DePaul University has long encouraged its students to engage in ethical deliberation. This encouragement was first manifested in required philosophy courses for students. DePaul continued to build on this tradition through facilitating the creation of the Institute for Business Ethics in 1985. Brother Leo Ryan founded the Institute, and helped establish its support from both the Driehaus College of Business and the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. In 1994, Professor Laura Hartman took over as director of the Institute from Dr. Robert Cook and worked to expand the role the Institute within DePaul University and the Chicago business community.
Professor Hartman changed the name of the Institute to The Institute for Business and Professional Ethics as part of an effort to reach out to other colleges, departments and faculty at DePaul. In addition, Professor Hartman created an external board of directors comprised of entrepreneurs, local government officials and Chicago-based compliance executives. Some of the earliest members, including Donni Case, Richard Pecard and Richard Panico, continue to engage in leadership roles on the Institute’s board. In 1998, Professor John Ahern became director of the Institute, after Professor Hartman accepted an endowed chair at the University of Wisconsin.
After a nationwide search, the Institute appointed a new Executive Director in 2003, when Professor Patricia H. Werhane was awarded the Wicklander Chair in Business Ethics at DePaul. After welcoming Professor Werhane to the Institute, Professor Hartman took the role of director of research. In 2010, Professor Hartman helped create Zafen.org, a unique micro-lending website that creates links between members of the Haitian diaspora and small-to-medium sized businesses in Haiti. Associate Professor Mollie Painter-Morland joined the Institute in 2004 as associate director; she primarily conducts research on business ethics from philosophical perspectives taken from continental philosophy. Finally in 2010, Summer Brown was made executive director while Professor Werhane became managing director of the Institute.
From a research perspective, the Institute has created a body of work that is influenced by engagement with both the academic world and with the business world. A significant portion of the Institute’s work attempts to further the notion of moral imagination through engaging undergraduate and graduate students on ethics and moral decision-making. Through Professor Werhane’s leadership, the Institute hosts the Vincentian Colleges’ International Conference on Business Ethics, which is hosted every third year at DePaul University. Moreover, the research conducted by the Institute generally centers on the following concentrations: corporate management, women in leadership roles in business and poverty alleviation through for-profit corporate initiatives.
In 2007, the Institute was charged by the President of the University to implement Objective 1e of the Vision Twenty12 Strategic Plan for the University, “Provide opportunities for all students to learn ethical systems and demonstrate ethical practices.” As part of this mandate, the Institute holds an annual workshop series called Ethics Across the Curricula, which works with DePaul faculty in laying out ways they can incorporate ethics into their classes. The Institute has also created a Common Language Manual, designed to provide faculty with a common starting point from which to understand and teach ethical principles and concepts.
Looking forward, the Institute is producing four short documentary films that examine the causes of poverty in collaboration with Kim Clark from the College of Interactive Media. Specifically, these studies look at two micro-lending programs—one in Bangladesh and the other in Haiti—a prison rehabilitation program in Michigan’s Berrien County, and labor rights organizations in Chicago that address the problem of wage theft. These case studies attempt to push the case study format in new directions by providing a visual representation of the questions raised in their written counterparts.