Student Handbooks

MBA Student Handbook - Expectations of Professional Behavior

The Willamette MBA is a professional graduate degree that helps students build the tools needed to achieve their personal and professional goals. These tools include academics, professional experience and career management.

An essential element of career success is professional behavior. While the definition of professional behavior may vary with different industries, professional behavior generally includes:

  • Presenting your "most professional self" in all interactions
  • Behaving ethically
  • Behaving with integrity and honesty
  • Communicating and showing respect for others
  • Taking initiative
  • Meeting commitments and responsibilities
  • Actively contributing and participating in group and team settings
  • Maintaining professional behavior under stress
  • Recognizing and learning from mistakes
  • Being punctual
  • Accepting accountability for your professional and personal actions

All Willamette MBA students are expected to conduct themselves in a professional manner in all aspects of their MBA education and in all interactions with peers, faculty, staff and guests of the Atkinson School. Expected professional behavior includes, but is not limited to the list below.  

Repeated violations of the expectations of professional behavior may be subject to probation or termination as stated in the Atkinson School Student Handbook, by the WU Judicial Review Committee, or as determined by the Dean or Associate Deans of the Atkinson Graduate School.

Classroom and Academic Behavior

Academic Honesty and Ethical Behavior: Students are expected to conduct themselves in an honest, responsible and professional manner and abide by the Willamette University Standards of Conduct, the Atkinson School Expectation of Conduct, Atkinson School policies related to academic honesty and ethical behavior, and all academic policies and regulations of the Atkinson School.

Class Attendance: Students are expected to attend all classes and participate in all learning activities. Active class participation and in-class discussions enhance the learning environment for all students.

The professor of the course sets the attendance policy for the course and students are expected to adhere to the attendance policy. Attendance, preparation and participation in classroom discussions may be used by faculty in determining course grades.

Students who are aware of the need to miss an upcoming class should discuss their upcoming absence with the professor in advance of the absence and make alternative arrangements for completing any related class requirements.

When a student is unable to attend class due to an unpredictable illness or an immediate personal/professional commitment, they should email or telephone the professor in advance.

Whenever a student misses a class, the student is responsible for all material covered in the missed classes and may be asked by the professor to complete additional work to make up for the missed class session. It is the student's responsibility to initiate, follow through, and complete all material and assignments related to a missed class.

Students who must miss more classes then the professor has outlined as acceptable to meet the requirements of the course should withdraw from the course for the given semester and re-enroll in the course at a later date.

Class Preparation: Students are expected to complete assignments (readings, case studies, etc.) prior to the class session and be prepared to actively participate in class discussion.

Collaboration Levels: Always be sure you understand the level of collaboration allowed for each of your projects and assignments.  The appropriate and allowable level of collaboration on graded assignments will vary with each faculty member, course and assignment. If you have a question or do not understand the level of collaboration allowed on a given assignment, be sure to ask the professor for clarification.

In general (unless otherwise presented by the faculty member, syllabus or assignment), students (or groups) are encouraged to collaborate with each other as a means of maximizing their learning opportunities and understanding the issues involved. However, students (or groups) should not collaborate in preparing their actual deliverable work product. The analysis, recommendations, solutions, information etc. presented in your written or presentation work product deliverable must be your own work and not that of others.

Communicate Your Concerns: Students are expected to be professional and proactive in discussing their concerns. The accepted process for communicating your concerns at the Atkinson School is as follows.  First, talk to the student, faculty or staff member involved in the concern. If talking to the faculty or staff member involved does not solve the concern, then the student should talk to Associate Dean/Director of Admission, Judy O’Neill. If talking to Judy O’Neill does not solve the concern, then the student should talk to Madhu Rao, Senior Associate Dean.

Communicate with Professional Courtesy and Respect: Students are expected to show professional courtesy and personal respect to others. Actively participating with courtesy and respect in spirited interactions is part of a professional learning experience. Threats and harassment are not acceptable communication beaviors.

Exiting and Entering Classes and Presentations: Entering a class or speaker presentation late or leaving early is disruptive to the professor, speaker and students. If a student must arrive late or depart early due to unavoidable circumstances, the student should inform the instructor prior to the start of class and make every effort to minimize the disruption caused by late entry or early exit.

Contributing to Groups and Teams: Students are expected to actively participate in group and team projects. This includes attendance at team meetings, actively engaging as a member of the team in a professional manner, and meeting assigned team responsibilities. Group and team project are essential components of the Atkinson experience and directly contribute to each student's professional and personal growth.

Initiative: Students are expected to take the initiative to meet their commitments and responsibilities. Students are also expected to communicate and seek help when they need assistance.

Punctuality: Students are expected to arrive for class on time, return from class breaks on time, and remain in class for the duration of the class.

