that you take before ICore, we'll actually talk about supply chain, accounting, and marketing. We'll talk about the ethical questions that help students understand how all this stuff hangs together as opposed to just being a bunch of separate classes,” said Park.

Park is constantly seeking to improve the way he teaches students. He is completing his 10th year at the Carlson School as a full-time professor, having previously worked as an adjunct professor. Student feedback is incredibly important to how he teaches his courses, and he incorporates a dynamic teaching style so that every student is able to engage in his classroom. 

“Every time Professor Park draws on the board, it's just always fun,” said Sarah Mullah ‘25 BSB. “Sometimes he does little voices to help you memorize.”

Park’s interactions with students are his favorite part of teaching. 

“Every day that I teach a class a student will ask a question that teaches me, and that's a dynamic learning environment where I'm learning as well. That’s my favorite part - every day I either learn something new or get a new insight just from teaching the class in person and I think that's the part that I like the most.”

BA 2005 prepares students for a dynamic business world where the right answer isn’t always clear. 

“I know the corporate world can be in the ethical gray area, so I think having all of these ideas in the back of your mind that you can take away from situations just really helps you be more ethical overall,” said Ray.

“The number one thing that I want people to take away from the BA 2005 class is that when you're thinking about questions relating to business ethics, corporate responsibility, and sustainability, we really want to take a very analytical approach,” said Professor Park. “We want to use a lot of critical thinking when we talk about ethical behavior.”