Students Attend Conference on Ethics in America at West Point

Eastern Kentucky University students Phillip Migyanko and Matt Foley spent several days examining ethical challenges in educational and work environments at the 2011 National Conference on Ethics in America at West Point, held Oct. 16-19.

Migyanko, a senior business major from Waverly, Ohio, and ethics administrator for the Student Government Association, was nominated to attend by the SGA. Sophomore fine arts major Foley, a Harlan native now living in Richmond, was nominated by EKU Veterans Affairs.

More than 200 students and cadets, representing nearly 95 universities and military academies, attended the 26th NCEA conference, presented by the Class of 1970 and hosted by the Simon Center for Professional Military Ethics (SCPME).

Each year, the West Point outreach program brings in industry leaders and experts to engage students on a myriad of topics designed to invoke critical thinking about the practice of ethics.

“Attending the NECA conference was a truly enriching and invaluable experience,” Migyanko said. “I had the great opportunity and honor to discuss issues of character, integrity and ethics affecting our country and world with business and government officials, ethicists, leaders of character across varying fields of enterprise, and a diverse group of students.

“Throughout the conference, I analyzed current problems and formulated ethical solutions by sharing and developing my ideas of ethics and values with others,” he added. “I left with a sense of empowerment and conviction to leave my own positive ethical impact on society.”

Foley also left the conference with a renewed sense of conviction, citing a Chinese proverb repeated at the conference: “Be careful of your thoughts, for your thoughts become your words. Be careful of your words, for your words become your actions. Be careful of your actions, for your actions become your habits. Be careful of your habits, for your habits become your character. Be careful of your character, for your character becomes your destiny.”

“That was the sum of what we did,” he explained, “creating ethical thinking and developing a moral compass.”

Foley and Miguanko joined a long list of Eastern students who have attended the conference, which includes presentations followed by small group discussions led by mentors from various professions and institutions.

“It’s a life-changing opportunity for students,” said Betsy Bohannon, executive director of EKU’s Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities, which collaborates with other offices on campus to provide the students’ transportation costs – the only expense they incur. “It places them on the West Point campus, in the company of the cadets and puts them face to face with today’s business and industry leaders in both large- and small-group settings.”

EKU’s College of Business and Technology and Office of Student Affairs provided funding for this year’s attendees.

Several mentors at the recent conference were from West Point’s Class of 1970 and the English and Philosophy Department at West Point.

Nearly 30 faculty delegates also gathered this year with the goal of discussing best practices regarding character development and honor-related issues (such as cheating and plagiarism). The results will be published for the first time in NCEA history by the SCPME.

“The goal is for us to publish those best practices and make them available to other institutions, so they can learn and possibly utilize those practices,” Lt. Col. Michael Turner, SCPME deputy director, said. “One of our other goals is for the students themselves to take back what they’ve learned to their colleges and universities.”

Published on November 10, 2011