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        Student Center for the Public Trust

        Alfonzo CoverThe Student Center for Public Trust (SCPT) has 48 chapters in 24 states and consists of students that show dedication to ethical leadership. This organization focuses on the importance of not only ethical leadership but also the necessity for accountability, integrity, and trust across all avenues of business. Student chapters have resources, mentors, and networking opportunities available through the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA) Center for Public Trust.

        The Auburn SCPT (sponsored by the Center for Ethical Organizational Cultures) meets twice a semester and emphasizes realistic learning with prominent guest speakers.

        The most notable benefits of membership include:

        • Obtaining unique skills, setting yourself apart as an ethical leader, and differentiating yourself from other potential job candidates
        • Having the opportunity to participate in training sessions, community service projects, conferences, and a unique ethical leadership certification
        • Interacting and networking with faculty, local leaders, and various executives 

        A Note from the Director

        “This student organization sponsors two speakers each semester for all Harbert students, attracting hundreds of student attendees. Faculty teaching resources on ethical leadership include cases, behavioral simulations, and debate issues. The Center supports and encourages academic publishing and trade articles on issues related to ethical leadership," said Auburn SCPT chapter advisor Dr. O.C. Ferrell, the James T. Pursell, Sr. Eminent Scholar in Ethics and Director of the Center for Ethical Organizational Cultures.

        SCPT Officers

        • Duda Schramm Seifer, President
        • Peter Backer, Vice President
        • Nate David, Treasurer 

        Contact Information and How to Join

        The Auburn SCPT is actively planning upcoming events and looking for any student interested in ethical leadership. To become a member, contact the Center for Ethical Organizational Cultures ( or search "Auburn SCPT" on AUInvolve.


        • Chuck Gallagher | Every Choice Has a Consequence - Navigating Ethical Waters: Building Integrity in Organizational Cultures

          April 3, 2024

          Chuck Gallagher Every Choice Has a Consequence

          Our Guest Speaker Series, hosted by The Center of Ethical Organizational Cultures and the NASBDA Student Center for the Public Trust, featured an enlightening and memorable presentation by Chuck Gallagher, a former tax partner whose life experiences have uniquely positioned him as an expert on the subject of ethics and consequences. Gallagher, who famously transitioned from a successful professional career to a federal prison inmate, shared his complex journey with an attending audience, offering profound insights into the significance of ethical decision-making.

          Gallagher commenced his presentation by recounting the pivotal moments that led to his incarceration, effectively setting a sober tone that captivated the audience. Through real-life stories and a touch of humor—such as the ironic image of traveling to a speaking engagement with handcuffs in his luggage—Gallagher emphasized that every choice indeed has a consequence. His genuine approach and open engagement invited listeners to ponder the long-reaching impacts of their decisions.

          Further enriching the discussion, Gallagher explored the nuances of ethical dilemmas faced routinely in personal and professional settings. He challenged societal norms by juxtaposing common behaviors—like speeding or minor thefts from the workplace—with their ethical implications. Through interactive scenarios, including the hypothetical case of hosting an underage drinking event, Gallagher illustrated the conflicts between societal acceptance and ethical integrity. His anecdotes served not only to entertain but also to provoke critical thinking among the attendees about the blurry lines of ethics in daily life.

          Additionally, Gallagher addressed the broader implications of unethical behavior within the corporate and public sectors. Drawing examples from known public scandals and the lesser-known Beaumont City Hall corruption case, he painted a vivid picture of how small ethical lapses can escalate into serious legal and social repercussions. Gallagher’s discussions went beyond identifying problems, also highlighting strategies for maintaining ethical standards personally and professionally.

          Conclusively, Gallagher delved into the psychological rationale behind ethical breaches, explaining how personal crises, such as financial strain or relationship issues, can cloud judgment. Through personal anecdotes and psychological insights, he illustrated the slippery slope from minor ethical missteps to major violations. Gallagher's powerful closing remarks emphasized the need for continual ethical vigilance and personal accountability to navigate life's challenges without compromising integrity.

          Overall, Chuck Gallagher's presentation at the Guest Speaker Series was not only engaging and educational but also a stark reminder of the complexity of ethical decision-making and the profound impact of our choices on our lives and the lives of others. His blend of personal experience, humor, and interactive dialogue provided a comprehensive exploration of ethics that resonated deeply with all attendees, leaving a lasting impact on their perspectives on ethical conduct.

        • Robert Chesnut | How Smart Companies Can Lead an Ethical Revolution

          November 1, 2023

          Robert Chesnut Guest Speaker CEOC"Rob Chesnut is the former Chief Ethics Officer at Airbnb. He previously led eBay’s North America legal team, where he founded the Internet’s first e-commerce person-to-person platform, Trust and Safety team. He was the general counsel at Chegg, Inc. for nearly 6 years, and he served 14 years with the U.S. Justice Department."

          Robert Chesnut, a distinguished professional and Harvard Law School and University of Virginia alum, left an indelible mark on the corporate landscape as the guest speaker at the Center for Ethical Organizational Cultures' event on November 1st, 2023. With a dynamic career spanning the U.S. Justice Department, eBay, LiveOps, Chegg, and Airbnb, Chesnut shared profound insights into business ethics and decision-making in his illustrious career. His experiences navigating ethical challenges were highlighted, emphasizing the importance of considering different perspectives in corporate decision-making. The event showcased Chesnut's expertise in fostering a culture of integrity, as outlined in his acclaimed book, "Intentional Integrity," which was voted among the "Top 10 Business Books of 2020" by Inc. Magazine. Chesnut's presentation not only delved into the moral and forward approach adopted by Airbnb's CEO but also spotlighted the company's unique strategy, considering not only traditional shareholders but also hosts, guests, employees, and the community. The emphasis on customer service and the integrity of the company's morals, moving beyond a singular focus on financial metrics, provided valuable lessons for businesses seeking transformation through ethical integration.

