By Bering Tsang and guest blogger Maria McLemore, both first-year Daytime MBA students in the Class of 2015.
Fuqua is one of the most diverse business schools in the world. Students represent different countries and cultures, and have a wide array of professional backgrounds and future goals. As students, they embrace this diversity as a part of the Fuqua brand, Team Fuqua, and focus on what unites them — their desire to be leaders of consequence, both inside the walls of Fuqua and well beyond them. Perhaps the most profound component of Fuqua that enables students to become influential leaders is the Honor Code. The Fuqua Honor Code provides that students will not lie, cheat, or steal in their academic endeavors, that they will conduct themselves honorably in all aspects of their lives, and that they will act if the standard is compromised.
The function of the Honor Code is to instill a common identity and purpose within the Fuqua community, promoting uncompromising integrity as a key value of Team Fuqua and a central component of leaders of consequence. Where the Honor Code guides , the values of Team Fuqua binds; at Fuqua, living in adherence to the Honor Code is not a suggestion, but an expectation. As the first-year class elected Honor Representatives, we both feel strongly that the Honor Code is something that builds our community of trust, strengthens our bonds, and protects all Fuquans. It is not enough for us to “get along” as classmates, it is important that we seek to “get it right.” Often that means holding each other accountable to do the right thing over the convenient thing. And this helps us all become better students, better leaders, and better people.
As judicial reps, we feel compelled to serve the student body in part because our backgrounds have instilled in us the principles of living honorably. We are both alumni of institutions with strong honor codes, and chose pre-Fuqua careers with a focus on integrity — Bering as an officer in the Marine Corps, and Maria as a civil servant. In this new chapter of our lives, as Honor Representatives, we are elected members of the MBA Association (MBAA) and serve our peers by sitting as voting members of the Judicial Board when an honor violation is reviewed. Our classmates also uphold the Honor Code through their actions every day, implicitly using the principles of honor as a cornerstone for character development and ultimately, leadership development. In the end, character is inseparable from leadership.
The Honor Code at Fuqua manifests itself long before the first day of classes. You will pledge that your application is truthful when seeking admission. Once admitted, the incoming class takes a pledge during Orientation. All new students stand up, raise their right hand, and promise to uphold the principles of honesty, fairness, respect, and accountability. By pledging their support of the Honor Code, students explicitly promise to protect and promote the culture of integrity we have here at Fuqua, making the school the great place that it is.
In an environment centered around numbers and returns, it is difficult to quantify the effect honor has on life at Fuqua. Honor guides daily life, actions, and conversations; it builds character and shapes future business leaders into leaders of consequence. In addition to the Honor Code, the Fuqua/Coach K Center on Leadership and Ethics (COLE) and the annual Leadership & Ethics Conference work to promote a culture of integrity. In a short time (perhaps too short a time), Fuqua students leave the Duke community and work to make a positive change in the business world — reducing the corruption and unethical behavior that mires today’s headlines. It is our hope that the foundation they build at Fuqua will help to guide their future decisions. It is imperative that students leave Fuqua as consequential leaders for the improvement of the world.
Fuqua’s Honor Code is strong, and the system has facilitated an atmosphere where students act with individual responsibility. They strive to do the right thing, even when no one is looking. It is our Team Fuqua values, our system, and our honor code. This includes the personal decision to act honorably and to not tolerate the actions of those who choose to violate the conditions of the Honor Code. An important aspect of the Honor Code is that all students are expected to report violations by their peers. When a suspected violation occurs, the judicial process sees that the accused are afforded certain rights because the consequences can be grave — from failing the class to expulsion from Fuqua. This is a profound responsibility, but one that is not taken lightly by Fuqua students. Faculty and staff also understand the spirit of the Honor Code, and serve as exemplars to students. It is the gravity with which everyone — students, faculty, and staff — approach the idea of ethical and honorable conduct that we are able to hold each other accountable for shortcomings.
We believe in the purpose and existence of the Honor Code because it makes us, our community, and the organizations we lead better. When students arrive at Duke they aren’t handed the Duke MBA; they earn it through hard work and success in the classroom. They also aren’t handed the title, Leader of Consequence — they earn it by living with integrity and character.
I’m originally from Sonoma County, California, and returned to Duke for an MBA after completing my undergraduate degree here. I spent the years in between as an officer in the United States Marine Corps, and not surprisingly one of my favorite movies is “Top Gun.”