Institute for Ethics in Public Life

Fellows Program

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Activities of Former Fellows

Former Fellows

The following individuals have served as fellows at the Institute. The summaries below are based on the work of each fellow at the time they completed their residency.

Spring 2010

Dr. William Pfaff, Music and Theater Department

During my time as a fellow at the Institute for Ethics in Public Life I had the opportunity to realize many of the goals I described in my application. “What is the ethical responsibility of the artist to share insight into his/her creative process? To what degree is it possible to encourage composer (artist) collaboration across the traditional divide between composer—performer—audience? Is it possible to design opportunities for inclusive interactions?” To this end, I had the opportunity to participate in a semester-long collaboration with the faculty and students in the music department at Lafayette College in Easton, PA. I was the Allen and Wendy Pensky Artist-in-Residence for spring 2010. In this role, I composed the work, Second Mesa, for the Lafayette College Concert Band and coached the ensemble in preparation for the world premiere (May 8, 2010). I had numerous interactions with the students in the ensemble in my three visits to the college. I was able to share details about the nature of my inspiration and intent of the work. As the rehearsals progressed, they became more involved with the work and were encouraged to ask questions and offer their observations. To complete the circle, I presented a pre-concert talk to the Lafayette College audience prior to the performance of the work. I was further involved at the college in preparation of another concert featuring my compositions. In this instance, I had another opportunity to explore “collaboration across the traditional divide between composer—performer—audience.” I coached student ensembles for the performance of my compositions, A Prayer for Peace and Tracery. In both these cases, I explained the source of my inspiration for the compositions. The ensembles were smaller (two performers and six performers, respectively) so I had the chance to interact more closely with the students. In these discussions, they made numerous inquiries about my composition process and the way it has developed over my career. I also gave a pre-concert talk prior to the performance and answered a variety of questions from the audience.

In addition to exploring aspects of artistic collaboration, I also began research on a framework “to introduce the ethical responsibilities and the depth of commitment required for true peer to peer collaboration within the undergraduate educational experience. I introduced collaboration in an upper level music theory course (MUS 220) through the following: small group work, team support in classroom activities, small ensemble performance projects and by promoting online collaboration via discussion forums in ANGEL.” The process effectively demonstrated how collaboration embodies the best practices of student-centered learning. Over the course of the semester, students contributed to the development of a supportive learning environment and explored their individual and collective capacities in music analysis, composition and performance.

Mr. Mark Holden, English Department

While attending the institute, I explored the gray (and shifting, and arguably nonexistent) line between works of fiction and what is today commonly called “creative nonfiction.” In part, I questioned the various distinctions made between the genre categories, and asked if there was any way to more clearly delineate their differences, and if the definitions had the integrity or validity to stand up to closer scrutiny. Or, had writing evolved to a place where hybridization of fact (personal, real experience) and fiction (intentionally transformed experience) melded in such a way as to make it a moot question?

During my time at the Institute, I benefited from being challenged by my colleagues as we discussed these questions, while I concurrently worked on two essays which I considered to be truthful accounts of personal experience. One is titled “The Perforated Colon,” describing my experience with that condition and my hospital stay; the other is titled “Cinco de Mayo,” which is about laparoscopic gall bladder surgery and, again, experience as a hospital patient.

Working on these essays during my stay at the Ethics Institute made me think more carefully about my responsibilities as a writer who pilfers and cherry picks experience from real life, which, when italicized, becomes something other than real life, although I’m not sure what. Larger than life? More dramatic than real life? For me, I think it is a matter of focus and interest, and using language to spotlight, and metaphor to enhance, a particular moment in time. Regardless, I sometimes write about other people and put them on the page. My colleagues have contributed to raising my level of awareness and sensitivity toward my “characters,” who are real human beings whom I have chosen to write about because they’ve played some part in the drama, or the comedy, of my own life.

Dr. Peter Conrad, Biological Sciences Department

My initial idea for my semester as a Fellow at the Ethics Institute was to design a course or modules in ethics for science undergraduates. In three fall 2009 courses, I included exercises in very basic and “practical” ethics in the sciences to gauge student interest in discussing ethical issues. This ran the gamut from faking research results, plagiarizing to get ahead to more global problems in ethics such as analyzing the apparent motives of biomedical, pharmaceutical and biotech companies. Students were interested in learning about intellectual property rights, ethical behavior in research and in discussing the balance between reasonable profit and greed. During the spring semester at the Institute I was exposed to a wide variety of opinions and ethical issues that truly broadened my view of ethics and provided me with a historical perspective of ethical thought. My goal for my courses is to continue to interject ethical discussion often just as I include as much writing, problem solving and mathematics as possible because a single course does not accomplish much. It requires frequent integration of all of these skills to change. Once students have been exposed to another way of looking at the world, they demand more and more of that in every course they take. My semester at the Ethics Institute rewarded me in ways that I had not expected.

