About the Olsson Center for Applied Ethics

  • Founded in 1968, the Olsson Center for Applied Ethics has an established reputation as an international leader in the field of business ethics. The center serves as a critical resource for executives, scholars, students and Darden alumni who are faced with the challenges of integrating ethical thinking into business decision-making.

    Below are recent rankings for business ethics and the Darden School of Business:

    • The academic journal Business & Society recognized Darden as a leader in the field of business ethics based on a survey of 320 business ethics scholars from across the world.
    • Bloomberg Businessweek named Darden the No. 2 school in the nation for teaching business ethics, based on a survey of recent MBA graduates.
    • Financial Times named Darden the No. 4 school in the world for business ethics based on a survey of business school alumni.


    The mission of the Olsson Center for Applied Ethics is to be one of the leading sources of thinking about the role of ethics in business and to enhance the intellectual life of the University of Virginia by contributing to a university-wide conversation about the role of ethics in modern society.


    In 1966, Elis and Signe Olsson of West Point, Virginia, approached the University of Virginia Darden School of Business with an idea "to improve standards of behavior in both public and private business." The family believed there was a need for ethics to be taught as part of the core curriculum in business schools. Shortly after the Olsson Center for Applied Ethics was established, Professor Alexander B. Horniman was selected as the Center’s founding director.

    A subsequent grant from the Ruffin Foundation led to the launch of the Ruffin Lectures in Business Ethics in the early 1970s. As one of the oldest centers of business ethics, the Olsson Center has produced numerous important cases, research articles and books. From 1987 to 2009, Professor R. Edward Freeman served as director the Olsson Center. Freeman's pioneering work on Stakeholder Theory helped to solidify the Olsson Center's reputation internationally.

    Over the past four decades, the Olsson Center has contributed to the heightened awareness of ethical and moral issues in business, and it has been a trailblazer for teaching ethics at business schools.