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BC Team Places First In Ethics Competition

Heights Editor

Published: Sunday, November 4, 2012

Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 19:01

The team of Matt Alonsozana, A&S ’14, and Justin Feng, CSOM ’14, took first place in the annual Collegiate Eller Ethics Case Competition on Friday, Oct. 26 at the University of Arizona. This marked the first time, in six years of participation, that Boston College has placed in the business ethics competition.

Each of the 28 competing teams presented on a case that had been given to them about three weeks prior. This year, the case was about the practice of fracking, a controversial method of extracting oil, in western Maryland. For the presentation at the competition, the teams were instructed to “Pretend that you are the advisory board to the governor of Maryland, and you are presenting to him about what the analysis is of the background [of the case] and what your recommendation would be for whether they should go forward with fracking or not,” said Erica Graf, associate dean of undergraduate programs in CSOM and faculty advisor to the team.

Alonsozana and Feng had two weeks to prepare before sending in their PowerPoint and executive summary a week and a half before the competition. “Our research came first from reading up on the topic of fracking itself, as we knew little about its implications before this competition,” Feng said. “We looked at state reports, research studies, articles on both the pros and cons of fracking, etc.”
They also spoke to a variety of people who were informed on the issue of fracking, such as a student director of the Sierra Club and a Ph.D. candidate in BC’s financial department with experience in the natural gas industry.

Alonsozana and Feng are not only teammates but roommates as well, leading to inescapable accountability in the preparation process. “I remember us waking each other up on a Saturday morning around 7 a.m. to go hammer out our strategy that day,” Feng said. “We found an empty conference room in Fulton with a whiteboard and literally stayed in the room until 6 p.m. that evening.”
They were also able to easily identify each other’s strengths and divide up the work.

“Justin and I work really well together as a team,” Alonsozana said. “Justin brings an analytical approach to finance and ethics, and I complement that with my experiences in government, law, and debate. We worked together on every aspect of the presentation, but we built off our respective strengths.”
Graf put together a mock panel of CSOM faculty acting as judges for whom the team could practice their presentation. “I think the questions they received from this panel were much more intense than what they received [at the competition], which was great,” Graf said.

At the competition, the teams were divided into four brackets. The first two rounds decided a winner of each bracket. These four teams then competed against one another in the final round, which was judged by all the judges from each of the brackets.

“The final round was great.” Alonsozana said. “While Justin and I were at first a little nervous about presenting in front of hundreds of people, as soon as we saw that the crowd and judges were responsive to our presentation and rhetoric, we got really fired up.”
The winning team was announced at a closing dinner. Graf, Feng, and Alonsozana agreed that the competition’s focus on ethics was what made it so challenging and rewarding.

“[CSOM] takes ethics in business very seriously,” Graf said. “We have tried to emphasize it in our curriculum with Portico, where students are given situations to read about where there is not always a clear-cut answer on what the right thing to do is. They have to wrestle with the issues and really examine the cases from many angles.”
“The concept of ethics is not merely about doing the right action in a certain situation, but rather a lens through which we can analyze the benefits and consequences on each person or stakeholder involved,” Feng said. “I learned that ethical issues in the world are often muddled and complex, and sometimes don’t have a clear “correct” outcome—as we make every decision, we can only try our best to remain idealistic in maintaining a sense of ethical integrity, but be realistic by recognizing that our system is imperfect.”

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