Iwona Kuraszko is the inaugural scholar of the Jepson School’s Zuzana Simoniova Cmelikova Visiting Scholar Program in Leadership and Ethics. The program is made possible by a generous gift from Mr. and Mrs. Robert S. Ukrop and is named in honor of Robert Ukrop’s cousin from Slovakia, who was a resident scholar at the Jepson School in spring 2007.

Kuraszko is an associate professor of business ethics at Kozminski University’s Business Ethics Centre. She also teaches corporate responsibility and social communication in Warsaw University’s Department of Journalism and Political Science. Below she discusses her research and what she hopes to gain from her time at the University of Richmond.

Your research here will focus on ethical leadership as it relates to sustainability in Central and Eastern Europe. What are some of the questions you plan to explore?

One of the most important questions is: What kind of leadership can improve the quality of life (well-being) in Poland and the other Central Eastern European countries. What are the main factors that influence the development of leadership ethics toward well-being? Some of the factors might be social (the level of social trust and social capital, civic activism), historical (citizen mentality and the aftereffects of communism), legal (regulations), political (local, national and the European Union) and economic (level of entrepreneurship, resources, GDP, technologies).

Amartya Sen said that “justice is connected with social contract theories of the state.” What are the most significant drivers that contribute to cooperation between the participants of the social contract: the government sector, business sector and community leaders? What type of leadership in this region would help in renewing democracy and civil society, taking into account its rich cultural heritage? What makes us happy? What does well-being mean in a country like Poland? What kind of changes do we need? What kind of challenges do we face?

How do you hope the research will help Poland and Central and Eastern Europe?

The region of CEE suffered a lot during Soviet Union’s reign -- lack of civil society, no freedom of speech, no economic growth…  I hope the research will shed light on the nature of leadership ethics in Poland and Central Eastern Europe as well as help to repair the ethical fabric of the region. Such ethical infrastructure might help in bolstering inclusive economic development, by which I mean development that includes ethical entrepreneurs and sustainable agriculture. I want people in my country to be proud of it, to be proud of its history and cultural heritage. Poland was the first country in Europe to design a democratic constitution. People in Central and Eastern European countries must understand that going back to democracy is not only a matter of individual freedom, it is the responsibility of each citizen to make those countries a better place to live.

When did you first become interested in these topics?

My mother always talked about injustice at our home. We used to watch Lech Walesa’s speeches when they were allowed and listen to Pope John Paul II’s thoughts about truth, individual freedom and the need to fight for it. My master’s thesis was about manipulation in marketing. Then I decided to do my doctoral thesis on corporate responsibility. Around the same time I started working at the biggest NGO in Poland, which deals with business ethics in Poland. I was involved in projects for the United Nations Development Programme connected with corporate responsibility and inclusive economy. As a consumer and citizen I want to have a choice to buy healthy products from companies that respect human rights and the natural environment.

What do you hope to get out of your time here?

Working with the professors from the Jepson School of Leadership Studies, pioneers and part of the world’s elite in the field of ethical leadership like my mentor, professor Joanne Ciulla, and the unlimited access to library resources – it all will allow me to cultivate and refine my ideas and research.

What is your favorite thing about Richmond so far – the university and the city?

I love the beautiful campus and the whole area around it because of the encompassing nature. You can meet a deer on your way to the campus. People in Richmond are some of the nicest and kindest people I have ever met. I like Cary Street because it reminds me a little of Europe.