Indiana State University Newsroom

Visiting scholar cultivating new opportunities at, for Indiana State

July 20, 2011

Though Sandeep Gopalan taught Indiana State University students in a classroom a continent away from their Terre Haute campus, it wasn't his first time teaching them.

Back in the U.S., he shared a building with them.

Gopalan, head of the department of law at the National University of Ireland, Maynooth, is a visiting scholar in the Scott College of Business at ISU. During his visit in the 2010-2011 academic year, sponsored by the college's Networks Financial Institute, Gopalan worked with ISU professors and students to create different projects to teach students. The projects ranged from a role-play simulation for research to a three-week travel experience earlier this summer where students learned about international business - in Europe.

"I think the students gained a lot," Gopalan said of the three-week trek to Ireland he helped organize. "It was a unique opportunity for the students, many of whom had never been abroad."

The group included 15 students and two interns who graduated from ISU in May. During the trip, they toured different sites in Ireland, and even visited the Bank of England and the London Metals Exchange while they visited London for four days.

Gopalan taught students about different laws and legal issues that companies encounter when conducting business internationally, said Jenna Vaal, one of the student co-leaders on the trip.

"I think it definitely helped," Vaal said of learning about international business in Europe, "because otherwise I just would have been reading it out of a book and trying to think about what it actually looked like over in a different country."

During the trip, the ISU students got to see Ireland prepare for President Barack Obama's visit to the country. They also saw Queen Elizabeth II, who was the first member of the British royal family to visit Ireland in decades.

"Historically, it was a very important time for Ireland because investor confidence was at an all-time low," Gopalan said, "and it was a once-in-a-lifetime kind of experience for students to see the Irish drawing strength from these visits."

He and Bill Wilhelm, professor of business education, created a role-play simulation that put students in the role of a bank's board of directors as they dealt with a challenging problem. In the exercise - inspired by actions alleged to have occurred in a major lender during the financial crisis - they learn that the bank's hypothetical president had engaged in unethical activity.

"I've never done experimental work in my academic life, and we don't, as legal academics, do those kinds of things, typically," Gopalan said. "So this was the opportunity."

Students in a class taught by Wilhelm went through the simulation, which provided Wilhelm and Gopalan with interesting results.

"Frequently boards make decisions which they claim are not illegal, but the question as to whether they might be legal but not ethical has not always been addressed satisfactorily," Gopalan said. Regulation is built on legality and might be missing out on behavioral triggers that advance ethical decision-making, "so that's what we'll be seeking to test," he said.

He also was "a catalyst" in the creation of a new class, Wilhelm said. Gopalan was part of a group discussion about the possibility of a course teaching about organizational ethics. Gopalan's discussion helped lead to an effort by Wilhelm to create an ethics and social responsibility course slated to begin in August as part of the Foundational Studies curriculum available to all ISU students with sophomore standing and beyond.

Wilhelm and Gopalan have similar research interest in ethical reasoning in business situations. While Wilhelm is a business professor, he said that since Gopalan approaches the subject from the perspective of a lawyer, they've had fun collaborating on different projects.

"You want to collaborate with people who not only are intelligent and like-minded on issues, but also are nice people," Wilhelm said. "It just makes the working relationship more enjoyable, and he's a very enjoyable person, in addition to being very intelligent."

Photo: (Submitted Photo)
The group of Indiana State University students who traveled to Ireland pose in front of their dormitory where they stayed at the National University of Ireland, Maynooth.

Sandeep Gopalan

Contact: Sandeep Gopalan, visiting professor, Networks Financial Institute, Scott College of Business, 812-237-2011 or

Writer: Austin Arceo, assistant director of media relations, Office of Communications and Marketing, Indiana State University, 812-237-3790 or