I joined The Rock Ethics Institute (or, more colloquially, ‘The Rock’) as Assistant Director in August, 2013. It is fair to say, then, that I am new to ‘The Rock’ and Penn State. Being new to a position and a university involves learning a great deal, and quickly. For one, although there are some commonalities, every university has a distinct way of functioning and harbors it own institutional knowledge (policies and procedures, culture, and, in general, a system in virtue of which things get done). Being successful in working at a university (no matter what position one holds) requires gaining various elements of this knowledge and understanding how to be effective and collaborate well within the institution.
But in addition to grappling with a learning curve, being new to a university brings with it a great advantage. One enters the university as a new employee, with new eyes (so to speak). Coming from the outside, from another university, can bring with it a certain clarity of vision. It is for this reason that we often seek an “outside perspective” when making important decisions. In the short time I have been at The Rock I have seen its importance for Penn State and our broader community.
My perspective on the importance of The Rock has not been shaped in isolation. As I meet with students and faculty across our campus each week I find that there is great interest in our work. People are interested in our Ethics Education initiative and how we work to develop moral literacy at Penn State and in K-12 education. They want to hear more about our work on preventing sexual violence, on creating a more inclusive campus environment for all persons, and our pioneering research on the ethics of industry-sponsored research.
Taken together, these interests center on our commitment to put ethics in the foreground of the mission of Penn State. Individuals can be ethical; they can consider how to best live their lives, and the values and virtues that will contribute to this end. But individual ethical existence is also always social, framed within a community. And, ultimately, individuals (students, faculty, staff, and anyone else) can flourish as ethical persons only if they live and work within a community that values this commitment and makes it a priority.
At its core, The Rock is a symbol of this priority and commitment at Penn State. Through our many events and initiatives we work to make ethics an important consideration for all members of our community and, further, we work to give people the tools to better understand and respond to the ethical challenges that face each of us on a daily basis. We are committed to working alongside others to make Penn State not only an excellent academic institution, but also a flourishing ethical community.
I am new, but I see clearly the import of and great support for this work at Penn State. In turn, I see the importance of The Rock.