Earlier this month, the Business Ethics at Darden and Net Impact clubs hosted the first-ever Darden Ethics Conference. Centered around the theme “It Starts with You,” the mission of the conference was to inspire and empower Darden students to find ways to make their careers and lives more ethical and impactful. “One of our goals was to start a new Darden tradition with this conference. Based on the great turnout and positive feedback we’ve gotten, we think we’ve succeeded,” said Jessica Kim-Schmid, outgoing President of the Business Ethics at Darden club and one of the co-organizers of the conference. “We were honestly surprised something like this didn’t already exist at Darden, so we are thrilled that we were able to get the ball rolling!”
The conference, which was attended by over 100 members of the Darden community, featured sessions led by over 20 industry guests and Darden faculty members. Highlights included an opening fireside chat featuring Professor Bobby Parmar and Arnold Evans (JD/MBA ’97), who currently serves as the Chief Ethics Officer of Truist Bank and as a member of the Darden School Foundation Board of Trustees, as well as an afternoon keynote by Molly Hill Patten (MBA ’01), who is currently the Chief Operating Officer of telehealth startup Sitka.
The conference’s morning sessions focused on ethical challenges in different industries and included sessions such as “The Potential and Pitfalls of Cryptocurrency,” featuring CEO of Fonbnk Christian Duffus (Darden ’00), and Professor Kinda Hachem, and “Ethics in Athletics: What is Winning Worth?”, featuring UVA’s very own Athletic Director, Carla Williams. Leaders from Axon, Inc., the conference’s presenting sponsor, also presented a riveting session on incorporating ethics into tech product design. The afternoon sessions highlighted different ways that businesses are innovating to create societal impact. Students took part in conversations with guests such as Peter Urias, Airbnb’s Chief Ethics Officer (Airbnb was also a supporting sponsor of the conference), Jeff Cherry, Managing General Partner of Conscious Venture Partners, and Lisa Manley, VP of Sustainability at Mars.
“Our intention was to lay the foundation that carries Darden into the spotlight among other top business schools for its commitment to business ethics, social impact, and sustainability. We hope this conference grows to include attendees and speakers from other top MBA programs and even a case competition in the years to come,” said Alex Smith, outgoing President of Darden’s Net Impact chapter and conference co-organizer.
For both Business Ethics at Darden and Net Impact, the Darden Ethics Conference was a fitting culmination of the work the clubs had done all year to foster conversation and activity around ethics and social impact. As a young club only in its second year of existence, Business Ethics at Darden strove to create unique opportunities for students to engage with Darden’s Ethics faculty members, holding events ranging from discussion dinners about the intersection between ethics and popular TV shows to an ”Off the Waitlist” series where students could participate in condensed 2-hour versions of popular classes taught by Ethics faculty. Darden’s Net Impact club focused on providing students with opportunities to incorporate sustainability and social impact in their lives and careers, running everything from a sustainable Holiday Market to a Board Fellows program that places students on local nonprofit boards.
With the conference wrapped up and elections for the next wave of club officers concluded, the new leaders of Business Ethics at Darden and Net Impact are stepping up to write the next chapter of Darden student engagement with ethics and social impact. “Jess and this year’s Business Ethics at Darden board set an amazing example and made huge strides in fostering conversation on business ethics within the Darden community,” said Annie Elliott, the incoming President of Business Ethics at Darden. “The new board is excited to build on this foundation – and the momentum of the Darden Ethics Conference – by continuing to provide ways for students to engage in conversations on ethics beyond the classroom.”
Lizzy Belair, the incoming Net Impact President, commented on the inspirational nature of the Darden community, saying, “Here at Darden, we have an amazing level of student engagement and thought leadership, as well as ambitious sustainability and social equity goals to work towards. Net Impact is excited to continue partnering with the Business Ethics at Darden club to foster a community for students who want to be a part of the change they hope to see at Darden and beyond.”