          Check out the Full Article on the Fall Newsletter 2023!

        • Danny Smith | Environmental Compliance at Carnival Cruise Corporation

          April 4, 2023

          Danny Headshot

          On Tuesday, April 4th, the Student Center for the Public Trust was eager to commence our 2023 Guest Speaker Spotlight event series by welcoming Danny Smith. As Corporate Environmental Compliance Manager at Carnival Corporation, Mr. Smith directs a diverse range of environmental compliance matters for a fleet of nearly 100 cruise ships across Carnival’s 9 international brands. As a professional lawyer and engineer, he provided vast regulatory, compliance, risk, and policy insight. Mr. Smith discussed the challenges of multi-jurisdictional compliance requirements across worldwide operations, along with essential components for success.

          There were 267 Harbert College of Business Students at the event. Mr. Smith presented highly captivating and engaging insight into the Cruise Industry. Mr. Smith provided an overview of the 9 international brands housed by Carnival Corporation, as well as the international maritime laws and regulations under which said brands must comply. By detailing the establishment of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) in 1948 within the United Nations, Mr. Smith asserted that the IMO is responsible for most all Environmental Maritime Treaties, yet the organization holds no independent enforcement authority.

          International waters remained subject to what Garrett Hardin would describe as the “Tragedy of the Commons,” wherein taking environmental precautions proved less fiscally logical to an individual than the marginal pollution produced by said individual, so there was no incentive for corporations nor countries to reduce individual contribution to an increasingly polluted maritime landscape. Finally, in 1982, the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea defined clear accountability, using Coastal State Jurisdictional Zones, to enforce Navigational Rights and Marine Pollution. Moreover, the 1973 and 1978 International Convention on the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL) disclosed which pollution categories explicitly apply to the Cruise Industry, and thus Carnival Corporation vessels.

          Mr. Smith provided a detailed overview of said pollution categories, along with first-hand accounts regarding the enforcement process. Such categories include Ballast Water, Bilge Water, Sewage Management, Garbage, “Gray” Water, and Food Waste. Moreover, Mr. Smith discussed Energy Efficiency Requirements as measured by the Energy Efficiency Design Index (EEDI), the Energy Efficiency Existing Ship Index (EEXI), and the Carbon Intensity Indicator (CII) as a recent development, all acting as regulatory vehicles to encourage “clean” emission models, either within modification of existing ships or development of new ships.

          Lastly, Mr. Smith asserted that Carnival Corporation, the Cruise Industry, and beyond, can foster a culture of compliance by eliminating “blame” culture, and, instead, welcoming “speak up” culture. Firms, like Carnival, design and develop Continuous Improvement Processes to advance risk prevention and mitigation. Such processes include Incident Investigation, Root Cause Analysis, Compliance Risk Trending, Continuous Learning, and Training. Advancements like “OneOcean,” a tool to streamline voyage planning and execution, contribute to the Continuous Improvement Processes to which Carnival Corporation remain dedicated. Mr. Smith revealed that fostering a collaborative and inclusive corporate environment, while encouraging endeavors are executed the “right” way, will ensure that a firm is “en route” to ethical, and thus enduring, success.

        • Bethany Salgado | Global Human Rights at PepsiCo

          December 1, 2022

          Bethany HeadshotOn Thursday, December 1st, the Student Center for the Public Trust was pleased to conclude its 2022 Guest Speaker Spotlight event series in strong fashion by welcoming Bethany Salgado, a recent Harbert College of Business MBA Alumna currently serving as the Associate Manager of Global Human Rights at PepsiCo. Bethany assists in the development and advancement of PepsiCo’s human rights strategy and due diligence programs. Her portfolio includes managing PepsiCo’s human rights capacity building, reporting and disclosures, communications, and supporting stakeholder engagement.

          In an interview discussion format, Bethany was able to directly interact with Harbert College of Business students to offer personalized insight. To begin the discussion, Bethany provided a comprehensive overview of the Human Rights functions at PepsiCo, which included crucial elements from the Human Rights Report. Bethany outlined the major factors that compose a company’s external environment, each being critical to develop positive relationships with the diverse and widespread stakeholder demographic. Through the annual report and proxy statement, PepsiCo transparently conveys its responsibility to said stakeholders and commitment to risk management. Due to international soft law instruments, private enterprises, like PepsiCo, must develop corporate governance priorities to proactively mitigate risk, leveraging ESG policies and workstreams.

          Bethany and the Human Rights Office manage two due diligence programs: (1) the Sustainable Sourcing Program, a supplier engagement program for business-critical first-tier suppliers and business partners and (2) the Global Labor Human Rights Program, addressing potential human rights impacts across company-owned manufacturing, sales, and distribution operations. PepsiCo’s Sustainability Report provides project outlines, as well as vehicles to measure the effectiveness of said projects toward tangible sustainability goals. Bethany elaborated upon relevant topics including Modern Slavery and Climate Change, along with corresponding corporate initiatives, like the Climate Action Strategy to combat environmental concerns.

