The Influence of Institutional Mission on Students’ Values: A Comparison Among Three Universities

Date01 December 2018
Published date01 December 2018
AuthorJames Weber,Jessica McManus Warnell
Business and Society Review 123:4 567–600
© 2018 W. Michael Hoffman Center for Busi ness Ethics at Bentley Uni versity. Published by
Wiley Period icals, Inc., 350 Main St reet, Malden, MA 02148, USA, and 9 600 Garsington
Road, Oxford OX4 2DQ, U K. DOI: 10.1111/basr.12155
The Influence of Institutional
Mission on Students’ Values:
A Comparison Among Three
Many business schools profess a commitment to ethics in
their mission statements and focus a spotlig ht on the
intersection between the un iversity’s mission and atten-
tion to business ethics. To explore this t rend, we analyze
a sample of students’ values from two universities wit h an
explicit religious foundation and recogn ized commit ment
to ethics against students from a nother university where
this attention is not as explicit. Th is study identifies the
personal values orientations (P VOs) for these students,
born between 1980 and 2000, thus m illennia ls, and con-
siders if differences can be att ributed to the university ’s
culture and mission or business school cur riculum. We
utilize S ocial Identity Theor y as a promising fra mework
for illuminati ng these considerations. Our results con-
firm th at a religious-orientation character izing a
James Weber is a professor of Busine ss Ethics and Ma nagement, Palumbo- Donahue School of
Business, Duquesne Un iversity, Pittsbu rgh, PA. E-mai l: Jessica McManus
Warnell is an a ssociate teaching profess or of Management & Organiz ation, Mendoza College
of Business, Unive rsity of Notre Dame, Notre Da me, IN. E-mail: jmcmanus@nd.e du.
university’s mission may inf luence the business students’
(or millennia ls’) PVOs. Students at the two religious insti-
tutions manifested a stronger soc ial, rather tha n per-
sonal, and moral, rather t han competence, value
orientation. Only marg inal dif ferences were discovered
when assessing with in group differences in t he value ori-
entations among our sample of business students.
T he space occupied by business schools professing in their
mission statements a commitment to eth ics and integrity
is increasingly crowded (AACSB 20 04; de los Reyes et al.
2016). This attention is welcome, importa nt and necessary, as
equipping students to responsibly navigate business in an era of
interconne ctedness, g lobali zation, t ranspa rency, and accou ntabil-
ity is more critical now t han ever. As these mission statements and
stated goals of educating for ethica l business leadership prolifer-
ate, consideration of the impact of these efforts is now possible.
Moving beyond intentions to outcomes is key; though encourag ing,
a risk is that abundance of professed attention to issues of ethica l
business allows us to conclude that today’s students—tomorrow’s
business leaders—are poised to lead w ith integrit y. Consensus on
how we teach business ethics is far from determ ined (de los Reyes
et al. 2016). Exploring a nd understanding t he impact and mean-
ing of these offerin gs, and how they might man ifest in the values
expressed by today’s students, are vital. We describe a nd contrast
how three universities attempt to inst itutionaliz e ethics education
in their mission statements and pur pose or goals, and consider the
connection to the expressed va lues of their students.
The abundance of professed attention to ethics in business
schools is contemporaneous with an interesti ng public conversa-
tion on the nature of these young people themselves. We are inun-
dated with messages about these f uture leaders—today’s business
students and early-career business people, christened t he millen-
nials. This generat ional cohort, typica lly identified as t hose born
between 1980 and 2000, includes those students studying busi-
ness and those young professionals just now entering and as cend-
ing to management positions in our cor porations. Millenn ials are
illustrated in popula r media and academic ana lysis as a mix ture
of young people who are entitled and social ly conscious, hyper-
connected and search ing for meaning, a nd representing both t he
bane and the promise of our collect ive future (McManus Warnell
2015). This dissect ion of millennia ls’ preferences and interests,
gifts, char acteristics, and chal lenges is undertaken by educators
and employers (not to mention marketers). The intersection be-
tween mission and goals of t he university’s attention to business
ethics, and the intentions and perspe ctives of these young people
studying wit hin this space, is a r ich area for study.
As business school educators who believe in the promise of busi-
ness for prosocial impact, we are intr igued by how these emerg-
ing business professionals see the world. For the purposes of our
study, we are interested in exploring their form ative education—are
they drawn to colleges a nd universities with proso cial missions,
given their express ed desire for aligni ng values with t heir work
(McManus Warnell 2015)? Do students flourish and competencies
take shape and al ign with ex pressed commitment to eth ical for-
mation? Does the mission of their educational in stitution matter?
We describe a representative sample of student values from three
business schools; two universities wit h an explicit foundational,
recognized com mitment to ethics and prosoci al business, and an-
other university where this attent ion is not as explicit nor framed
in religious contexts. Th is descriptive contrast may be helpful to
explore students’ values orientations and relationship to university
Duquesne University, the University of Illinois and the University
of Notre Dame were invited to pa rticipate in this st udy. Examining
a large set of responses from a geographica lly and mission-diverse
group of three U.S. universities enables us to closely investigate
the data representing students from two u niversities with a pro-
fessed, long-standing commit ment to ethical business education
with a universit y where this commitment is not as expl icit. This
study identifies the personal va lues orientations (PVOs) for stu-
dents from our three inst itutions. Then, we consider how the stu-
dents’ PVOs may differ across institutions and ex plore whether
differences can be att ributed to the university’s culture a nd mis-
sion or other forces that may characterize t he religious-oriented
universities compared to the public inst itution.

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