Ethics education reaches across UNI campus thanks to David W. Wilson support

Ethics education reaches across UNI campus thanks to David W. Wilson support

Faculty at ethics workshopWhen the University of Northern Iowa updated its general education curriculum in 2022 after years of thoughtful planning, Robert Earle, assistant professor of instruction in the Department of Philosophy and World Religions, went into planning mode himself. The new curriculum included a “responsibility” component, typically incorporating ethics-related courses.

Earle started collaborating with Susan Hill, the department head for philosophy and world religions, to enhance faculty ethics education. One idea was a yearly educational ethics workshop for UNI faculty, funded by David W Wilson’s continued financial support for ethics. The workshop’s goal is to help faculty understand and implement ethics teachings into their courses.

The first iteration, co-hosted by Earle and assistant adjunct professor John Preston, took place this summer, to tremendous feedback.

“Many participants reported that the workshop was highly beneficial, and they are more excited than ever to teach ethics in the upcoming semester,” Earle said. “It was just amazing to see this group come together and learn from each other about how we can discuss values and ethics in the classroom.”

More than 10 faculty members participated, spanning disciplines such as chemistry, business, history, biology and more. Activities for the three-day workshop included participants sharing ethics lessons from their courses, lectures from Earle and Preston, and plenty of collaboration and discussion.

“I see this workshop as bringing people together to start the discussion,” Earle said. “I’m looking forward to continuing to collaborate with all the participants this coming year, whether that be through email or meeting up with them.”

Earle said he was energized and encouraged after the inaugural event. He already has plans to improve for next year, like expanding the time for discussion, which became one of his favorite sections. Earle hopes this is just the beginning, envisioning a network of workshop alumni that can provide support and share ideas, bolstering UNI’s already-strong ethics education.

Wilson, whose funding helped make the workshop happen, has long been a supporter of ethics, particularly through his donation toward the College of Business’ Chair of Business Ethics, currently held by Russell Guay. Wilson also funds two Ethics Fellows every year, and Earle was named its first recipient last fall.

This workshop is one tool bringing Wilson's support campuswide, beyond the College of Business, helping students gain a foundational understanding of the subject. Earle said there’s been a tangible effect, too. For example, the ethics minor has recently doubled in size.

"[Wilson's] support has profoundly impacted the teaching of ethics at UNI," said Earle. "For instance, it enables us to offer more sections of ethics classes, facilitating greater integration into curriculums across campus. Additionally, we are working on several other initiatives. This is just the beginning for us."