From October 2-4, I had the pleasure of participating in the 16th Annual Society for Ethics Across the Curriculum (SEAC) conference. Held at the Hotel Valley Ho in Scottsdale, AZ, this year’s conference theme was “Engaging the Future Responsibly,” which brought together speakers representing many different dimensions of ethics education and ethical considerations for curriculum development. The conference was directed by Joseph Herkert (Arizona State University), Karin Ellison (Arizona State University), and Kelly Smith (Clemson University) and hosted by the Lincoln Center for Applied Ethics at Arizona State University. This conference featured a diverse set of talks, grouped into topical areas including “Future Scenarios and Anticipation,” “Engineering Ethics: Catastrophe, War, and Other Values,” and “Life in the Panopticon,” among others.
The conference kicked off with a keynote address from Deborah Johnson, Anne Shirley Carter Olsson Professor of AppliedEthics in the Science, Technology, and Society Program in the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences at the University of Virginia, on the ethics of developing technologies. One of the take-aways from Dr. Johnson’s talk was that we should encourage students not to view technology passively or as a black box and that we need to engage students in how technology comes to be the way it is instead of assuming that it arrives at our doorstep.
Friday morning’s keynote was from Misti Ault Anderson, a research analyst at the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues, entitled “Presidential Bioethics Commission & Ethics Integration at All Levels of Education.” Ms. Anderson presented an overview of the presidential commission, a timeline of how commissions in the United States, the work that the current commission has completed, and then moved on to focusing on the ethics education mandate of the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues. For those of you interested in free ethics education materials, the Bioethics Commission offers many options at: http://bioethics.gov/education. At the conference banquet on Friday evening, we heard a fascinating talk from the current president of SEAC, Deborah Mower, on the ideas of in-groups and out-groups and how probe and explore questions of in-groups in our own research.
My presentation at this conference took place on the morning of Saturday, October 4th, in a session entitled “Going Out On(a)Line.” Other talks in this section included Kelly Smith’s “Developing a Social Media Platform to Define & Strengthen Shared Values” and Kim Skoog’s Censorship of Pornography: Is the battle over?” During my presentation, entitled “Ethical Dimensions of Scientific Research with a Sustainability Focus: Building Open-Source, Interactive Online Modules at the Graduate Level,” I reflected on my own interest in massively open online courses (MOOCs), the efforts that I have been part of as a member of a National Science Foundation Ethics Education in Science and Engineering grant (#1135327 ), and the best practices I have learned for creating online courses. During the Q&A, I fielded questions about student interactions, methods for content creation, and assessment.
Perhaps one of the most valuable opportunities that conferences such as this offer are the opportunities to network offline. The blend of formal and informal settings at the conference allowed attendees to not only discuss the work they would be presenting in talks, but to get feedback on other projects or ideas that they are currently working on. The discussions that I had over meals and during breaks were enlightening for both my project and helpful for clarifying my future career direction. Additionally, participating in this conference gave me some great resources and ideas to integrate into my upcoming course and sparked some new avenues for my personal research. I was grateful for the opportunity to present this material to such a diverse audience of scholars. I look forward to sharing our project’s completed modules with the various conference attendees and ethics/applied ethics centers that were present at the conference.
For those of you who might be interested, the 17th Annual Society for Ethics Across the Curriculum Conference will be held October 10-12th at the Rutland Center for Ethics at Clemson University. Further information about SEAC can be found at: http://www.rit.edu/~w-ethics/seac/index.html