          As Harbert College of Business students begin career refinement, navigating the job selection process, Bethany accentuated the advantages of working for a company committed to addressing Human Rights dilemmas. Human Rights concerns are of increasing prevalence, with direct impact on brand integrity and fiscal success. Moreover, Bethany expressed the urgency of Human Rights dilemmas, due to the widespread global impact of corporations like PepsiCo. Operating in over 180 countries, PepsiCo is responsible for remaining attuned to unique differences in culture, industry landscape, and consumer preference that exist in the global marketplace for the collective benefit of all stakeholders.

        • Alfonzo Alexander | The Truly Sustainable Leadership

          September 29, 2022

          Alfonzo Headshot

          On Thursday, September 29th, the Student Center for the Public Trust was honored to commence its 2022 Guest Speaker Spotlight event series by welcoming Alfonzo Alexander, in front an audience of 271 students! As Chief Ethics and Diversity Officer of the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA) and President of NASBA’s Center for the Public Trust (CPT), Alexander oversees strategic diversity initiatives, ethics, compliance, and facilitates special projects with the CEO. Under his leadership, the CPT has cultivated new partnerships and nearly 100 national campus programs. Distinctive to the Harbert College of Business experience, his leadership established the Ethical Leadership Certification and Training Programs, while advancing the Being a Difference Award.

          Alexander discussed what it means to be an ethical leader, through continuous and practical implementation in the professional sector. He presented with a heightened focus on the pressure of culture and performance that an entry-level position may hold for Harbert College of Business Students following graduation. Alexander stressed that ethical shortcomings, regardless of degree, are inevitable to incur consequence. Moreover, this exposure is likely to produce lasting impact on reputation. Therefore, graduates must be equipped to navigate ethical dilemmas in a proactive manner, with knowledge and skills established even before industry entrance. Conveying the notion that ethical leadership is a daily choice, in all personal and professional endeavors, students must emulate the versatile, holistic traits that embody a professional of this caliber. Alexander provided a baseline that recent graduates can utilize as point of reference. This will ensure all professional delegations remain ethical, even as external pressures increase and roles progress in complexity. Moreover, Alexander provided a “toolkit” for navigating ethical dilemmas when they do arise, when external expectations contradict internal standards. With a baseline for ethical practices, and a “toolkit” to utilize when ethical dilemmas arise, Harbert College of Business students are prepared to navigate entry-level industry roles with excitement and confidence. Alexander conveyed that if students remain attuned to detecting and navigating ethical dilemmas, they will be well-equipped for their many successes to come.

        • Nicole Sherwin | Athletic Compliance & Student-Athlete Advocacy

          April 7, 2022

          Nicole HeadshotOn Thursday, April 7th, the Student Center for the Public Trust welcomed Nicole Sherwin as a guest speaker during the last meeting of the spring semester for an audience of 200 students and faculty members. Nicole is the Director of Compliance for Auburn University and a former Division 1 soccer player at Northern Arizona University. While there, she served as President of the NAU Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC), President of the Big Sky Conference SAAC, and NCAA National SAAC Representative through which she was able to represent student-athletes. This gave her a behind-the-scenes look at how rules were determined and implemented along with their intent. Through her involvement with the committee, Nicole decided that she ultimately wanted to pursue a career in athletics which led her to her current position at Auburn University.

          To kick-start the meeting, Nicole discussed the importance of compliance and its demanding nature within the Athletics Department. For example, the department must comply with and educate its constituents about rules and regulations associated with the NCAA, the SEC, and Auburn University. Nicole also mentioned that the department has tens of thousands of constituents consisting of boosters, student-athletes, staff, recruits, and community members. Because of this large number, Nicole stressed that compliance is a collective effort and the importance for their constituents to remain compliant and ethical, as it is hard to be everywhere at once.

          Nicole also talked about the concept of name, image, and likeness (NIL). NIL policies govern the activities of student-athletes in pursuing compensation for their name, image, and likeness. In the past, student-athletes could not use their NIL to promote any product, company, or commercial entity without violating NCAA amateurism rules. At the time, the NCAA felt that athletes shouldn’t be able to profit off their NIL. However, this rule has since been retracted, and the NCAA no longer has bylaws restricting NIL as long as the university follows state laws. This opens up new territory as many states do not have laws regulating or restricting NIL deals, including Alabama. Now, students are able to strike deals and profit from sponsorships. This could have significant implications for athletes’ school choices, transfer opportunities, and more. Some believe this shift will lead to students entering the transfer portal in the hope of making more money through NIL, which could be used as a recruiting tool to lure student-athletes. The NCAA will continue to review NIL policies and how they affect student-athletes.

        • Gregory Jackson | Managing Supply Chain Recycling for a Circular Economy

          March 2, 2022

          Greg HeadshotOn Wednesday, March 2, 2022, the Student Center for the Public Trust (SCPT) hosted Gregory Jackson, the CEO and Founder of Groundz Recycling. Jackson's presentation focused on “Managing Supply Chain Recycling for a Circular Economy”. The SCPT and Jackson were joined by 260+ attendees who gained insights into the process and operations of compost recycling and urban farming.

          Groundz Recycling is the world’s first organic waste recycling company for supplying urban farm composting and utilizing a “composting-as-a-service” business model. Through this model, Groundz recycles organic waste such as coffee grounds, eggshells, or other mixed food. The waste is then converted into compost and distributed to urban farms. Due to the Build Back Better economic campaign for climate change, renewable energy, and growing local food in hard-hit communities, Jackson was able to expand his model across the country for sourcing anaerobic digesters and urban farmers around the United States. Jackson’s goal is to develop new carbon offset markets for large-scale farmers to participate in carbon markets and trade by leveraging an organic recycling value chain as an infrastructure solution for third-party waste companies such as Republic Waste and Waste Management.

