Mary Baldwin Ethics Team Excels in Competition

March 1, 2017

Mary Baldwin University Ethics Team won three of four matches at this year’s Virginia Foundation for Independent Colleges (VFIC) Ethics Bowl. MBU’s team was narrowly defeated by Hampden Sydney, which defeated the University of Richmond in the championship round.

The four team members — Virginia Daniel ’19, Alexandra Carther ’19, Roniqua Jackson ’18, and Eshala Bunch ’18 — traveled to Norfolk with their faculty coordinator and Associate Professor of Philosophy Edward A. Scott in February to go head-to-head with more than 15 colleges in lively debate.

This year’s competition theme was U.S. Presidential Politics, and many of the debate topics dealt with ethical situations involving presidential candidates or campaign staff.

A general round in the competition last between 45 and 50 minutes, and included a team-verses-team dynamic, with a prompter and three judges.

As competition begins, students shake hands with one another and with the judges. Then, after the prompt is read, the teams have six minutes to discuss their response and five minutes to present.

“As a competitor, you have to be confident in what you are saying, and more importantly, how you say it,” Daniel said. “It is essential to have strong public speaking skills and be able to effectively communicate in a time constraint.”

Mary Baldwin Ethics Team at competition

Bunch aspires to practice law and litigation in the future, and considers the ethics bowl one valuable learning experience upon which she can build her future.

After the first day of competition, there is a dinner, during which students can network with other teams. A case is passed out at the beginning of dinner, and, following a key note speaker, is discussed. Afterward, students at each table select a representative to stand up and deliver their positions.

MBU competitors compared this year’s team to a sisterhood, and the family-like vibe further promoted the team’s success.

“We were able to listen to each other’s advice, and play to our own strengths and weaknesses whilst unconditionally supporting one another,” Daniels said.

Carther echoes Daniels sentiments on the team’s working relationship.

“My favorite part was seeing how our team came together over weeks of practice,” Carther said. “At first, we were somewhat disjointed, but by the time we made it to competition, we worked like a well-oiled machine.”

All four members plan to return for next year’s Ethics Bowl. Scott is already devising plans for their practice debates.

“We will fine tune our method of presentation and practice, practice, practice,” Scott said.

Founded in 1952, the Virginia Foundation for Independent Colleges is a nonprofit fund-raising partnership supporting the programs and students of 15 leading independent colleges in the Commonwealth: Bridgewater College, Emory & Henry College, Hampden-Sydney College, Hollins University, Lynchburg College, Mary Baldwin University, Marymount University, Randolph College, Randolph-Macon College, Roanoke College, Shenandoah University, Sweet Briar College, University of Richmond, Virginia Wesleyan College and Washington & Lee University. For additional information on the VFIC, visit