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Students have hand in ethics award

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QUEENSBURY -- The Adirondack Samaritan Counseling Center will select three winners in the coming weeks for an award given to businesses that show high ethical conduct, a process that involves college students interviewing the nominees.

The public has nominated 23 businesses for the 2013 Ethics in Business Award, but for the second-straight year, SUNY Adirondack students, as part of a class project, measured the ethics of each one.

The students are in a philosophy course that focuses on business ethics. As their final project for the fall semester, they were assigned three businesses. They created the criteria and questions, interviewed the owners of the businesses, and wrote a report that included an explanation on whether the business should be considered for the award.

A committee with the center will use the reports in selecting winners over the next few weeks.

Gloria Ragonetti, a co-chair of the award program, said last year’s reports were a strong influence on the committee because the students did the research in investigating the businesses.

“It introduces an objective element into the selection process,” Ragonetti said of the students’ role.

The center approached the college about using students from the business ethics course.

Andrew Costa, the professor who teaches the course, said such a project is perfect for his students because it allows them to apply the concepts they’ve learned.

“It’s perfectly suited for this type of class and what I hope to achieve with the objectives of this course,” Costa said. “It’s a good match, but it’s a lot of responsibility for the students.”

The course is required for students who study business. The students spent most of the semester preparing for the report, which counts for 20 percent of their grade.

When given the assignment, they were reminded to be respectful during the interview process, to dress in a professional manner and to keep their appointments.

Tim Webb, a student from Fort Ann, said his group interviewed three businesses. He said the experience was “eye-opening” because some businesses don’t receive enough credit for how much they give back to the community.

He described the interviews as the business owners doing a “sales pitch” on why they should win the award.

“They wanted the award,” Webb said. “They were proud to be up for it.”

The groups ranked each business for either exceeding ethical expectations, meeting them or not meeting them.

Costa said the rankings were across the spectrum.

Mark Bulmer, a student from South Glens Falls, said he learned how businesses valued bringing people to the Glens Falls region and giving back to the community, and also how those companies follow ethical practices.

“I found it really interesting,” Bulmer said. “You get to see what they think about when they make decisions.”

Costa said he was surprised by the high quality of the students’ work.

“These reports have been one of the most successful things I’ve ever done in my history of teaching,” Costa said.

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