          Jackson is also helping the Smithsonian's migratory bird research team to expand its Bird Friendly® sustainable food production certification program to include cocoa. The team has led a coffee certification program since the 1990s, setting standards that help preserve habitats for birds and other wildlife, combat climate change, protect biodiversity, and support sustainable farmers.

          Jackson encouraged students to connect with local urban farms and their customers. He was excited to learn about Auburn's continuous soil fertility study on cotton, wheat, corn, and soy and is working to connect Auburn area businesses to recycle their organic waste through student initiatives at the university. Looking to the future, Jackson is working with the National Basketball Association’s NBA Green program and its NBA Cares social responsibility program to integrate organic recycling, local food programs, and healthy young athlete programs.

          During the meeting, Jackson discussed the day-to-day processes involved in composting and sustaining Groundz Recycling, which left attendees with an abundance of questions regarding the nature of composting-as-a-service. For attendees who wanted to get involved in recycling & composting, Jackson shared some key takeaways:

          • 45% of the world’s food goes to waste
          • Focus on composting as a service, rather than selling a product
          • Build networks with local farmers to assess their needs
        • Jeff Stillwell | ‘Reeling in’ Sustainability Initiatives

          October 25, 2021

          On Monday, October 25, the Center for Ethical Organizational Cultures and the SCPT welcomed Jeff Stillwell, President of Salt Life, in a presentation entitled ‘Reeling in’ Sustainability Initiatives amongst 342 total attendees. Esteemed in both retail success and philanthropic advancements, Salt Life has optimized the often-conflicting goals of creating shareholder value and prioritizing environmental welfare. With a broad range of end-user consumers, Stillwell and his team encourage customers to look intrinsically for what “living the Salt Life” means to them. With this versatility, Salt Life has successfully branded to unite diverse interests in the overall preservation of our oceans. Moreover, Salt Life strives to leverage financial success to further its sustainability initiatives for utmost impact.

          Stillwell’s personal philosophy is to always leave things better than you found them. He has certainly done that during his time as President of Salt Life. Since 2010, Stillwell has assisted in the growth of Salt Life’s brand, taking it from a locally small “hardcore” fishing brand to a lifestyle brand well known across the country. During his presentation, Stillwell stated that sustainability touched every facet of the business, and he noted the difficulties of being a company that gives back or takes care of the environment—which is an essential resource to the success of the company. Stillwell provided an alternative view on giving back, which is not nearly as easy as one might think. The issue derives from finding a cause that doesn’t alienate a significant portion of your audience. Currently, Salt Life invests in initiatives that involve building recycled products or reclaiming wastewater. However, most of Salt Life’s efforts revolve around protecting existing reefs, creating artificial reefs, or rebuilding oyster beds. Stillwell also discussed the challenges around the marketing of recycled clothes and accessories. Many consumers express their desire for products that are more sustainable, yet these same consumers are not willing to pay more for materials that are sustainably sourced. To combat this, Salt Life has changed its approach by deciding not to market its fabric as recycled.

          One of Stillwell's biggest pieces of advice to students was to not cut corners, no matter the endeavor. Stillwell stated, “If you start compromising on your ethics and beliefs, you’re going to find yourself in a lot of trouble down the road.”

        • Scott Penton | Business And Human Rights: Dilemmas and Opportunities

          March 29, 2021

          More than 235 Auburn University students logged into a Zoom event sponsored by the SCPT to listen to Scott Penton, an analyst in Deloitte’s Sustainability and Climate Change team. He presented Business and Human Rights: Dilemmas and Opportunities all the way from Sydney, Australia.

          Penton has taken an internal role in educating Deloitte staff internationally about modern slavery risk and the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. Penton was a contributor to two Deloitte publications: Business and Human Rights Dilemmas in the Midst of COVID-19: A Guide for Senior Executives and Modern Slavery Act 2018: A Practical Guidebook.

          Penton explained that human rights are not granted by any government or individual.  Rather, they come from an individual simply existing. Penton went on to explain what human slavery looks like in today’s society and the impact COVID-19 has had on business and human rights dilemmas. The pandemic has pushed many important issues to the side. For example, many people have forgotten about the Australian wildfires that took place just a few months before the outbreak of COVID-19.

          Penton answered many student questions centered around modern-day slavery. Modern slavery exists in the exploitation of people for personal or economic benefit. People can become entrapped because they do not have the opportunity or ability to escape the situation. Penton sighted the Global Slavery Index as a resource for seeing the prevalence of modern-day slavery in different locations and countries. The index also provides information on the vulnerabilities of populations and how governments have responded to the issue. Both Australia and the United States are significantly low on the index.

          The agriculture industry is vulnerable to modern-day slavery as farmers have a tendency to not pay their workers livable wages and often target foreign, migrant workers who can’t stand up for themselves. Another hot spot industry for modern-day slavery is fashion, specifically fast fashion. Fast fashion refers to inexpensive clothing produced by mass-market retailers in response to trends.

          “Ultimately, if you think of any business, you can link them to modern-day slavery because of their supply chain,” said Penton.

          Every day people can make a difference by simply having conversations and making sure others are informed on the topic. Keeping the topic relevant and on people’s minds can make a difference.

