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2012 T.J. Masterson Ethics Essay Competition 



CONGRATULATIONS to all five winners, and a big thank you to all who participated. We are hopeful that this experience (both the case analysis AND especially your personal statement) have helped you consider making ethical decision-making AND ethical behavior a priority.  Behaving ethically limits our options and often takes courage….BUT doing so allows for better sleep at night, better social relations, stronger trust bonds and a more trustworthy reputation, and – in the long run – helps you succeed in ways that you might not even imagined!

     Early in each spring semester, the Gilliam Center runs the annual Thomas J. Masterson Ethics Essay Competition. Now in its eleventh year, the competition is sponsored by Rich Masterson, a 1982 JMU College of Business alum and highly successful entrepreneur, and Rich's sister, Beth Masterson Beahm, a 1983 JMU alum and strong JMU supporter (along with her husband and JMU alum Mike Beahm). The contest is named in memory of their father, Thomas J. Masterson. The competition is also sponsored by Leslie Gilliam (JMU 1982) and Richard Gilliam, benefactors of the Gilliam Center for Ethical Business Leadership. 

     PURPOSE: The primary purpose of this competition is to engage participants in a brief exercise that enables them to deeply ruminate about ethical issues and consequences -- both personally (by providing a 'Personal Statement') and through case analysis (of a realistic business case). The hope is that participants engaging in this exercise will in the future be more tuned in to ethical issues and act appropriately in ways that, for instance, reflect honesty, integrity, moral courage, and interpersonal respect and dignity. 

     NOTE: This competition is open to JMU business majors who are SOPHOMORES and JUNIORS (contestants MUST have a CoB Major and must be planning to be enrolled at JMU in the fall). Winners are selected to receive scholarship awards (to be applied to each winner's JMU student account!) and are recognized during the annual College of Business Awards Banquet held each fall.

     There are now five awards (up from 3 in most prior years) totalling $10,000, including afirst place award for $5,000!!


We CONGRATULATE recent Masterson Scholarship winners:  

2011 Winners: Rachel Lewis ($5,000 scholarship), Meridythe Fallon, Ghizlaine Mallek, Victoria Groene, & Anthony Hwang

2010 Winners: Nick Harris ($5,000 scholarship), Katie Manges, & Sarah Blake

2009 Winners: Ryan Farrell ($5,000 scholarship), Chelsea Sasala, & Brett Abrams

2008 Winners: Alek Mikasinovich ($5,000 scholarship), Jessica Dante, & Kathleen Billington


Guidelines and Requirements (the 2012 deadline has passed; next contest will be in early 2013... stay tuned)

To participate in the Thomas J. Masterson (TJM) Ethics Essay Competition, you must submit both a personal statement and an analysis of a short case. 

Your personal statement should recount and discuss an occasion in your life when you faced an ethical dilemma and what you learned from it. An ethical dilemma typically involves a "right or wrong" situation or decision in which someone benefits in some way and someone else is harmed (or in which someone's rights are denied). This need not be an occasion when you behaved well, though it could be. But it must be an occasion when you faced an ethics-oriented choice, made a decision, and acted (or failed to act) - and then learned something; e.g., a valuable lesson about right and wrong. The example can be drawn from any time in your life and from any part of your life (e.g., from school, work, sports, church, a romance, or time spent with friends). In the discussion, be sure to make it clear why this was an important event in your life and what you learned from it. 

Your 2012 "Eco-Waste Environmental Services" case analysis should address several issues, including (not necessarily in this order): 
- a clear statement of the ethical dilemma(s) in this case
- summary of important issues known from the ‘facts’ in this case
- possible motivations behind key actors’ behaviors (Janet, Fred, and Angela)
- Janet’s alternatives (i.e., different courses of action Janet might consider taking)
- likely consequences of each alternative course of action
- your recommendation for Janet (what you believe is her BEST course of action and why you think this).  

For both your personal statement and case analysis, competition judges also will consider your writing skills and your adherence to the directions (as stated above and in the writing instructions below). In addition to proper word choice, grammar, and spelling, they will look for a clearly stated issues, appropriate organization of your response, balanced logical argumentation, and content that maintains reader interest. 

Please make sure you follow these guidelines:

  • This is individual work. It must be done on your own (i.e., without any help from anyone) and pledged by the James Madison University Honor Code. Type your name and the date completed on the cover sheet (which includes your honor pledge). By including the cover page (with your typed name and a date) along with your essay and personal statement in an email attachment, you are promising that you have completed this work alone and that you abide by the JMU Honor Code.
  • Word limit for case analysis: 1,000 words. Note: to easily check the total number of words in an MS Word document, see bottom left corner below the document. 
  • Word limit for personal statement: none - write as much as you need to in order to convey your ethical situation and what you learned from it. 
  • Use 12 point font; single-space the entire paper; indent each paragraph 5 spaces; use one-inch margins (top, bottom, and sides); please do not type in any headers or footers; and do not put page numbers on the pages.
  • Send your cover sheet (see below), your case analysis, and your personal statement all in the same file. Separate each by page breaks (Insert > Break > Page Break).
  • Scoring criteria. The case analysis will be scored by several COB faculty members and JMU alums based on the criteria set forth above. Note: there are no scoring criteria for the personal statement other than writing skills and adherence to directions. 
  • Follow all instructions. Failure to follow instructions may disqualify your submission from consideration.

Download the cover sheet for the ethics essay statement

Download the 2012 ethics case (.pdf link HERE)


Materials are to be submitted electronically as email attachments to Dr. Bob Kolodinsky at kolodirw@jmu.edu. See guidelines above. 

Email Dr. Bob Kolodinsky at kolodirw@jmu.edu
Director, Gilliam Center for Ethical Business Leadership, Showker, Room 644
Phone: 540.568.3014