Business Leaders Provide Ethics Guidance to Students

Ethics_Panel_Nov_29In the final class of the semester in the combined undergraduate capstone and MBA class, “Strategic Management: Conversations With CEOs,” three senior leaders from Birmingham-based companies gave students wide-ranging and practical advice on how to make good ethical decisions in their personal and professional lives.

Panelists were Ronald G. McAbee, who recently retired as a Senior Vice President at Vulcan Materials Company, Charles F. Nowlin, Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer of McWane Inc., and Ralph Q. Summerford, President of Forensic/Strategic Solutions, PC., a forensic accounting firm. McAbee and Nowlin are alumni of the UAB School of Business.

All of the panelists stressed the importance of owning up to mistakes, and not turning a difficult situation into an ethical disaster by covering up. McAbee and Nowlin described how they have seen good careers ruined by employees falsifying reports, including seemingly routine reports for reimbursing travel and other business expenses. 

In response to student questions, all of the panelists agreed that we should not have one ethical code for our personal lives and another for our professional lives. Summerford noted that the same person who cheats at golf might cheat in business, and the same person who embellishes credentials during a job interview might not be trustworthy as an employee.

UAB Alumna Sarah Malcom, B.S., Accounting and Criminal Justice (2008), and MBA (2009), also joined the class. She told students that the classic “fraud triangle” she learned in her forensic accounting classes at UAB (need, opportunity and rationalization) has proven true in matters she has handled as a forensic analyst at Forensic/Strategic Solutions, working under Mr. Summerford.

To prepare for the class, students used materials developed by Professor Stephen Yoder with a grant from UAB’s Quality Enhancement Program (QEP) program, which seeks to build students’ ability to make good ethical decisions. 

“Strategic Management: Conversations with CEOs” is taught by Professor Yoder and by Professor Eddie Friend, and features visits from CEOs of public or other large complex organizations who discuss their organizations’ strategies and how they are developed and implemented.

[Pictured left to right: Mr. McAbee, Mr. Nowlin and Mr. Summerford]