        • Dr. Damion McIntosh | Ethical Leadership in Global Financial Markets: A Regulatory Perspective

          March 1, 2021

          The SCPT welcomed Dr. Damion McIntosh to present the importance of trust and ethics within our financial institutions as it relates to anti-money laundering and other market stabilization efforts.

          Dr. McIntosh is an anti-money laundering specialist who obtained his undergraduate degree at the University of West Indies in his home country of Jamaica and his Ph.D. from Southern Illinois University. Dr. McIntosh is also a Fullbright Scholar and has worked extensively with the Central Bank in Jamaica and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). As part of his work, he travels around the world to speak with governments and teach them how to spot money laundering, terrorist financing, and funding for weapons of mass destruction.

          During his lecture to the group, Dr. McIntosh asked, “Why do we invest our money in financial institutions?” The underlying theme of the question was based on trust. He went on to say that we trust the stability of these institutions and trust them to produce a return as well as maintain principles. Any break in trust undermines the integrity and reputation of the entire institution.

          “Financial institutions are knowingly or unknowingly being used as potential vessels for money laundering, terrorist financing, and other nefarious uses,” he said. He then shared insight into how financial institutions can develop a framework for ethics. For internal governance, the institution can implement a board of directors, risk management segment, compliance function, and internal audit team. For external governance recommendations, he highlighted financial sector regulators, stock exchanges, and external audits.

          To conclude the presentation and Q&A session, Dr. McIntosh touched on the future of ethical accounting with the introduction of bitcoin and other digital currencies. As the market starts to accept these digital currencies more broadly, regulation will grow increasingly more restrictive, forcing governments around the world to adapt their approaches to tracking financial crimes. For example, they could use technology like blockchain to sift through transactions and flag criminal activity. Ultimately, financial institutions—whether physical or digital—must continue to innovate to maintain the highest ethical standards while regulators must shift their methods of “following the money” to identify criminals.

        • Dr. Robert Chandler | Ethical Misconduct Crisis Recovery

          November 9, 2020

          Dr. Robert Chandler spoke with the SCPT on the topic of crisis management. Dr. Chandler is a professor at Lipscomb University where he is the director of graduate and professional programs. He is internationally recognized as an expert on human behavior, crisis management, leadership, decision-making, communication, and human interaction. He also is an author and consultant. Bob Chandler

          Crises arise from numerous instances including natural disasters, employee misconduct, crime, terrorism, and many other categories. McKinsey & Company estimates that companies in the United States spend roughly $60 billion per year resulting from crises within their companies. Globally, this number is estimated to be around $100 billion.

          Dr. Chandler is credited with creating and establishing Chandler’s Six Stages of a Crisis. Chandler’s model provides a compass for understanding the underlying information requirements to drive effective communication. He stresses the importance of Warning, Risk Assessment, Response, Management, Resolution, and Recovery and defines crisis management as “the processes and decisions by which an organization deals with a disruptive, non-routine, and often unexpected event or situation that threatens to harm the organization, its personnel, its operations, and/or its stakeholders”

          Dr. Chandler made this profound statement, “Crisis management is really a loop; you need to see it as a continuous process. That means that crisis management begins before the crisis happens. These are the things that you do before, during, and after the crisis.”

          He emphasized that we do not consider crisis prevention to be the goal, but rather crisis mitigation. He noted that we can never completely prevent a crisis from happening, but crisis mitigation can make the results less dangerous, less severe, less painful, and less costly.

          Dr. Chandler reviewed crisis management case studies. The first was BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil spill and the example they set of how not to address a crisis. Dr. Chandler also talked about the Pepsi product contamination crisis of the early 1990s where people were reporting syringes and odd objects in their Pepsi products. Pepsi handled the crisis by keeping the public updated and informed on how the bottling process worked. They worked closely with the FDA and did all they could until it was officially determined to be a hoax after a woman was filmed tampering with her soda bottle.

          Dr. Chandler concluded his presentation by stressing the importance of crisis management and opening the floor to questions.

        • Barney Rosenberg | Implementing Ethics and Compliance Programs in Fortune 500 Firms

          October 19, 2020

          Barney Rosenberg is the President of Ethics Line, LLC and the former Vice President of Ethics and Business Conduct for Meggit Group. He is a fortune 500 General Counsel and senior business development executive.

          Rosenberg discussed his experience in managing a global aerospace and technology company as Vice President of Ethics and Business Conduct. He explained that approximately 80 percent of ethics-related cases that need investigating come from human resource areas. Any form of transaction, especially financial, is a major area of risk.

          Rosenberg shared that The International Forum of Business Ethical Conduct was created by the Aerospace Industries Association to help with the exchange of information regarding best practices on ethical conduct and global trends. The principles set by this group create standards that all members agree to follow and exemplify. Rosenberg stressed the importance of anti-corruption policies and codes of ethics.

          “If there are issues in the hometown, there will be many more in the next state.”

          The importance of having support from those above when deciding to implement a code of ethics is vital to the survival and effectiveness of the code. If people in higher positions of power and influence don’t support the implementation, then others might not feel the need for it either.

          The presentation was filled with anecdotes from Rosenberg's time in the corporate world. His experience and knowledge on the topic were palpable, even through Zoom. 

        • Dr. Len Berry | The Power of Proximity in Healthcare Services Research

          January 10, 2020

          Len BerryDr. Len Berry, a distinguished professor of Marketing at Texas A&M and senior fellow at the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, recently shared insight on “The Power of Proximity in Healthcare Services Research” before the Harbert College of Business Physicians Executive MBA students.

