Santa Clara University, nestled in Silicon Valley, has the unique opportunity to provide students with internships in some of today’s most prominent tech companies. Through the Markkula Center Business Ethics Internship students are placed at companies like Adobe and Intel. Students receive mentorship and experience that is supplemented by quarterly meetings with the other interns and Ethics Center staff.
“It’s really important to have students who are going out into the business world learning and thinking about ethics from the very beginning of their career,” said Ann Skeet, senior director of leadership ethics who oversees the program “And we hear back from the companies that our students are really making them think about their ethics.”
In addition to student’s internships the group also meets once a quarter to reflect on their experiences and learn more about ethical models of leadership as well as looking at case studies of ethical business practices.
“It’s been really interesting seeing concepts from my business ethics class play out in my internship,” said Matthew DeSimone '21, a senior double-major in Finance and Political Science. “Intel, where I am interning, takes a Stakeholder approach which is very different from the Shareholder approach used in the 70’s.” He explained that Stakeholder Capitalism is much more ethical because it takes into account how the company’s actions impact employees, board members, customers, the environment, and the public at large. This approach holistically considers how the company affects the common good. Shareholder primacy, DeSimone explained, only took into account what was best for the company.
“There is a whole new language being used in terms of business ethics now,” Skeet said. “Now companies are rated on their E-S-G meaning that environmental, social and governance issues are part of the consideration about their effectiveness as a business. It’s really important that our interns enter the professional workplace being up to date on these developments.”
The business ethics internship not only gives students an ethical foundation to apply to the business world, but it also gives them experience working in a professional environment.
“My favorite part of the job is working with other employees and making them feel like compliance is a place that helps you sort through potential ethical conflicts rather than a scary place you are sent when you are in trouble,” said Isabella Draskovic '21, a senior in the Leavey School of Business majoring in Management. Even though Draskovic does not plan to make a career in the compliance department she emphasized the importance of having that foundational business ethics in her background.
“Going forward I think we will try to place more interns in the technology department of companies,” shared Skeet. With emerging technology like AI comes a new set of ethical situations companies must consider. Skeet also added that many companies plan to keep some of the virtual practices adopted during the pandemic and that could provide a host of new ethical considerations about working from home.
Some students have left their internship with a job offer from the company and others have chosen to go in different directions but ultimately, Skeet shared, participating in the business ethics internship means becoming part of a larger network of ethics interns that stay connected through LinkedIn. Slowly, the program has been building a community of ethically minded business professionals that will serve as a lifelong resource.
Sahale Greenwood ‘21, a communications and political science major and a marketing and communications intern with the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics, contributed as the interviewer and author of this story.