With more than 30 years of management and executive experience, Earnie Broughton is not your typical college professor. He followed a business career path, rather than an academic one. Before coming to the University in August 2011, he spent 11 years as the Ethics Program Coordinator for USAA on the front lines of one of the hottest business issues in generations.
“I can’t think of a more interesting decade to have been involved in organizational ethics,” Broughton said. “Starting with Enron and continuing through the near economic collapse precipitated by the financial markets, we have been reminded time and again of the importance of ethics and values in guiding our choices and conduct at both individual and collective levels. In my view, the opportunities for game-changing breakthroughs in organizational behavior and individual conduct have never been greater.”
He joined the St. Mary’s University Bill Greehey School of Business as Executive-in-Residence and Director of the Master’s of Business Administration Program and Executive Education, with the task of bringing his decades of real-world experience into the classroom.
A focus on people
Organizational ethics is his principal area of academic and practitioner interest – a focus that came naturally for Broughton. “I started working in ethics because I’ve always been fascinated by human behavior,” he said.
Broughton took on the USAA Ethics Program because ethics seemed to be the area most directly related to personal values and how they could transform a workplace. This is a sort of paradigm shift in business thinking: At one time, ethics was more about following the rules than it was about doing the right thing simply because it is the right thing to do.
“Over the years, ethics has moved from an almost singular focus on compliance with laws and regulations during the 1990s to a more recent awareness of the importance of culture in establishing and reinforcing standards of conduct,” he said.
The psychology of business
Broughton is intrigued by the emergence of social psychology and behavioral economics in the explanation of ethical – and unethical – conduct.
Looking into the future, I see the beginnings of an integration of neurology and biology into a more comprehensive picture of individual ethics, moral reasoning and action,” he said. “The final piece of the puzzle will, I believe, be an acknowledgement that a deep and unifying view of spirituality is necessary to free us from the limited and self-interested world view and mindset that created these cycles of ethics crises in the first place.”
Once students complete the MBA program, Broughton wants them to leave with exactly what would be expected from a graduate-level program: academic preparation, practical skills, self-awareness, and a deep connection with both their classmates and the world around them. But he also wants them to leave St. Mary’s with something more: a life changing experience, both professionally and personally.
“I want them to look back on their MBA as an experience that separates the life they lived before entering our program from the ever-expanding circle of self-understanding, purpose and opportunity that comes after they graduate. That is a tall order, but anything less falls short of our tradition and mission at St. Mary’s.”