          Dr. Berry spent his two hours talking about his two Sabbatical Leaves to both first- and second-year PMBA students as well as facility and staff, with about 60 attendees in total.  He used his first hour talking about his study of healthcare services at the Mayo Clinic and the second hour discussing his study of the service improvement in Cancer Care at the Institute for Healthcare Improvement.

          He talked about how Healthcare is a different kind of service.  Customers of healthcare are sick, reluctant, relinquish privacy, are at risk and their Clinicians are stressed.  Healthcare is a need, and patients’ wants and needs often conflict.  He talked about the difference between aspirational core values and implantation core values, using the Mayo Clinics as an example.

          Len Berry presenting to PEMBA studentsDuring his time at the Mayo Clinic, he used a survey to answer the question: How do patients define a “Good Doctor?” From this survey, he collected seven ideal physician behaviors including confident, empathetic, humane, personal, forthright, respectful, and thorough.

          Dr. Berry also talked about the 5 C’s of Cancer: clues, coordinating, connection, continuity, and community.  However, the topic he stressed the most during his time talking about his studying cancer care, was the “never phrases.”  He asked doctors what phrases they would never say to a cancer patient.  He compiled a long list, but only disclosed a few.  This sparked a debate among the physicians in attendance who were trying to come up with replacement phrases.

          After the presentation, many of the physicians interacted with Dr. Berry to gain his perspective on numerous medical service quality issues.  In addition, many of the physicians wanted to maintain personal contact with him to gain more insights into his expertise in healthcare.

        • Debate | Master of Accountancy Students Debate Rules vs. Principles

          Students debate to crowd

          December 2, 2019

          The Harbert Student Center for the Public Trust, sponsored by the Center for Ethical Organizational Cultures, conducted a debate related to rules vs. principles in accounting decisions with 115 students attending.

          To begin the debate, rules and principles were explained in their most basic form by the debating teams. Principles are represented by intrinsic properties that begin internally within a person or a group. They result in a non-exhaustive set of considerations for policy making, leaving open the possibility that other considerations might be relevant.  Rules are created by external bodies to provide guidance and direction to individuals. They are externally enforced and prohibit the possibility of adaptation or exception by judgment. 

          The first team, composed of Master of Accountancy Students, Tri Nix, and Callie Kyzar, started their side of the debate by introducing rules-based accounting. The United States Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) are the best example of rules-based decision making. Rules-based accounting provides an easier comparison of financial statements between two different companies so that investors can make informed decisions. It also decreases the likelihood of a lawsuit, taking accountants out of the line of fire. Rules create a stable and steady path that accountants can look back to and correct if needed, removing the need for professional judgment.  It is an attempt to apply a rule to a decision so decisions are consistent.

          Students debate to crowdThe second team, composed of Master of Accountancy Students Caleb Yarbrough and Zach Youngstrom, introduced principles-based accounting. International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRAs) provide a good example of principles-based accounting standards. The fundamental IFRS principles are transparency, accountability, and efficiency, and each standard must be vetted through these principles to be passed. Principles-based accounting is used in some capacity by 144 different countries, and 156 countries (including the US) have committed to IFRS as the single set of global standards. Principles-based accounting standards provide greater flexibility than rules-based standards because principles are intrinsic in nature and can be applied in many different situations, like how to handle recognizing cryptocurrency. Principles-based standards also allow room for the accountant to make a professional judgment, requiring the accountant to have a deeper understanding of the transaction. Principles-based standards are also less complex than rules-based standards because they adhere to the spirit of a rule instead of the words of the rule itself.

          The debate finally ended with the conclusion that both rules and principles-based accounting standards are needed to make good decisions. The ideal system would consist of using principles as an overarching guideline with rules that point accountants in the right direction in situations that can apply specific rules. The debate format provided for a solid learning experience about accounting decision making.

        • Robert Jones | Ethical Leadership: The Multi Bottom Line

          October 14, 2019

          Bob Jones presenting to crowdRobert Jones, the CEO of United Bank, spoke to students about ethical leadership. United Bank was founded in 1904 and now has 17 branches across four counties in Southwest Alabama and Northwest Florida. United Bank is centered around helping the rural areas and is rooted in consumer, agricultural and small business lending. They are focused on helping create economic development in low-to-moderate income communities.

          The company was ranked 16th in the country in American Banker magazine’s annual list of top 200 public banks with assets of less than $2 billion. It was also recently recognized as one of the best companies to work for in the state of Alabama by Business Alabama.

          Bob JonesAs a community bank, they align with organizations that make communities succeed in economic development. United Bank contributes to a network of service-minded industry leaders by providing the resources they need to be successful. United Bank is a Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI). A CDFI is a private sector financial institution that focuses on personal lending and business development efforts in local communities.

          United Bank was the first bank in the state of Alabama to receive a Capital Magnet Fund Award and New Markets Tax Credit allocations. It’s also one of the few banks in the country to participate in the USDA Community Facilities Lending Program that provides direct loans and grants to essential community facilities in rural areas.

          Jones emphasized the importance of ethics and integrity in all business relationships. He discussed that to develop trust, the customer, employee, and the bank must maintain high ethical standards. A high level of trust takes community engagement to a new level.

          Bob JonesThe banking industry is in the process of transitioning from corporations that are exclusively bottom-line driven to corporations that are playing a more intricate role in people’s lives. This multi-bottom line means that United Bank is developing new concepts and expanding their capabilities within the organization as well as the communities they serve. If the communities are successful, the bank will be successful.