Fall 2009

Dr. Connie Oxford, Gender and Women's Studies Department

I used my fellowship at the Institute for Ethics in Public Life to work on my book manuscript titled Fleeing Gendered Harm: Seeking Asylum in America. The manuscript is an ethnography of asylum in the United States focusing on gender-based persecution, such as female genital cutting, domestic violence, rape, coercive family planning, forced marriage, honor killings, and repressive social norms. I focused on three aspects of ethics as they relate to gender and persecution in the manuscript: 1) How the United States interprets its obligation to asylum seekers who seek protection from gendered harm; 2) How immigration officials and immigrant advocates understand gender-based persecution as a human rights issue; and 3) The research ethics of writing about conflicting narratives when immigrants articulate different motivations for leaving their country than those presented by their attorneys and immigrant service providers. I also created two new courses for the gender and women’s studies department: “Gender and Human Rights” and “Race, Gender, and Immigration in the United States.”

Dr. Paul Johnston, English Department

I used my Fellowship to research the development of critical ideas about American literature and culture in the first half of the 20th century. Critics at this time brought to the forefront writers—Emerson, Thoreau, Hawthorne, Melville, Whitman—who celebrated the self apart from society as the central characteristic of American literature and culture. This idea took hold in the field of American Studies in the middle of the 20th century and continues to define American thought today, though with consequences for society that the liberal, progressive critics who established it did not anticipate. Individual rights—whatever the cost of such rights to others or to larger society—have become the rallying cry not of liberal progressives, but for those who resist what liberals and progressives are now trying to bring about. My work is ultimately aimed at recovering for American society those voices once central to American literature who spoke not on behalf of the individual but for the community. My focus in on Longfellow, who was widely read and loved in the 19th century but who was dismissed by critics writing between the two world wars. I hope to restore serious interest in Longfellow, and my semester at the Ethics Institute has moved me farther in the direction of this goal.

Dr. Susan Mody, Teacher Education Program

The vital opportunity provided by the Ethics Institute Fellowship to dig more deeply into the concept of place and its relevance to the Plattsburgh community has led to new appreciation for place as a necessary interdisciplinary lens through which to examine human experience. From sustained reading and conversations with colleagues who generously shared narratives of community history, I have developed a stronger understanding of place not only as a critical interdisciplinary framework that helps investigate and connect local with regional and global issues, but also as a constant imperative negotiation to claim rights and assert values, which can both invite and compel active engagement in community political life. Because identity borders are patrolled as contentiously as physical boundaries, contestation intensifies locally symbolic myth-making, as witnessed, for example, in the increasing size and frequency of military re-enactments as a form of weekend family recreation in our area. The fact that so many prominent local educators play leading roles in this enterprise becomes thus less surprising and more recognizable as a manifestation of political agency. Perceived threats of identity displacement may be at work in noisy public displays masquerading as museum and tourist development. I am re-equipped with new sets of questions to use in classrooms and in the field, and I have written three new courses, integrating insights from the Fellowship semester into re-invigorated teaching applications.

Spring 2009

Dr. Kurtis Hagen, Philosophy Department

Dr. Hagen pursued two general and seemingly unrelated interests: early Confucianism, and a radical critique of institutions of knowledge and power. The latter interest was evident in various discussions at the Institute, including his presentation on conspiracy theories, and his involvement in responding to a military studies minor proposal. It is also the subject of one of the two papers he will be giving in China this summer (2009). With regard to early Confucianism, he continues a theme of questioning interpretations that find transcendent principles expressed in early Confucian texts. He argues that the early Confucians, at least Confucius and Xunzi, are best read as constructivists whose worldview “allows conceptual room for pluralism,” and who assume that norms can legitimately evolve. In the end, the two themes do come together because his critique of institutions of knowledge and power is based on a worry about ideological hegemony. And, although constructivism itself could be considered an ideology, pluralism conceptually resists hegemony.

Additionally he worked on the following five papers for presentation and/or publication: “Xunzi and the Prudence of Dao: Desire as the Motive to Become Good;” “Xunzi and the ‘Great Pattern;’” “The Propriety of Confucius: A Sense-of-Ritual;” “Confucius, and the Tradition of Reconstruction;” “Avoiding Conflicts by Dispelling Myths.”

