makes a practice of ethics
Faculty Advisory Board of the Institute for Practical Ethics,
pictured here, are teaching ethical issues in courses this
fall, and some had the chance to discuss recent events with
tragedies, such as last weeks terrorist attacks, show that
the emphasis on ethics is more critical than ever. Established
barely a year ago, the Universitys Institute
for Practical Ethics this fall is well-stocked with new programs
and ideas to help students learn critical thinking and moral judgment
demanded by todays world.
have been thrilled
with the energy, excitement and interest in ethics from faculty
around Grounds, said Ruth Gaare Bernheim, the institutes
tragic events underscore the vital need for a future generation
of leaders to understand the broad cultural contexts of conflict
and cooperation and the power of ethics and human rights in calming
civil unrest, said Michael J. Smith, professor of government
and foreign affairs and director of the Program in Political
and Social Thought. The Institute for Practical Ethics is
working with faculty around Grounds to keep U.Va.s founding
principles relevant to todays students while preparing tomorrows
offerings this fall include courses built around contemporary
issues, a capstone seminar in a new environmental studies major,
international student internships, a locally produced PBS television
program and a speakers series that will feature Dr. Francis Collins,
director of the Human Genome Project for the National Institutes
major in Environmental Thought and Practice
designed with ethics in mind
spring, undergraduate students interested in environmental
issues will have a new option with the launch of a new interdisciplinary
major, Environmental Thought and Practice.
last spring by the Faculty Senate, the new major is designed
to take an integrated interdisciplinary approach to the
subject, said Thomas M. Smith, associate professor of environmental
sciences, who is co-director of the new program with Vivian
Thomson, who holds a joint appointment in the environmental
sciences and government and foreign affairs departments.
as environmental problems grow more complex and more global,
institutions of higher education have become more focused
along disciplinary lines, Smith said. We dont
always enable students to see the complex social, ethical,
historical, cultural and public policy issues that surround
particular scientific questions. In scientific disciplines,
students are often discouraged from expressing opinions
about their findings, for fear of compromising their role
as objective observers and violating a basic tenet of scientific
this program does, he said, is to round out
the picture for students who are not interested in teaching
specific disciplines at the university level, but want to
pursue careers outside the academy and need a broader understanding
of the complexity of environmental issues.
The capstone course, Environmental Decisions, a required
seminar for majors, will be built around regional case studies
and will examine issues from various points of view, including
literary, historical, scientific, economic and public policy,
hope to bring together students with different strengths
not only those who have focused on environmental
sciences, but those with a strong interest in government,
economics, urban and environmental planning, and engineering,
among others. Several third-year students who have concentrated
on environmental sciences already have expressed interest
in the new program as a double major, Smith said.
the new major has been an eye-opener for the diverse faculty
members involved, Smith said.
It was like going back to school, he said. However
much you thought you understood the issues, you found out
how limited your vision has been.
with nurturing the development of new programs, the institute
is working to integrate ethics into the existing curricula for
undergraduate, graduate and professional studies, said James
F. Childress, the Edwin B. Kyle Professor of Religious
Studies and Professor of Medical Education, who also serves
as director of the Institute. With a strong tradition of
ethical thinking at Mr. Jeffersons University, the institute
encourages reflection on the complex ethical issues that pervade
contemporary life and provides opportunities for faculty and students
from diverse disciplines and perspectives to address critical
selection from the many new initiatives includes:
An interdisciplinary course, Genetics, Ethics and Society,
developed by the Institute and the Faculty
Senate, that should serve as a model for other such courses
by bringing together diverse faculty members from around Grounds.
This spring, Global Health and Ethics, cosponsored
by the Institute and the Center for Global Health, will be offered.
Topics under consideration for future courses include human rights,
international business and environmental health.
New courses that focus on ethics and genetics; on religion, law
and morality; and on business ethics. And in the spring, Germs,
Guns and Bikes, a new course on public health ethics will
explore the tension between personal liberty and the role of government
in protecting the population at large.
A new international course, Issues in Emerging Global Civil
Society, that will be offered to U.Va. undergraduates in
the summer of 2002. Developed in collaboration with William B.
Quandt, the vice provost for international affairs, and Smith,
this course will take students to London and Prague to explore
the emergence and establishment of human rights norms in a European
context. They will meet with officials at the United Nations and
the European Union, along with representatives of other governmental
and non-governmental organizations, to investigate issues such
as civil and political freedom, health and human rights, labor
rights, immigration and humanitarian intervention.
Incorporating the exploration of ethical questions into existing
courses as well as building new courses on a strong foundation
of ethical inquiry.
The capstone seminar, Environmental Decisions, that
will highlight the ethical dimensions of environmental policy,
part of a new interdisciplinary major, Environmental Thought and
A monthly, brown-bag-lunch speakers series for graduate students
that starts this fall. The first program, on Oct. 5, will feature
a panel discussion of U.Va. students and faculty who have conducted
hands-on work relating to human rights issues in Africa.
A summer internship program focusing on ethics that has been broadened
to offer international opportunities, such as working for the
World Health Organization in Geneva. This program is designed
to appeal to undergraduates as well as to graduate students in
law and medicine.
The Institute for Practical Ethics, in collaboration with the
Faculty Senate, is sponsoring a speakers series that will focus
on the theme of Science & Society in the fall
and global health in the spring. Collins is among the nationally
recognized speakers on the program.
The Institute will collaborate with a local PBS television producer
on a series that will explore a broad range of contemporary ethical
issues. John C. Jeffries Jr., Emerson Spies Professor of Law and
dean of the U.Va. School
of Law, will be the host. One of the first programs will feature
Collins on the Ethics of the New Genetics. Other programs
will investigate ethical issues related to sports and higher education,
rap music and freedom of speech, and media and politics.