          “There is increasing awareness that corporations drive more than financial returns, and this is a good thing,” said Jones. “We are embracing the fact that financial performance is important, but, we can still through deliberate strategies do things that improve the lives of our customers and our communities.”

        • Tim Self |Southern Company: It’s Good Business

          February 28, 2019

          Tim Self, Director for Compliance and Ethics for the Southern Company, served as our Distinguished Speaker. In 2018, Southern Company was named by Forbes magazine as one of the world’s best companies and ranked it in their top 20 of “America’s Best Employers.” It is one of the largest producers of electricity in the United States and the largest wholesale provider of electricity in the Southeast.

          Tim Self presentingToday, the company employs more than 32,000 people. Its electric providers include Alabama Power, Georgia Power, Mississippi Power, Southern Power, and Southern Nuclear. In addition, its natural gas companies include Southern Company Gas, Chattanooga Gas, Nicor Gas, and Virginia Natural Gas. Other subsidiaries provide customized energy solutions, fiber optics, and wireless communications services; they include PowerSecure, Southern Telecom, Southern Linc, and Sequent Energy Management.

          Core values are key to the company and serve as guidance for their decision-making and organizational culture. Employees and vendors are expected to act honestly, with integrity, respect, and fairness. “Employees should be trained for high integrity success not caught in failure,” says Self. Southern Company is concerned about data privacy. For example, the company does not keep customer credit card information having it destroyed after each bill pay transaction. There are many federal and state regulations that must be addressed with strict compliance.

          Recently, Southern streamlined its Code of Ethics which outlines the risk areas for the company and includes several confidential “Concerns” reporting systems via a hotline, an online link, email, in person, and by mail. All employees are required to read the Code of Ethics each year and sign an acknowledgment they did so. Before signing, they must answer a set of questions about the Code ensuring that each employee has been given a direct opportunity to disclose a potential compliance issue.

          “Our company strives to consistently and fairly reward good behavior,  appropriately address bad behavior and hold third parties accountable” stresses Self. This Code is reviewed and updated periodically.  Contractors are also allowed and encouraged to use the “Concerns,” reporting system.

          From Left to Right: Mark Zekoff (Program Coordinator), Tim Self, O.C. Ferrell (Center Director) and Linda Ferrell (Marketing Department Chair)Due to the nature of Southern Company’s business operations, the firm must interact with a variety of constituents, ranging from leaders in government, community, business, and industry. The company has a strict policy when it comes to conflicts of interest. Background checks are required for all employees of Southern Company, and in most cases for contractors as well based on job responsibilities. He believes the key to bringing all employees on board with the Company’s ethical standards is communication and training. Southern demands that all written communications utilize understandable language and be widely distributed. Their ethics education utilizes all forms of media from formal sit-down and online training to printed brochures. The company website and phone apps are vehicles used to reach all employees.  Southern Company’s ethical philosophy is “Core values guide our behavior and build trust.”

        • Carol Tomé | Culture Eats Strategy for Breakfast

          September 27, 2018

          Carol Tomé spoke to the Auburn SCPT and to the Auburn Family about organizational culture. 

          Carol Tomé

          Tomé is the chief financial officer and the vice president of corporate services for The Home Depot. She has experience in a variety of areas, including financial reporting and operations, financial planning and analysis, and internal audit, among others. The Wall Street Journal listing her as No. 2 best chief financial officer in corporate America in 2012, and she was listed on Fortune’s Top 50 Most Powerful Women in Business the following year (for the second consecutive year). She is highly involved in the community, serving as a board member for the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, The Metropolitan Atlanta Chamber of Commerce, Grady Hospital, and numerous more.

          Dean Annette RanftThe Home Depot takes care of its associates who take care of their customers. This strategy has proven to be successful for the company. Tomé shared this philosophy during her presentation How Culture Eats Strategy for Breakfast via videoconference with about 150 Harbert College students.


          “We are defined by our culture—and our culture starts with our unique management construct, which is the inverted pyramid,” said Tomé. “Our CEO is at the bottom of the pyramid—and at the top of our pyramid are our associates (employees) who serve our customers. We (executives) bear the weight for the actions that we take and the decisions that we make. We at the bottom of the pyramid should bear that weight so that we can free up our associates to take care of our customers.”

          The Home Depot wasn’t always the world’s largest home improvement retailer, however. In fact, when the housing market crashed from 2006 to 2009, the company lost $13 billion, or 25 percent of its sales. Tomé said the company simply relied on its core values. “We had to make some very hard decisions,” she said. “As we were making those decisions, we went back to what our co-founder Bernie Marcus said. He said, ‘If you take care of your associates, they will take care of the customers, and everything else will take care of itself.’

          Carol Tomé speaking to students“During that time when many companies were freezing raises, freezing contributions into 401K plans, and stopping bonus plans, we said, ‘Nope. We’re not going to do that. Not for the front line. Not for the associates who are taking care of our customers.’ For all of our store associates, we continued to pay merit increases, we continued to make 401K contributions, and we continued to pay success sharing, which is a bonus plan for our hourly associates. We stayed true to that. Our associates matter. They are a name and a face. We invest in them—not just in pay, but through education and learning opportunities for career development.”

          Tomé noted that executives at the bottom of the pyramid did not enjoy the same luxuries, but instead enjoyed watching the company grow out of the recession. “We believed that when the economy turned around, then so would we,” she added—and she was right.