Dr. Hiroshi Itoh, Political Science Department

Dr. Itoh worked on two research topics: judicial contribution to the conservative elite governance in Japan, and comparative analysis of both substantive and procedural rule making in America and Japan. He drafted two pieces of research results with conclusions, and received some feedback at the Institute. He conceptualized and operationalized “conservative democracy” in contrast to the “cherished liberal democracy,” and also coined the term“benign elitism,” to depict both national politics in America and Japan. Once these two pieces of research are incorporated into a wider topic of the Supreme Court and constitutional democracy in Japan, they will be made available for peer evaluation of these important concepts.

Dr. Connie Shemo, History Department

Dr. Shemo created a new course for the history department, “American Through Foreign Eyes.” The Fellowship gave her time to read the voluminous literature on foreign perceptions of the United States and to create a syllabus and bibliography. The goal of the course is to help students better understand how people from around the world, especially non-Western countries, view the United States. In particular, a goal of the course is to enable students to understand the complex mixture of frustration, anger and admiration that many around the world feel towards the United States, rather than imagining nefarious people who irrationally “hate” the United States, or grateful people who “love America.” Questions that the course explores include: What has “America” represented for people around the globe? How have perceptions of the United States changed as the country has grown more powerful? What has remained consistent? How can the writings of foreign observers help us better understand the United States? Why have American women consistently been a source of fascination for foreign observers of the United States (a theme that we can see from Tocqueville to Al-Qaeda?) Why have American race relations been a central theme in foreign observations?

Her reading in preparation for the course has also given her a foundation for her next project, a study of foreign representations of an “American woman.” The Fellowship also gave her time to work on her current project, revising her manuscript An Army of Women: The Medical Ministries of Kang Cheng and Shi Meiyu.

Fall 2008

Dr. Lauren Eastwood, Sociology Department

Dr. Eastwood primarily focused on a research project that is designed to investigate community and individual responses to resource extraction in the American West. As she describes: “I reviewed literature on civic engagement and public participation in energy policy. Additionally, I attended the 2008 annual meeting of the Powder River Basin Resource Council and interviewed some members of that organization. This was an extension of a project for which I received a “Presidential Research Award” (2007-2008). I also worked on developing a “Junior Seminar” course for the Sociology majors that will be based on the intersections of science and policy.” Furthermore, during her tenure at the Institute Dr. Eastwood received notification that she had been awarded an Abe Fellowship from the Social Science Research Council. This prestigious award will support her study of the way Civil Society Organizations participate in major multilateral environmental agreements. Among other activities, her research will involve extensive study in Japan.

Dr. Laurence Soroka, Expeditionary Studies Department

Dr. Soroka of the undertook a research project that is critical but often latent in the ethics of the emerging field of expeditionary studies. As he explains: “Risk is central to all adventure education. Indeed, it is an assumption of such programming, both academic and non-academic alike, that risk is a constructive and necessary aspect of learning in outdoor adventure settings. It is my contention, however, that while risk is indeed constructive and necessary for the learning outcomes in programs such as the Expeditionary Studies major at SUNY Plattsburgh, the assumptions about risk which substantiate this position are unsubstantiated. The goal of my study is not to dismiss the role of risk in adventure programs, but rather to identify the rationalizations, critique these ideas for what they are, and to propose that outdoor educators understand these tenets as problems vulnerable to individual perspective, cultural norms, and, at times, self-serving justifications rather than unchallengeable foundations that they currently are in the discipline.”

Dr. William Tooke, Psychology Department

Dr. Tooke,clarified his thinking with respect to naturalistic explanations of morality and ethics, especially how these relate to theistic explanations for the derivation of values. As he explains “One of the most common questions I have encountered by students and faculty is, “Where does morality come from, if not from a ‘higher power’”? As an evolutionary psychologist, I am well versed in theories of human social behavior that have provided elegant solutions to many of these seemingly intractable issues. Hamilton’s theory of kin selection, Trivers’ theory of reciprocal altruism, and more recent work in direct and indirect reciprocity and the evolution of moral cognition all provide a rich source for understanding moral behavior without theistic assumptions. It is interesting that this recent work is coinciding with equally recent publications by evolutionarily informed writers and scientists in the so-called “new atheism” (e.g., Richard Dawkins, Dan Dennett, Sam Harris, etc.). All of these individuals have dealt with the issue of non-theistic notions of human morality, at times even suggesting that theism can be an actual impediment to moral action. The major focus of my work was to investigate how best to communicate non-theistic explanations of morality to individuals (students, etc.) raised in theistic traditions. While there are excellent, empirically verified reasons to maintain that moral psychology requires no supernatural explanation, the “consciousness-raising” necessary to allow this to be effectively communicated is presently lacking. My goal in this work was not to promote any particular approach to theism (or, atheism) but, rather, to consider how to most effectively communicate non-theistic explanations of organic morality that are grounded in evolutionary biology. I have since incorporated many of the lessons learned from this experience into relevant courses and also co-presented at “Tuesday Reflections” on a topic related to some of these issues.”

