Published: Jan. 17, 2013

University of Colorado students are learning more than just traditional business practices from the Leeds School of Business this spring.

The school's Center for Education on Social Responsibility -- or CESR -- is encouraging professors throughout Leeds to incorporate ethics into their business classes in an effort to set CU students apart.

CESR was formed in the spring of 2010 to expand the school's emphasis on social responsibility and increase diversity, aligning with the vision of the school's namesake Michael Leeds, a former Buff who gave a $35 million gift to the college in 2001.

The center began offering classes addressing business ethics, like Business Solutions in the Developing World, but now students are also learning about social responsibility in their core classes, said CESR Director Donna Sockell.

"Repetition is so critical because that's how we learn," Sockell said. "We're not trying to tell them what to think but help them develop who they are and what they think in terms of social responsibility."

One of the first core classes to join the ethics revolution was the Introduction to Business course, required for all freshmen entering the school.

Sockell said the class ensures that all Leeds students began their business education with social responsibility in mind. Now, the center is striving to maintain that way of thinking throughout the student experience.

CESR is also offering classes outside of the business school, like through Continuing Education or Residential Academic Programs, in an attempt to reach the broader student body. CESR affects more than 3,000 students per year, Sockell said.

The center is planning its inaugural Stampede at Leeds week in April, which will offer various conferences for students, faculty and the community on values in business.

One of the center's newest efforts is to encourage every business student to have at least one "learning through service" experience before graduating, Sockell said. CESR offers several programs for graduate students and is expanding similar offerings for undergraduates as part of their effort to give students hands on experience in ethics.

"It's one thing to talk but it's another thing to do so we want to get them to the doing part," Sockell said. "Our students are not just talking about social responsibility but they're doing it."

Leeds said ethics shaped how he conducted business, including during his time as the president and CEO of CMP Media.

Leeds said an on-site daycare center and the Positive Impact Program, which supported employees serving in the community, are examples of what set the company apart.

"One of the things I've learned in business is that you have to integrate how to make decisions," Leeds said. "If you say they (students) have to take a class in ethics, that's good, but it doesn't impact the students' thinking unless they talk about it in relation to management or accounting and how it fits in with the values in other classes."

He holds his company's dedication to ethics responsible for his success and is hoping the center can push students towards similar successes following graduation.

"We really want these kids to leave the Leeds school, not only prepared in traditional areas, but to be leaders in values and ethics and have positive impacts on their organizations, in whatever they do," Leeds said.