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Marriott School students win international ethics competition

A pair of students from Brigham Young University's Marriott School of Management proved to be the winning combination at the University of Arizona Eller College of Management's 2006 International Ethics Case Competition.

Philip Arias and Sarah McMullin, both undergraduate students at the Marriott School, earned first place at the fourth annual ethics competition. The team was recognized for its strong analysis of an ethical dilemma pulled straight from the banking world's headlines.

Each of the 21 teams from the United States, China, Canada and Mexico received the same case about a week before the competition: Is it ethically acceptable to offer mortgages to illegal immigrants?

"It was a tough topic but a great project to work on" said McMullin, a business management major with an emphasis in entrepreneurship from Redding, Calif. "We took the academic knowledge we found and applied it to real life for the business professionals who were judging us."

McMullin and Arias were selected to represent the Marriott School after submitting a resumé and cover letter and fielding an interview with professors Jeff Thompson and David Hart. The student duo spent an estimated 40 hours on research and discussions in the week and a half before the competition to shape their presentation into winning form.

Both Arias and McMullin researched the topic and read articles from industry magazines before they came together — even meeting between classes — to piece together a sound, ethical argument.

"We had completely different opinions that would change every time we did more research," McMullin said with a laugh. "We spent a lot of time convincing each other. Our presentation went through several metamorphoses."

With their research and an outline of their presentation, the students went to faculty advisers Hart and Thompson for guidance.

"I wish I could take some credit, but they really did a great job," said Hart, assistant professor of public management. "Philip and Sarah took our advice and ran with it. At the competition, they were singled out because of their preparation and because they were from BYU."

The grueling hours of preparation paid off. When the team arrived at the University of Arizona and met the other teams, Arias and McMullin felt prepared even if they were a little intimidated at first, Arias recalled. But nerves quickly settled after sailing through the first round of the competition and into the finals.

There was no simple "yes or no" answer to the case. The team analyzed potential risks and existing professional policies before concluding that extensive security measures should be taken before extending mortgages to illegal immigrants. Offering such mortgages was both ethically and financially sound for the bank because of the growing profit in the remittance market.

"There was never any pressure to win," said Arias, an information systems major from Lexington, Mass. "We wanted to go and represent BYU well and have fun. It was just a pleasant surprise that we won."

Arias and McMullin call the competition one of their landmark academic experiences at BYU. Both were equally grateful for the opportunity to promote the Marriott School.

Writer: Camilla Hodge


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