Spring 2008

Dr. Anne Bongiorno, Department of Nursing and Nutrition

Dr. Anne Bongiorno explored the ethical theory of Symphonology, a theory based on agreements, in the context of public health. Symphonology is a practiced based ethical theory applicable for health and human service professionals. Within the theory are a set of constructs to guide ethical decision making that is grounded in the worldview of the client, the knowledge base of the professional, and the context of the situation at hand. A nationwide study was developed to identify current practices of delivery of ethics education in public health nursing within a nationwide sample of Baccalaureate granting programs. The descriptive study utilized a survey examining the educative practices and curriculum of BSN programs (N=214) in delivering ethics education as part of population focused concepts and skills. Preliminary results indicate that few students are taught a method of ethical decision making but are exposed to ethical theories. This ongoing work will examine if Symphonology can assist nurses and the health care team to deal with the realities of the workplace through an acquisition of systematic ethical reasoning skill sets based on the principles of Symphonology. Publication efforts are underway to share more information about the theory with colleagues.• Dr. Anne Bongiorno, of the Department of Nursing and Nutrition explored the ethical theory of Symphonology, a theory based on agreements, in the context of public health. Symphonology is a practiced based ethical theory applicable for health and human service professionals. Within the theory are a set of constructs to guide ethical decision making that is grounded in the worldview of the client, the knowledge base of the professional, and the context of the situation at hand. A nationwide study was developed to identify current practices of delivery of ethics education in public health nursing within a nationwide sample of Baccalaureate granting programs. The descriptive study utilized a survey examining the educative practices and curriculum of BSN programs (N=214) in delivering ethics education as part of population focused concepts and skills. Preliminary results indicate that few students are taught a method of ethical decision making but are exposed to ethical theories. This ongoing work will examine if Symphonology can assist nurses and the health care team to deal with the realities of the workplace through an acquisition of systematic ethical reasoning skill sets based on the principles of Symphonology. Publication efforts are underway to share more information about the theory with colleagues.

Dr. Jose deOndarza, Biology Department

Dr. deOndarza explains that even at cursory examination, the field of bioethics is fascinating in its complexity and application to our lives. Yet, the term bioethics is, I think, often misunderstood or even misused. Definitions for bioethics range from narrowly defined as pertaining to medical practice, to overly broad conceptions as anything dealing with moral judgments relating to biology. I have used my time at the Institute to develop both a better understanding of ethical principles per se and a useful model for describing bioethics in its scope and practice. One goal of this project was to develop a well reasoned-out course proposal for a General Education course in this field that would be based on three domains of my model: The ethics of doing science (Biology), the ethics of applying this to society, and the ethical dimensions of informing (educating) society. To properly explore the field of bioethics and this model, my project (and proposed course) incorporates 1.gaining an understanding of ethics through discussion and examination of the major ethical theories; 2.examining the nature of science (scientific method); 3.gauging the prevailing attitudes and beliefs of our society in regards to bioethical issues; 4.evaluating potential models for bioethics in light of ethical controversies and ideals in biology, and 5.exploring the major bioethical issues facing our society today through thoughtful discussion and consideration of varying points of view.

Dr. Thomas Konda, Political Science Department

"Across the south, as well as in cities in other parts of the country, gerrymandering was widely used, albeit at different times, to minimize the impact of black voters and especially to keep black candidates for office from being elected. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 initially brought about a resurgence of this racial gerrymandering, but, as the courts interpreted it and as congress amended it, the VRA undermined racial gerrymandering and eventually reversed it by mandating black majority districts in areas that had had racial gerrymandering. Both the undermining and the reversal carried with them major changes in American politics – specifically in black participation and congressional clout, in the shift of the south from a Democratic to a Republican bastion, and in the ideological positions of the parties especially with regard to the "cultural" issues. My work tries to weave together the various threads of actors, policies, and political outcomes to gain some understanding of contemporary racial politics – particularly with regard to congress. I conclude that the reversal of racial gerrymandering – notwithstanding the fact that it contributed to the Republican takeover of the House of Representatives – is just now manifesting its long term beneficial impact of diminishing racial politics in the United States."

