“We welcome you into an expeditionary journey into moral epistemology from an ethical perspective.” This is the first sentence in the syllabus for BUSI6900 Corporate Responsibility. Professor Williams prepared us in how this ‘journey’ would provide ‘a deeper understanding of the self as an authentic leader.’ I was intrigued and knew that this course would be like no other course I have taken in both post secondary and graduate studies.
Veronica Gonzalez, MBA(Leadership) Class of 2023
CEGE Connection reached out to Veronica Gonzalez to discuss her experience in the MBA course, Corporate Responsibility, under the leadership of Professor Williams. Veronica reflected upon the knowledge and wisdom gained through the experiential learning course structure.
The Leader’s Nature Experiment was categorized as a fun assignment to ‘practice our relationship and connection with nature”. I observed as my classmates used a variety of innovative mediums to post their reflections on the importance of taking time for themselves and to appreciate mother nature. I searched for a meaningful way in which to create my unique presentation that resonated with my connection to the environment. This thought occupied by mind over the weeks as I considered the phrases Professor Williams repeated throughout the course, such as:
- Ethics is the study of morals.
- Disrupt your regulating mental models and create conflict.
- Get to know your core values.
- The role of individuals and organizations in addressing the grand social-ecological system challenges.
This is when I experienced an epiphany. The light bulb went off and I quickly dug into deep research and reflection.
I am a proud first generation Canadian, with parents migrating from Argentina. I have spent much of my life celebrating both my North and South American heritage. Even so, I recognized that there was a certain level of unequal acknowledgement. This became the foundation of my Nature Experiment.
I asked myself questions. What does it mean to be Canadian? When we say that we accept and respect human rights, which humans are we referring to? What do we mean in the national anthem when we say, “our home and native land”? Whose land are we referring to?
I found myself at a crossroad with an opportunity to change direction.
I created a video, which became one of few tangible artworks that I have created in my lifetime. A compilation of powerful images that spoke loudly on behalf of the Indigenous People, making a statement while I sang the lyrics to the theme song from the Disney movie, Pocahontas. The first verse set the tone saying,
“You think you own whatever land you land on
The Earth is just a dead thing you can claim.”
As I continued to build on the artistry, I wanted to tap into two of my core values and the definition I created for them.
Contribution, helping others to achieve a collective goal.
Justice, leading with integrity and fairness.
In the midst of winter, I walked a Conservation Park near my home. I stood solemnly in the folds of nature and stared directly into a camera. In that moment I held myself accountable. I pledged to step up and lead the change. My first commitment was to learn more about the Indigenous people and their communities, to obtain a deeper understanding of their struggles over the years. I would explore the future impact of saving our environment. Secondly, I pledged to educate and bring awareness to individuals both in my personal, professional, and educational life. Thirdly, I included with a call to action for anyone watching the video, “Find something… that encourages you to do your part in the world…to create some motion.”
Months after the course wrapped up, I visited a neighbour who shared her recent visit to the Conservation Park where I filmed my assignment. I was amazed to learn how the park offers a ritual, a vision from a male elder of the Anishnawbe Nation during the four seasons, at the Medicine Wheel Garden. Officially opened over 10 years ago, Medicine Wheel Garden is a place that offers an opportunity for healing, celebration, and peace. The Medicine Wheel Garden concept is rooted in the Aboriginal belief of the sacred medicine wheel and its symbolisms and teachings. It honours Mother Earth’s seasonal cycles and illustrates the continuing circle of life.
I discovered that my neighbour with whom I had many interactions, including completing the Empathy Walk Writing Assignment, is a descendant of the Anishnawbe Nation. This knowledge awakened me to a deeper understanding that there is more to explore about the Indigenous communities. I now have the privilege of starting from within my own community.
I do not think I will ever be able to call myself knowledgeable in the studies of Indigenous people, but what I can say for certain, is that I will continue to disrupt my mental models, challenge my ethical reasoning, and always keep my core values at the forefront of every opportunity.
I have always believed in the saying by my favourite poet, Maya Angelou, “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better”.