Hometown connection: Arkansas City, Lenexa, Manhattan and Wichita, Kan.; andWheaton, Ill.; and Pine Island, Minn.
News release prepared by: Olivia Blanco, 785-532-2753, oblanco@k-state.edu

Friday, Dec. 9, 2011

Meeting the challenge: Students from Manhattan, Wichita win business ethics competition

MANHATTAN -- Finding the ethical solution to a problem is not an easy task, but students at Kansas State University get the chance to practice their analytical thinking and resolve an ethics dilemma in the ConocoPhillips Business Ethics Case Competitions, which are sponsored by the College of Business Administration and the ConocoPhillips Excellence in Business Ethics Initiative.

Competing under the name Team SPIRIT, Spencer Kaufman, a senior in mechanical engineering from Manhattan, and Scott Whittle, a senior in industrial engineering from Wichita, won this year's competition on Nov. 16.

"Team SPIRIT presented a strong case for solving the ethical case in a very unique way. The amount of time that they put into this project was shown throughout their presentation," said Chris Merriewether, a credit analyst with ConocoPhillips and one of the judges. Merriewether is a Kansas State University alumnus.

"Their team name was fitting because I could see a lot of ConocoPhillips' core SPIRIT values -- Safety, People, Integrity, Responsibility, Innovation and Teamwork -- in their presentation. It was a pleasure to watch Scott and Spencer perform at such a high level," Merriewether said.

A total of 16 teams from across the university competed in the two-part ethics case. The first part consisted of writing an essay describing a solution for an ethical dilemma regarding child labor in a Third World country. The top five teams, selected by faculty in the college and the philosophy department, moved on to the finals and presented their solutions to the case in front of the judges.

"Overall this was a great event, and I was very impressed with the formality of the competition. It's almost impossible to just sit down and critically think about these types of topics, but programs like this allow students to step outside the box and recognize situations they may see in the work force," Kaufman said.

From the students' presentations, the judges were looking for ethical and business considerations, comprehensiveness of the plan, ability to answer questions and presentation skills.

"Ethics is not something taken into consideration all the time, so it was nice to apply my knowledge to a real-world case. Also, I gained a better understanding of the different areas of business and the different types of people affected by various business decisions," Whittle said.

Along with Merriewether, judges included the following College of Business Administration alumni: Brian Leiker, supervisor, upstream IT planning/controls/compliance, for ConocoPhillips; Brad Roberts, vice president of operations, Steel and Pipe Supply Co.; and Randy McGrath, a retired Lawrence municipal court judge.

Other student finalists in the competition and their results included:

Kyle Tipton, senior in management information, Arkansas City, third place; Lauren Harmon, senior in fine arts, honorable mention, and Rachael Jensen, senior in finance, second place, both from Lenexa.

From Manhattan: Nick de Souza, senior in marketing, third place; Zachary Lee, senior in economics and accounting, third place; Sara Marchand-Trapp, senior in business administration, honorable mention; and Christina Patch, senior in management, honorable mention.

Michael Hampton, junior in finance, honorable mention, and Ashlee Hampton, junior in marketing, honorable mention, both from Wichita.

From out of state: Patrick Flores, senior in agribusiness, Wheaton, Ill., second place; and Alison Manthei, senior in management and marketing, Pine Island, Minn., third place.

"ConocoPhillips has a strong history of ethical business practices -- from integrity in leadership, to transparency in accounting practices and safety in the workplace," Merriewether said. "It was great for the students in various colleges throughout the university to come together and discuss a true-to-life ethical dilemma. Programs like this have a profound impact on the students' lives and their ethical decision-making trajectory. The students were all very impressive with the bold ideas that they formed and presented."