          Before Tomé worked for The Home Depot, she served as Vice President and Treasurer at Riverwood International Corporation in Atlanta. But the new Georgia resident fell in love with a certain home Atlanta-based improvement retailer and even became a company shareholder. Then she received a phone call to work there.

          “I wasn’t sure if it was right for me,” she explained. “I went to one of my friends and I asked them what they thought.”

          Their advice—take the job! 

          “Had they not told me that, and had I not listened, I wouldn’t have gone back and who knows where I would be today,” she said.

          “Don’t be too planful or you will miss out on opportunities that you can’t even dream exist. Be sure to take risks along the way. Make sure to build really big networks—people that you can leverage when you are faced with these turns that happen as you go down your life’s journey. The road is going to make twists and turns and you are going to have to make decisions—do I go left or right—and if you have a strong network, you can leverage that network to help you make decisions.”

          Thursday’s presentation was sponsored by Auburn University’s Center for Ethical Organizational Cultures through its Student Center for Public Trust.

          “Mrs. Tomé provided important insights as to how high integrity organized cultures can drive success,” said O.C. Ferrell, James T. Pursell Senior Eminent Scholar in Ethics and the Student Center for Public Trust Director. “She is a role model for students as they develop their career paths.”

        • Wilson Nash | Ethics and Compliance for a Large Contractor: A Tale of Two Workforces

          Wilson NashMarch 19, 2018

          Wilson Nash earned his Juris Doctorate from the University of Alabama School of Law where he graduated Magna Cum Laude. He now functions as the Associate General Counsel for Brasfield and Gorrie, LLC, one of the largest privately-held construction companies in the U.S. Here he reviews and negotiates contracts and purchase orders on a daily basis along with providing project-specific counsel. Nash also serves as the ethics and compliance officer and is, therefore, responsible for the oversight of ethics and the firm’s code of conduct.

          Nash and O.C. Ferrell speak with a guest.In his captivating speech about balancing ethics and compliance with two separate workforces, Nash provided examples of the success of Brasfield and Gorrie and its commitment to stakeholders. The firm has an unwavering commitment to quality and integrity. For example, safety is the company's highest priority which is reflected in its SEE IT, OWN IT, SHARE IT initiative. The company’s values also include performance, integrity, respect, innovation, and teamwork. Brasfield and Gorrie was the first construction firm to become a member of the Society of Corporate Compliance and Ethics. The firm also has an ethics and compliance hotline which is monitored by a third party.

        • Alfonzo Alexander | Ethical Leadership: The True Sustainable Leadership

          Alfonzo AlexanderOctober 23, 2017

          Alfonzo Alexander is Chief Relationship Officer of the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA) and the President and CEO of the Student Center for Public Trust. Alexander was the inaugural speaker for the Auburn SCPT chapter and addressed more than 115 students during his talk on Ethical Leadership: The True Sustainable Leadership. He shared personal and professional experiences about how ethics has played a role in his success and how it plays a role in many business professionals’ demise.

          For more information on Alexander, visit the SCPT website bio and NASBA website bio. Or read out this story from the Harbert College of Business on Alfonzo’s inaugural speech.

        Being a Difference Award

        Each year NASBA SCPT chapters across the country honor one student and faculty member on their respective campuses with the Being a Difference Award. The award recognizes those who have had a positive impact on the school by displaying ethical behavior, integrity, and leadership.
        • 2020

          Auburn’s SCPT is pleased to celebrate our 2020–2021 Being a Difference Award recipients, accounting senior Clare Promer and senior lecturer of finance Dr. Damion McIntosh. Both recipients exhibited strong community leadership and were commended by fellow students and faculty for their dedication to ethical behavior.

        • 2019

          April 18, 2019

          Beth Davis-Sramek holding up the Being a Difference Award.The National Association of State Board of Accountancy (NASBA) Center for the Public Trust (CPT) recently awarded the Campus Being A Difference Award to Beth Davis-Sramek, the Gayle Parks Forehand Associate Professor in Supply


          Chain Management in the Harbert College of Business at Auburn University. The student Campus Being a Difference award was also given to Catherine Miller, a student in Marketing at the University.

          Dr. Davis-Sramek provides students with an interactive environment where ethical business behaviors are addressed. She also creates opportunities for students to network with the business community to develop their professional leadership skills.  Her outreach work includes a leadership role in the Elevate Portland Elementary Initiative, which creates productive learning environments for students and provides experiences that encourages a path to higher education and a successful future while embracing the importance of ethics and integrity.

          O.C. Ferrell honors Catherine Miller with her award.Catherine Miller is from Lake Zurich, IL. In addition to her studies in marketing, Catherine is pursuing a second major in French. Her leadership roles include membership in the Mortar Board National Honor Society and the Women’s Leadership Institute. She is also active in various on-campus activities, including War Eagle Girls, Plainsmen, and the Auburn University Housing Department. These awards were presented at a panel event put on by the Auburn chapter of the Student Center for the Public Trust, which outlined the impact of artificial intelligence on marketing, services, and ethics. Dr. Dora Bock, Dr. Jeremy Wolter, Dr. Linda Ferrell, and Dr. O.C. Ferrell spoke. “The Student CPT chapter at Auburn is a professional organization that provides students with an opportunity to develop ethical leadership skills that will lead to responsible business conduct. Without this leadership, in today’s competitive business environment and with its emphasis on short-term results, there can be ethical challenges,” notes O.C. Ferrell, the James T. Pursell, Ethics and Director for The Center of Ethical Organizational Cultures in the Harbert College of Business.