Date of Conferral







James Bowman


Character development in higher education is essential for enhancing ethical awareness and moral reasoning. However, inconsistent perspectives exist concerning the impact of ethics education on students' ethical awareness and moral reasoning. This phenomenological study examined the perceptions of senior-level undergraduate business students on their own ethical belief systems and changes in ethical awareness. Astin's student development theory on the environmental effects on learning formed the conceptual framework. The research questions explored how the 4-year undergraduate business school experience changed the students' ability to recognize and evaluate ethical concerns in relation to the ethical aspects of coursework. Thirteen undergraduate seniors pursuing a business degree from a Catholic college were purposively selected. In-depth interviews were used to obtain data about ethical self-awareness, recognition of ethical issues, understanding ethical concepts, and assessing core values. The study followed Moustakas' recommendation for phenomenological analysis, a modification of the Stevick-Colaizzi-Keen method. Emergent themes included the meaning of moral character development, the perception of the college business curriculum in relation to students' core values, and the approaches used to affect ethical situations. The findings suggest that the business curriculum increase the students' exposure to ethical situations and introduce decision tools that could be useful in ethical dilemmas. Recommendations involve considering a pretest and posttest design and Astin's entire inputs-environment-outcomes model as the theoretical framework. The implications for positive social change include the development of character education toward moral competencies and ethical decision-making skills of future business leaders.