Dominique Mosbly, wearing a business suit, at the National Black MBA Association conference poses in front of conference banner.

"He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it." – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

More than six decades after Dr. King’s words were published, Dominique Mosbly has new perspective into just how powerful a statement it is.

“We tend to always focus in on the big personality or the person who’s the poster child of the injustice (Hitler, for example) but what we don’t do is look at the mid-level bureaucrat — the person who knows it’s wrong, but feels powerless to do anything about it and just acquiesces to it — now you’re willingly engaging in and perpetuating the injustice,” said Mosbly.

Dominique Mosbly professional headshot next to Fisher College of Business sign
Dominique Mosbly, MBA and MENR candidate

Mosbly, a second-year MBA student who is also pursuing a Master of Environment and Natural Resources (MENR) degree, was one of a handful of business students nationwide selected to be a part of the Fellowship at Auschwitz for the Study of Professional Ethics (FASPE) program this past fall.

The selective program challenges graduate students and future leaders to recognize and confront their ethical responsibilities as professionals by analyzing the decisions and actions of Nazi-era professionals.

Typically held in Germany and Poland, where students spend time at key historical sites including Auschwitz, FASPE changed its focus in response to COVID. Instead of Nazi concentration camps, the students examined leadership failures that led to the internment of Japanese Americans in a “relocation center” at Heart Mountain, Wyoming.

The “relocation center” was 740 acres, surrounded by barbed wire fences and nine guard towers. There were 650 buildings and close to 450 barracks. During the 1,187 days the camp was operational, more than 14,000 prisoners passed through.

At the camp’s peak, 10,767 people were confined there.

“Being onsite transformed the theoretical into the practical,” Mosbly said. “The blood, sweat, earth of it all — it seems so abstract in theory — but once you’re on site, it’s a tactile/sensory experience. You experience the four walls, the limited outdoor space and guard posts. You learn children were born there.”

“We always try to pass a moral equivalency in situations like this…‘Well, at least it wasn’t a concentration camp. But I think it should be called that — it was still a prison. You realize how profoundly these people were stripped of everything, including their dignity.”

He recalls the volunteer guides at the camp telling his group, “If you remove the gas chamber, Heart Mountain is the same as a Nazi concentration camp.”

Holistic leadership

Dominique Mosbly wearing his United States Army Reservist uniform
Dominique Mosbly, team leader, United States Army Reservist 

Mosbly earned his undergraduate degree from Ohio State in International Studies in 2013, served as a commissioned officer for five years in the United States Army and is currently serving as an Army Reservist Team Leader for the 412th Civil Affairs Battalion (CA) (Airborne).

He has a unique blend of corporate and military experience, and after graduation, would like to serve as a consultant to help companies and organizations become more sustainable.

“The nexus between business and environmentalism is sustainability – having both degrees sets me up for how to think about those problems in an integrated and inclusive way,” he said.

Mosbly’s FASPE experience was more than a look back at pivotal moments in history, it was an opportunity to shape his leadership perspective and prepared him to view his decision-making more holistically.

“I want to test myself,” he said. “If there’s an unethical decision that needs to be made, I want to be in the room. I don’t want to be in the ‘easy’ room – in the ‘easy’ room, you’re in a nice space but you’re not moving society forward. I’d rather be in the thick of the fight, trying to push forth more ethical, moral stances and outcomes than not be involved at all.”

He knows navigating a career and the ethical decisions employees and C-suite leaders face involves a trade-off. Take, for example, ethics in energy: how do you weigh the pros and cons if you’re an oil executive? If you know the harm oil is causing the environment how do you balance that with shareholder value?

“FASPE exposes how we (as a society) don’t do enough to acknowledge that you don’t have to be the CEO to have an ethical stance or a line in the sand,” Mosbly said. “You can really get caught up in your own self-interest and personal gain, where you don’t do anything wrong, but you can perpetuate a wrong.”

Ethics council

Since going through the FASPE program, Mosbly said he is always checking in with himself, and he is more cognizant of his actions and the decisions he’s making.

“It’s critical to be conscious of what you’re doing,” he said. “I’m aware of my intentions, the processes I’m implementing and the systems I’m a willing participant in.”  

He believes acknowledging these things will give him the ability to recognize when they may have gone too far.

One surprise from his FASPE experience?

“Thanks to FASPE, I developed relationships with folks who I believe have really strong ethics,” he said. “I have an entirely new tool in my leadership tool kit. I can call up these folks and talk about my dilemmas and struggles — they are my very own ethics council.”