ethics-boot-camp-virtueIt’s a Friday night at the University of Denver. Students have just completed their second week of classes. It’s 80 degrees and sunny. It seems like the perfect night to go out. Instead, about 350 students spent nearly six hours on Friday and six more on Saturday learning about the cornerstone of the Daniels College of Business: ethics.

“Every decision we make is based on a foundation of decisions we made before,” said Paula Holt, teaching assistant professor of Business Ethics and Legal Studies, and co-founder of the Ethics Boot Camp along with Professor Corey Ciocchetti. “Top business executives do not just wake up one day and decide to be good or decide to scam the public. Rather they develop habits of making good or bad decisions and that becomes their character.”

Ciocchetti and Holt developed Ethics Boot Camp (EBC) six years ago. Running the program three times a year, they’ve delivered it to nearly 4,500 students. It’s required for all Law and Ethics majors and minors and also required by some programs outside of Daniels.

On Friday, students gathered for team building exercises on the lawn, listened to Ciocchetti talk about “Inspire Integrity” and attended breakout sessions that included “Communicate Like a Pro” and “What We Can Learn from Professional Sports.”

On Saturday, Marty Tremain of Shift Digital covered “Why Ethics Aren’t Built on the Assembly Line,” and students participated in group discussions and more breakout sessions on topics like reputation, creating trust and avoiding prison.

“We were purposeful to schedule this on a Friday night,” Ciocchetti said. “When you make people think about something overnight, it has a lasting impact.”

Lauren Beaver first attended EBC her sophomore year. She’s now a senior finance major who returns to help lead the program.

“I wanted to be part of a group of people that was so genuinely passionate and enthusiastic,” Beaver said. “As I went through boot camp, I realized that Ethics Boot Camp really embodies everything that Bill Daniels wanted the Daniels College of Business to be, in terms of laying the foundation for living an ethical life.”

Holt points out that we train students on things like marketing, statistics and management. Why not train them in character development?

“Students are far too exposed to the short cuts, to the easy way out of things, to the common idea that cheating is part of our culture and therefore it is okay,” she said. “They need to be exposed to EBC so they see that easy shortcuts and cheating do not lead to a fulfilling life of happiness or moral worth.”

“I think the professors and speakers do an amazing job of giving the students opportunities to think about how they make ethical decisions every day, knowing that there isn’t just one right answer for how to live ethically,” Beaver said.