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Bishop Center for Ethical Leadership's Goal: International Recognition

By Keith Morelli

Students around a computer

TAMPA (December 11, 2020) -- Founded in 2006, the Bishop Center for Ethical Leadership has been laser focused on providing relevant and impactful instruction for both students and business leaders in the outside community. With consolidation, that focus is energized to bring its commitment to excellence to a wider swath of those within the academic community as well as external partners.

Tony Kong is the newly appointed faculty director of the center and is instrumental in updating the strategic plan to reflect the vision, mission and framework in the wake of USF’s consolidation over the summer.

“One challenge we faced is the broad and complex conceptualization of ethical leadership, which has different meanings to different individuals and organizations,” Kong said. “However, our open dialogues have helped us develop our own take on ethical leadership, which is trust-centered ethical leadership, and our signature framework guiding our operational goals and strategies.”

The result has been the reshaping of the center, he said, in the months after the merger of USF’s three campuses into one university. With the support of Muma College of Business Dean Moez Limayem and the Kate Tiedemann School of Business and Finance Dean Sri Sundaram, the programs offered through the center will continue to change leadership culture, Kong said.

“The consolidation created an opportunity for the Bishop Center to play a significant role,” Kong said. “Without the consolidation, I would not have the opportunity to help develop a center dedicated to ethical leadership research, teaching, and practice. Trust is important to the success of the USF consolidation and certainly indispensable to ethical leadership in any organization or sector.”

In reshaping the center, the team unanimously agreed on the central role that trust plays in ethical leadership, he said, and developed the framework accordingly.

“As a scholar of trust, ethics, and leadership, I am glad that I can use my knowledge and research expertise in the important work at the Bishop Center,” he said. “We have been developing new strategies and initiatives for more strongly engaging and benefiting stakeholders within USF and external stakeholders.”

David O’Neill is the director of the center, leading the post-consolidation re-emergence.

“I see no challenges, only opportunities,” he said.” We are really excited to serve the entire system.”

Among the opportunities are short term plans to launch a USF Business for Good Internship program early in 2021 along with an undergraduate mentorship program designed around developing career skills of self-awareness. O’Neill plans to strengthen a strategy that enhances the interdisciplinary minor in leadership and recruits high-achieving students for a Leadership House living-learning Community next fall.

In the long term, O’Neill said the goal is to build a brand around trust-centered ethical leadership and develop programs at the graduate level.

Named for Wally Bishop, a noted cartoonist, and his wife, Louise, an active philanthropist, the center reflects their shared passion for civic life and ethical leadership.

The center’s programs and services emphasize context while leveraging experiential, interactive learning strategies. Educating students about well-rounded and ethical leadership skills starts with either experience or received knowledge. Experience is followed by reflection, which results in new knowledge. Knowledge is followed by experimentation, which creates new experience. The process cycles continuously.

Programs and services are designed to kick start this process at strategic points by introducing theories and concepts, practical tools and key questions to help the learner maximize the results. The team of faculty are experienced leaders and educators, making them especially qualified to design programs that are well grounded and work.

Such programs include an ethics and debate team that involves students discussing cases built from real-world and current events; a leadership studies minor, which focuses on the knowledge and skills necessary for exercising good leadership; and the Leadership House living-learning community, a year-long, living-learning community focused on leadership skills.

The Learning Community is similar to the Bulls Business Community offered to selected students on the USF Tampa campus. Through the Bishop Center, the Leadership House shows students how to tap into their own leadership potential and create practical experiences to sharpen those abilities. Students deliver presentations on significant campus and community projects, meet and learn from important leaders, and attend activities such as a ropes challenge course designed to reinforce concepts learned in the classroom.

Johnette Williams, a political science manor who is minoring in leadership, is also a USF St. Petersburg campus ambassador, a peer coach and a member of the Chancellor’s Leadership Council. She hopes to graduate in the spring of 2023.

She said her experience with the Bishop Center has been inspiring and eye opening.

“I decided to minor in leadership after seeing how the Bishop Center helped other USF St. Petersburg student leaders succeed,” she said. “I have had the opportunity to connect with important people in the St. Petersburg community and in the political career field because of events and leadership panels sponsored by the center.

“I have learned great leadership and communication skills and I hope to continue to learn more in the future.”

Her most impactful moment was when she spoke at one of the center’s virtual leadership lessons.

“I talked about my leadership roles on campus and how that has affected my college journey,” she said. “It was so wonderful getting to share my experiences and it was also so inspiring to hear of the other student speaker's leadership styles. We all have had our own paths and to learn about what works in different leadership environments.”

The center also provides opportunities specifically for managers in the hospitality and tourism industry.

The Hospitality Leadership Program builds and sustains a culture that supports general managers and hands-on owners in the hospitality industry. Leadership training is designed to equip managers with tools to create a culture that attracts and retains the talent hospitality and tourism organizations need to grow.

Also offered: Opportunities for faculty to research the challenges faced by women in the corporate ecosystem.

The Women and Leadership Initiative Program offers two research awards of $5,000 each during the 2021 calendar year to support research focused on women of color and leadership. Topic areas include institutional barriers to the advancement of women of color in business, entrepreneurial success by women of color, challenges faced by business leaders who are women of color and representation of women of color on corporate boards.

With consolidation, the center’s resources are now open to all students of the Muma College of Business, not just students studying on the St. Petersburg campus.