Use of Laptop, PDA and other Electronic Devices During Class: Students should refrain from using any electronic devices for any purpose not related to the class. Inappropriate uses include but are not limited to: email, instant messaging, texting, social media websites, video gaming, web browsing, reading materials not related to class, and any other activity that may distract the student, peers or faculty.

Cell Phones and Pagers: Students are expected to turn off their cell phone and pagers or have them set to silent/vibrate when in class, meetings, presentations and interviews.

What to Wear: The general daily atmosphere of the Atkinson School is casual. However, there are many events on-campus and off-campus for which business or business casual attire should be worn. These events include activities such as company site visits, meetings of professional organizations, guest speakers, mentor receptions, final presentations, interviews, etc.

Students are encouraged to obtain information about appropriate attire prior to attending any event. Remember, you never get a "second chance to make a first impression" and you are representing yourself, the Atkinson School and Willamette University. General guidelines for levels of professional dress are:

  • Business Formal: Business attire typically means a jacket for both men and women. A tie for men, button down shirt, matching slacks and dress shoes. For women, business attire would typically mean a skirt or slacks, jacket, button down shirt or shell with clear or solid color nylons and dress shoes.

  • Business Casual: Business casual typically means men and women can leave the jacket, tie and nylons at home. Men can wear polo or golf shirts and slacks. Women can wear slacks or skirt and a professional looking shirt. Everyone should avoid sweat suits, jeans, t-shirts, tennis shoes and flip-flops.

Email Communication

Check Your Willamette Email
: The University contacts you through your email address for all official correspondence. MBA faculty and staff use this email address as a primary communication source for official information. Students are assumed to have knowledge of the content of official emails and announcements. Instructions on how to forward your Willamette e-mail to other accounts is available on the WITS website.

Respond to Your Willamette Email: Students are responsible for reading, understanding, responding or inquiring further about University and Atkinson School correspondence directed to their email address in a timely manner.

Communicate in a Professional Manner: Professional behavior applies to email. Be sure your email communicates your message and presents yourself as your most professional self before you push send.

Social Networking

Social networking sites are designed to communicate information and connect people in the global community. Social networks such as Facebook and LinkedIn can be helpful or detrimental to your reputation and professional opportunities. Always represent yourself in a professional manner to be sure that your online presence helps you reach your personal and professional goals.

As an MBA student you are investing significant energy, time and money in your future. Think twice about the words and pictures you choose to communicate yourself to the world. Recognize that many employers research applicants online and what they find influences their perception of your personal and professional judgment... which in turn influences their hiring decisions.

Events and Networking

Event Attendance: Many events, including important career management programs, ask attendees to "RSVP" (respond to indicate attendance). Students planning to attend are expected to RSVP and keep their commitment.

Alcohol: MBA students are expected to behave in a manner that presents their best professional self and should keep the following Willamette University policies in mind regarding the use of alcohol on campus.

  • Alcohol may not be served or consumed in Willamette University buildings unless the event has been approved for alcohol through the formal University approval process.  If an event has been approved for alcohol, a third party vendor will be present to distribute the alcohol and a security officer will be present. 
  • Alcohol may not be served or consumed in any outdoor areas of the campus during the academic year.
  • Individuals not of legal drinking age (not yet 21 years old) are not permitted to consume, or be under the influence of alcohol.

Willamette University alcohol policy is a component of the University Standards of Conduct. Failure to observe University policies may subject the individual(s) or group(s) to sanctions outlined in the Standards of Conduct.Complete information about Willamette University alcohol policies and sanctions is available at

Honor Your RSVP or Change It: If you RSVP and can no longer attend the event, email the Career Management staff before the event begins. Companies and speakers are planning on your attendance. Be sure to follow through on your commitments.

Company Presentations, Guest Speakers and Information Sessions: Professional guests who donate their time to speak and meet with students expect your full attention. Laptops should have lids down during these events (unless otherwise directed by the speaker) and cell phones should be turned off. Also, remember to bring your business cards and be sure to be prepared to take notes with paper/pen and pencil.

Networking: MBA students have many opportunities to interact with alumni, employers, and other stakeholders. In fact, the Willamette and Atkinson School network is one of the most valuable lifelong resources a student can have. As a representative of yourself and the school, students are expected to conduct themselves in a professional manner in all circumstances. If you have questions about how to communicate with or respond to an alum or member of the business community contact the Career Management staff or your peer career advisor.

What to Wear to Events: Students should wear business or business casual attire for events such as company site visits, meetings of professional organizations, guest speakers, mentor receptions, final class presentations, interviews, etc. As a general rule, business casual attire is required for all Career Management events unless otherwise specified. Students are encouraged to obtain information about appropriate attire prior to attending any event. A general description of "Business Attire" and "Business Casual" is presented above in the "What to Wear" segment.