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Portico emphasizes leadership and ethics

Published: Monday, September 21, 2009

Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 19:01

Portico, the newest addition to the Carroll School of Management's curriculum, came to fruition this semester as a result of years of planning, support, and hard work. A requirement for first-year CSOM undergraduates, the Portico program places an emphasis on ethics and leadership in the matters of business.

"The Portico program will serve as an introduction to business and ethics with a BC 'stamp' on it," Ethan Sullivan, assistant dean for curriculum, said. "This experience will be different at Boston College because of the Jesuit values of the University."

First-year CSOM students in the Portio program are broken up into 23 different sections that are taught by three full-time instructors. The instructors serve not only as teachers but as advisors to the students in their particular section. Those in the Portico program receive mentoring from student advisors as well. Around 20 students are placed in each class and although he believes that this is an acceptable number, Sullivan said the ideal number of students in each class is below 20.

The establishment of the program was a four-year long process that would not have been possible without the support of the University and various members within it.

"Dean Keeley and I shared a vision four years ago of some kind of an entranceway to BC, a freshmen immersion program in ethics," said Andrew Boynton, dean of CSOM. "We put two teams of faculty together, one with a liberal arts background and the other comprised of CSOM faculty. Together, they worked on designs for Portico, and eventually, we came up with one."

To gauge reaction and garner support, a pilot Portico program was run last year. Though the pilot program consisted of only two sections, Boynton said it was successful in its mission."We had to get the deans to support it and then the faculty," Boynton said. "Ultimately, the University stepped up and supported it."

With the backing of the University, fundraising for Portico began. The outpouring of generosity from different sources, including alumni, contributed to the successful creation of Portico.

Richard Keeley, associate dean of CSOM and chair of the Winston Center for Leadership and Ethics, said that Portico has three main objectives. The program is designed to give students an early introduction to each of the business disciplines, have ethics as the spine of the course, and introduce students to leaders and leadership.

"We want to encourage students to be systematic and disciplined in situations," Keeley said.

Getting students to think about their futures is another goal for the program, he said.

Sullivan said the program is designed to get students to use discernment to guide their concentration through reading, assignments, and interactions with BC alumni. "Most students don't truly know what it is they like to study until their sophomore or junior years," he said. "Portico students will study what it means to study business."

Sullivan said that through interaction with BC alumni, Portico students gain a sense of freedom. "It shows them that one decision you make at 21 is not going to make up what you do for the rest of your life," he said.

"We want to inform students of what this school is about at an early age and get them to discover themselves as leaders," Keeley said.

Boynton said teaching students how to best use their time at BC upfront was important. "The program will encourage students to think about their futures and ask questions about what they want to do," he said.

As a demonstration of this concept, Portico began even before the school year started for freshman CSOM students this year. During the summer, students received assignments via e-mail and regular post in the form of summer reading and an essay that was to be graded by their instructors upon their arrival on campus.

"These assignments were given to help them make sense of business," Sullivan said. "In that instance, the freshmen had all these relevant experiences before class started."

The Portico program is also set up to help improve CSOM advising.

"We want to start this early, since freshmen are more likely to see, know, and interact with their advisers, because of drop/add periods, pre-registration and other things like that," Sullivan said. "In addition to challenging our first-year students enough, we also want to support them."

"One of the outcomes is that we want students to feel much more at ease," Keeley said. "We want them to be much better situated with their future advisers." He said that in the spring, the students will work with their advisers on choosing their majors and signing up for courses.

While the Portico program is a huge development for CSOM, it was not created as a model for other schools, both in and out of the University, to follow.

"We don't expect it to be a model for other schools to follow," Boynton said. "Maybe they can, but we're all trying to learn from each other. Our schools are all different at BC. A&S, for example - whatever they do has to fit into a much larger population than ours."

"I'm sure people will be watching the course-based advising. Hopefully, it will improve it, but we really see this as being specific to CSOM," Sullivan said.

Expectations for the Portico program are very high. Although a lot of faculty input went into coming up with the design of the program as it is now, changes will undoubtedly be made.

"Portico does not have to stay the way it is," Boynton said. "We hope to continue it through sophomore, junior, and senior year - I'm actively fundraising for that now."

Sullivan said though he has high hopes for the program, Portico's ultimate success cannot be measured at the end of a student's freshman, sophomore, or even junior year. He said the program's ultimate success is measured after graduation, when students are out in the real world.

"If the next wave of corporate scandals occurs, our hope is that our graduates will be part of the solution, not part of the problem," Sullivan said.

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