Penn State Smeal Honor Code celebration underscores culture of honor & integrity

Charles H. Whiteman, John and Becky Surma Dean of Smeal, speaks to a gathering in the Business Building Atrium during a celebration of the 10th anniversary of the Smeal Honor Code. Other speakers included, from left to right, Will Shontz (second-year MBA student), Josie Fagan (senior supply chain major), and Colin Wood (junior supply chain and information systems and economics double major). Credit: Photo by Jennifer Neal / Penn StateCreative Commons

Faculty, staff, students and administrators gathered in the Business Building Atrium in early November to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Penn State Smeal College of Business Honor Code, the highlight of Corporate Compliance & Ethics Week activities at the college.

“At Penn State, we value integrity, respect, responsibility, community, excellence and discovery,” said Jennifer Eury, Smeal’s director of honor and integrity. “ One of the ways that we live these values at Smeal is through the Honor Code and our commitment to integrity and ethical behavior.”

Penn State Smeal MBA students started the honor code movement in the early 2000s. It was backed by the Smeal Board of Visitors (BOV) and then formally adopted in 2006. Smeal undergraduates adopted its usage in 2007. It has grown into a culture that permeates the college.

“I want to emphasize the word culture, because we take that word very seriously,” said Charles H. Whiteman, John and Becky Surma Dean of Smeal, addressing the gathering at the anniversary celebration.

“By virtue of an honor code, we expect our students, faculty and staff to always act with integrity in everything they do, and to hold each other accountable and to speak up when they see something that doesn’t feel right.”

That accountability and willingness to speak up spurred the original group of students to act. Melissa Ferrari, a 2006 supply chain management graduate who now works for Procter & Gamble, was one of the undergraduates who was part of the movement.

“The student support all started with a petition to the deans and administration that this was something we needed and wanted to work on,” she said.

“Our findings were that students wanted an honor code and students had witnessed cheating. Students also found it hard to take action in the existing system. Getting the support of the BOV is what ultimately helped implement the honor code in 2006.”

One of those Board of Visitors members was Lizabeth Zlatkus, a board director of the legal and general group at Plc, who later served as Smeal Board of Visitors chair. At that time Zlatkus was an executive with The Hartford Financial Services Group.

“We felt passionately that integrity was the essential quality we looked for as we hired students into the workforce. We wanted Smeal to be a leader in promoting and abiding by an honor code,” Zlatkus said.

In the ensuing 10 years, Smeal’s honor and integrity efforts have blossomed into a multi-pronged effort, including:

·      Honor & Integrity Steering Committee

·      Integrity Action Committee for Faculty and Staff

·      Integrity Action Committee for Students

·      Board of Visitors Honor & Integrity subcommittee

·      And, the formation of the Integrity Advocates student group

“We’re very proud of the fact that we believe that we are in a leadership position in how we think about honor and integrity issues,” Whiteman said.

Even Zlatkus said she didn’t envision the proliferation of integrity initiatives that Smeal has undertaken.

“I was hopeful that it would be the beginning of serious dialogue about how important honor and integrity is in the workplace as well as life. But my best hopes have been surpassed,” Zlatkus said.

“I couldn’t be more pleased by the commitment Smeal demonstrates every day to this ever-growing initiative.

That initiative serves as motivation for some students.

“It is also a contract with yourself, because as you physically sign that, you’re reinforcing in yourself your own belief in a value system, in ethics. Both of those are reassuring,” said Will Shontz, a second-year Penn State Smeal MBA student who spoke at the anniversary celebration.

Much as Zlatkus had hoped, Smeal undergraduate students have embraced the Honor Code and realize that adherence to it makes them more marketable.

“This is one of the core lessons that Smeal students get and take into the workforce,” said Colin Wood, a junior majoring in supply chain and information systems and economics with minors in French and sociology and a member of the Integrity Action Committee for Students, who spoke at the ceremony.

“From Smeal we take our knowledge, we take our professional presence, and now we also take our commitment to integrity.”

Last Updated November 22, 2016