Interviews | Sep 22, 2017 | Gabelli Connect Admin
Talking with … Miguel Alzola
Each “Talking with…” feature helps you get to know a different Gabelli School faculty member, administrator, or staff member. This week, learn more about Miguel Alzola, associate professor of law and ethics.
Briefly, what is the focus of your current research?
I am working on the development of a character-based theory of the practice of business. I argue that ethics in business is not about compliance and rules of action but primarily about the excellences of character that make one a good business person, as well as a good human being.
What courses are you teaching this semester?
I am teaching two sections of Markets, Business, and Society, a course in the MBA program that is concerned with managerial responsibilities in the context of gray-area problems in business. I also am teaching two sections of the ethics-based Integrated Project 4 for undergraduate seniors at Rose Hill and Lincoln Center, which is focused on good and effective leadership.
What is your favorite course to teach?
I especially enjoy teaching Adversarial Ethics, a course about what to do when the role you
play allows you—or requires you—to do things that would be impermissible outside of the role. Lawyers, brokers, accountants, managers, sport players, politicians, soldiers, and other professionals often face these dilemmas—in fact, I am giving a talk at the United States Military Academy at West Point in October about these conflicts in the military profession. The course helps professionals navigate the tensions that arise between personal values and the demands of professional and corporate roles.
Are there any recent changes in the field of business ethics that affect how or what you teach students?
There are many, but I will mention two here. First, moral issues with technology, ranging from artificial intelligence to biotechnology to big data. I am particularly interested in automation and the loss of jobs caused by technological change. A second major change is the involvement of business in politics, from campaign donations to lobbying activities to the political responsibilities of business firms. The relatively recent phenomenon of business leaders engaging in charged political or social issues that do not directly relate to their businesses—also known as CEO activism—is a good example of the political responsibilities that I have in mind.
What’s one way you encourage students to apply what they’ve learned at the Gabelli School to help serve others, regardless of their chosen career path?
I do not teach students right from wrong; my role at Fordham is to help them to transition from who they are to who they want to be. I urge my students to think about their choices and how such choices align with the sort of persons they want to be. Most business education is focused on the means that are necessary to achieve some business ends. But we do not talk about the ends. So, I push my students to critically examine the question, “What is a business for?” Hence, it is not a matter of helping others as a dogma or universal principle. Rather, it is about the sort of person you are and the kind of life you live.
TV or online series you’re currently watching:
We do not have a TV set at home. We have three children and want them to stay away from TV. Still, I watch Argentinean soccer on the Internet with my nine-year-old son. We are addicted to soccer!
Last sporting event you attended:
Last month I took the incoming full-time MBA students to a soccer match in Argentina—River Plate of Argentina versus Guaraní of Paraguay—as part of the new Gabelli Launch MBA orientation program in Buenos Aires.
Last board game you played:
Today I played UNO with my children. This past weekend we also played Truco, an Argentinean card game.
If you had to eat the same thing for dinner every day, what would you choose?
Asado, Argentinean barbecue. I know that there is something morally objectionable about eating meat but I am weak-willed.
Swimming, biking, or running?
What’s your favorite park in the five boroughs?
It’s a tie between Prospect Park and Central Park.