At Annual Leadership and Ethics Day, Experience is the Lesson Plan

Thursday, October 25, 2018
Speaker talks to a class

For the seventh year in a row on Thursday, faculty in the Helzberg School of Management handed over their lecture schedules to business leaders from Kansas City and beyond as part of the annual Business Leadership and Ethics Day.

Throughout the day, each class invites a speaker — many of them alumni — to share their experience and the issues they’ve faced in their field from an ethical standpoint. They take questions and create conversations in something akin to a professional-level career day.

Many of the speakers come from Kansas City’s business and nonprofit worlds, but beyond that their topics diverge quickly. In the morning, students in the intermediate microeconomics course taught by Mike Stellern, Ph.D., professor of economics, Justin and Rashaun Clark talked about moving from Chicago to Kansas City and opening a restaurant, Urban Café, which tapped into a hungry market for freshly made food in the area and became a pioneer in the reinvigoration of the Troost corridor.

“We kind of flipped the open sign and said let’s see what happens,” Rashaun said. “But it turns out everybody was watching.”

Justin said the response — and the way they earned trust from their neighbors — has allowed them to grow, recently expanding from the original location at 41st Street and Troost Avenue to a new space at 55th Street and Troost near the Rockhurst campus, part of a complete redevelopment of the area. It’s also become a symbolic bridge of the historic racial dividing line of Troost.

“Everybody has to eat,” Justin said.

Other guests talked about the importance of core values in guiding their business. Martin Kraus, ’84, the chief financial officer for Unbound, a Kansas City, Kansas, nonprofit that seeks to end global poverty, said values inform every aspect of the work the group does in 21 different countries. Being honest, forthcoming and transparent is more than just good for fundraising — it’s critical when people are depending on a sustainable organizational model. Kraus said he’s inspired by the passion for serving he sees in young people.

“You want to see what change your contributions really make,” he said. “And those are the right questions.”

And even as generations change, Kraus said he’s confident those simple principles will help power similar organizations and the work they do.