Honors Colloquium explores global impacts of business

“‘Don’t dig wide, dig deep,” is what director of the honors program, Karen de Bruin’s father always advised her in life.

Last year, de Bruin recognized the lack of focus within the honors program and, as its new director, she jumped into action to build a program that educates students of global issues facing our world today and empowers them to contribute to solving these problems. While last years’ colloquium focused on the sustainability of food, this year takes an even broader approach: The University of Rhode Island’s Honors Colloquium for 2023, “Not Business as Usual: Business for the Common Good,” exemplifies de Bruin’s passion for providing students the opportunity to contribute to global change.

This year’s colloquium, consisting of nine unique seminars, focuses on the impact of corporations on the overall well-being of society and the environment. Along with the seminars, there is a Honors class that accompanies these speeches taught by professor Doug Creed and professor Seray Ergene that fosters student engagement and provides them with the opportunity of one-on-one interactions with the speakers.

Addressing the root of the problem, de Bruin states that “Corporate shareholder profiting is a real problem,” de Bruin said, “Shareholders are becoming richer and richer.”

She expressed her concern about the current mentality in business

“Profit is so important to them that it does not matter to these corporations if the environment suffers,”de Bruin said. “We need a different economy and a new model of business.”

By shifting the focus from profit to the common good, activists are attempting to rewire the mindset of corporations on a global scale. Through a series of lectures, the colloquium will provide URI students with graduate-level education as the speakers tackle the importance of sustainability in business and what actions must be taken to implement laws to benefit the common good.

Dr. Christy Ashley, associate dean of business, shares that she is “cautiously optimistic” that this year’s colloquium will procure discussions and encourage students to assess how they can make an impact based upon their shifting world views. She is aware how daunting and anxiety-inducing the state of the environment and the economy may sound to young people, which is why it is ever more prevalent that talks such as these are given.

“We can’t stand still and be paralyzed and just talk about the problem, we need people to take action–members of the class, the universities and the community at large,” Ashley said.

With the recent shift in the honors program to place an emphasis on global issues, spearheaded by de Bruin, the Honors Colloquium will be beneficial in guiding students to prioritize the common good into their own careers. Whether one is a business major or a STEM major, each student can benefit from the speakers in this year’s program due to its wide array of topics including ocean sustainability, land sustainability and cultural relations.

All students are encouraged to attend the seminars, held during 7 p.m. on most Tuesdays of the Fall semester in Edwards Hall, but these lectures can also be attended online.