For 10 years, Patricia Werhane has been organizing initiatives at DePaul University that highlight the importance of weaving ethical decisions throughout the university experience—and life.

 The list of all she has accomplished over the past decade is varied and impressive, from leading the Institute for Business and Professional Ethics (IBPE) to writing influential articles and books on ethics to participating in a documentary series about poverty aired on public television.

“I’ve been able to do all of that here, and I don’t think that I could have done that at any other university,” says Werhane, reflecting on the 10th anniversary of her appointment as managing director of the IBPE and Wicklander Chair in Business Ethics. “DePaul has allowed me to work on the many projects I’m passionate about.”

One of Werhane’s latest endeavors, “Big Questions,” is a documentary film series that examines sustainable poverty alleviation projects around the world, focusing primarily on those that help people become independent without philanthropy. “We have seen that too much philanthropy can be debilitating,” Werhane says. “The idea is to release people from dependence on philanthropy, which, while always worthwhile, is not always continuous.”

The series grew out of a video Werhane filmed with Kim Clark, an instructor in DePaul’s College of Communication, about grassroots efforts to alleviate poverty in Bangladesh. That documentary caught the attention of WNIT, the public television station in South Bend, Ind. The station suggested a six-episode series, which aired in May and will be reshown this fall. In addition to micro-lending in Bangladesh, the pieces focused on telemedicine in Ghana, school building in Haiti, a leper colony in Tanzania, a women’s jail in Michigan and wage theft in Chicago. Laura Hartman, Vincent de Paul Professor of Business Ethics, was also involved as co-host of the series.

“Our purpose was always to record real-world, sustainable actions that are alleviating poverty, suffering and injustice,” Werhane explained in a 2012 interview about the series.

“Every episode ends with a Vincentian challenge: What can you do about this issue? How can you actually change the world?”

Werhane, who traveled widely for filming many of the segments, will continue globetrotting this fall as a Fulbright Specialist. Through the program, which matches scholars with academic institutions overseas, she will head to All Hallows College in Dublin, Ireland, for two weeks in November to organize a business ethics program at the school.  

When she is at DePaul, Werhane teaches in the philosophy and management departments and concentrates on training professors in how to best teach ethics in their classrooms. “The interesting thing is to get someone from mathematics, art history, music or theater,” Werhane says. “We discovered in workshops that a lot of faculty already are integrating ethics, but what they need is more skillsets to help them do that better.” The Ethics Across the Curriculum initiative was part of DePaul’s Vision 2012 strategic plan, and Werhane will spearhead a survey next year to document a decade’s worth of progress in integrating ethics at the university.

Werhane also is a prolific author. With Hartman and three other co-authors, Werhane penned “Obstacles to Ethical Decision-Making” (Cambridge University Press) this year.  She also coedited the recently released “Leadership Ethics,” a three-volume collection (Sage Publication).

In addition to being involved throughout DePaul, Werhane is well known in  industry. In 2008, Ethisphere magazine named her one of the 100 Most Influential People in Business Ethics. Recently she received the lifetime achievement award for outstanding contribution to scholarship from the Society for Business Ethics. Werhane, who was one of the society’s founders and who authored one of the first textbooks in business ethics in the 1970s, says the recognition means a great deal.

“I’ve worked very hard in this field, and it is a field that doesn’t have very many women in it, so it was a particular honor for me.”


What does DePaul’s Institute for Business and Professional Ethics Do?

  • Sponsors at least one major speaker on campus per quarter, such as inviting legal expert Lori Andrews to discuss online privacy and Mike Hannigan of Give Something Back office supplies to talk about tax breaks for benefit corporations.

  • Offers corporate ethics roundtables twice a year for leaders from local businesses. Involves members with DePaul through a corporate board.
  • Rotates hosting duties for a yearly conference on business ethics with two other Vincentian universities. DePaul will host the 20th annual conference, “Business Ethics in the 21st Century: The Globalization of Corporate Responsibilities,” in Chicago Oct. 17-19.
  • Awards a student scholarship sponsored by Hong Kong Shanghai Bank Corporation and a number of faculty fellowships for ethics projects within various fields.
  • Runs the Business and Professional Ethics Journal, a twice-yearly professional journal that features articles from the international community.
  • Compiles a White Paper Database to translate academic articles into more-accessible formats.