Fall 2007

Dr. Monica Ciobanu, Sociology Department

"The time spent at the Institute has been extremely productive and useful for enhancing both scholarly writing and the content of the courses that are regularly taught in the Department of Sociology and Criminal Justice. In regard to academic work, the work on the project of memory and justice in post-communism has resulted in two manuscripts of which one has already been published in the June issue of the journal Democracy & Education (“Teaching History and Building a Democratic Future: Lessons from Post-Communist Romania”). The second, on the Romanian Truth Commission will be published in the March issue of 2009 of the journal Europe-Asia Studies. The different theoretical and practical aspects pertaining to the issue of ethics will be integrated and addressed in sociology and criminal justice courses, in particular Political Sociology, Sociology of Law, Human Rights and Law Enforcement. "

Dr. Jean Ann Hunt, Literacy Education Department & Dr. David Stone, Counselor Education Department

"This was a joint Project. During our time at the Ethics Institute we focused on the connections between democratic education, ethics, relationships and multicultural competencies in public education in the field of counseling. We pursued the following questions: how are the above related? What can teacher education learn from the implementation of multicultural competencies in the field of Counselor education? What are some expected ways to make those connections explicit to pre-service and practicing teachers? What are the implications for children/young adults’ learning when their classroom teachers use democratic principles in their classroom teaching-- when they do or do not have multicultural competencies? Both Dr. Hunt and Dr. Stone modified a number of courses they teach based on their work as fellows and devised projects for community outreach."

Spring 2007

Dr. Beth Dixon, Philosophy Department

Dr. Dixon explained that she pursed projects "that involved exploring ways to include community service activities in the philosophy department curriculum. Specifically, these included: Designing a new course titled, 'Community Service: Theory and Practice,' which requires at least 20 hours of community service activity; Proposing curriculum revisions for the philosophy department's study option, 0699 Ethics and Social Philosophy, locating a more prominent position in the curriculum for the community service practicum requirement; Drafting a brochure for students as a way of explaining and advertising the department's commitment to community service; Creating opportunities for philosophy students to practice doing philosophy with children at three local area schools (Oak St. Elementary, Stafford Middle School, and Saranac Elementary. Our philosophy students who have a major concentration in Ethics and Social Philosophy may satisfy their community service practicum requirement in these settings)."

Mr. Robert Harsh, Educational Opportunity Program & Sociology Department

Mr. Harsh was the first professional staff member to study at the Institute, he "focused his reading and writing on the economic distribution of higher education opportunity.... He examined current trends in college admission and financial aid practices that disadvantage poorer students, illustrating these dynamics in a paper reflecting on his experiences interviewing local applicants to a highly selective, elite university. He then revisited W.E.B. Du Bois's The Souls of Black Folk (1903) as it relates to current discussions of multiculturalism, inclusion, and diversity, integrating his research with his professional experience in a paper--"Bringing Du Bois to the Diversity Conversation"--that he presented first at SUNY Plattsburgh and then at a tri-state conference of college opportunity program staff in April."

Dr. Jessamyn Neuhaus, History Department

Dr. Neuhaus described her work at the Institute in these terms: "I spent a significant amount of time considering how to more deliberately encourage students to think about ethics and civic engagement in my upper-level courses on popular culture. I also appreciably advanced my book project, an examination of the depiction of housework and housewives in advertising, as well as a short paper on a related topic. I also believe that my own interests in popular culture and postmodernism played an important role in providing fodder for our discussions, particularly during our discussions about civic engagement and community in the twenty-first century."

Fall 2006

Dr. Rodney Cavanaugh, Special Education Department

Dr. Cavanaugh who was a widely respected faculty member at the College and who was selected as a CASE Professor of the year in 1995, passed away in January of 2007 after a courageous battle with cancer.

Dr. Jin Kim, Communications Department

Dr. Kim indicated that he engaged in the following activities: "Reading for and attending weekly seminars on a series of ethical/moral principles that various human societies have developed and practiced. Developing a lengthy bibliography of reading materials and reading/note-taking in order to address the issues affecting the modes of civic discourse, as well as the character of civic society in America, as a result of various changes brought about by the adoption of new communication technologies by both individuals and institutions. Based on tentative conclusions that I have reached about some of those issues, I am scheduled to give a public lecture in July at the Plattsburgh Unitarian Universality Fellowship on Communitarian Values and Information Abundance. Also, in the fall 2007 semester, I am planning to make a presentation to the college community on generational gaps in information-seeking-&-consumption patterns in college classrooms. Developing course contents as well as philosophical foundations for a GE course, tentatively entitled as 'Information, Media & Civic Society.' This new course proposal will be submitted in the fall 2007 for the General Education category of 'Individual, Society and Responsibility.'

Dr. Margaret Morrow, Mathematics Department

Dr. Morrow described her work in the following way: "My work at the Institute has provided me with the confidence to move ahead with finding ways to meaningfully incorporate issues related to societal and civic responsibility into a general education mathematics class. My period as a fellow allowed me to do the ground-work for designing a course in which mathematics is embedded in contexts that involve significant ethical issues. The course (MAT 133, Mathematics in Context) has been approved (including approval for general education purposes), and will be taught for the first time in fall 2007. I have ongoing work in designing instruction, activities and assignments in such a way as to encourage exploration of the ethical dimensions of the topics."

Spring 2006

Dr. Mark Cohen, Anthropology Department

Dr. Cohen completed substantial amounts of research and writing including a portion of each chapter of a book, Immortal Serpent: racial thinking and its effects on contemporary problems (proposed title) that will probably submitted to Oxford University Press. In addition he neared final editing on Prehistoric Health (a conference volume) for University Press of Florida; and wrote a chapter and edited a volume on the philosophy of the evolution creation debate intended for publication by Allyn Bacon.

Mr. Kim Hartshorn, Theatre Department

Mr. Hartshorn indicated that "My investigation focused upon the concept generally known as 'color-blind casting'. This concept, the idea that the race or ethnic origin of the actor was of no consequence in regards to the role depicted on the stage, has existed for many years. Essentially this involved the idea that, in simple terms, a black actor could play a character generally assumed to be white or, in a more convoluted form, an acceptable premise could be suggested to the audience as to why the character was black. Although 'color-blind casting' has been generally accepted as the ethically correct approach, in practice it tends to break down. Additionally, the support of 'color-blind casting' is not universal among black theatre professionals, most notably the playwright August Wilson. My suspicion, however, is that the basic premise has become more nuanced of late. My suspicion is that the issue of race and verisimilitude is easily conventionalized in the eyes of a modern audience. In other words, the race of the actor as well as the race of the character is simply not noticed. Serendipitously, I had the opportunity of testing this out in our spring production of Urinetown which featured a young African-American actor portraying an older rich man with a young daughter played by a young Caucasian woman...and nobody noticed any incongruity or desired any sort of explanation."

Dr. Jurgen Kleist, Foreign Language and Literature Department

Dr. Kleist devoted his time as fellow at the Institute to broaden his research in the field of "Inter-Cultural Communication" (ICC) which concerns itself with linguistic, political, ideological, philosophical, economic and ethical questions. Ethical behavior, he has come to realize, depends to a great extent on the economic situation of the agents of communication (Bertolt Brecht: "Erst kommt das Fressen, dann kommt die Moral."--"First comes food, then comes morality.") In addition, inter-cultural communication requires an understanding of the "mind-set" of the "other" which is constituted by education, traditions, culture, history, socio-economic conditions, etc. In order to investigate further into the "otherness" of agents of communication, he has planned a film symposium titled, "Terror, Torture, and the Trauma of War: The Abuse of Human Rights," to be held during 2007. Furthermore, Dr. Kleist plans a symposium during 2008, which will address the differences and similarities that exist between the western world and Islam, the so-called "Clash of Civilizations."

Fall 2005

Dr. Jon Gottschall, Political Science Department

Dr. Gottschall offered the following conclusion from his primary research concern: "In constitutionally entrenching its 25 year old Charter of Rights and Freedoms and authorizing judicial interpretation and enforcement of it, Canadians have drawn heavily on the over 200 year history of the United States. In doing so, however, Canadians sought to preserve basic aspects of its history of parliamentary supremacy so that an unelected Supreme Court would often not have the final word in constitutional meanings. In practice, however, Canadian Courts have embraced the American model of judicial supremacy in constitutional interpretation, and the Canadian Public and their elected representatives have largely acquiesced in this shift. This new judicial empowerment, however, has not been accompanied by the kinds of safeguards (i.e. Senatorial confirmation of federal judicial appointments) or by an evolved tradition of judicial restraint in constitutional interpretation. Canadian Courts, therefore also may not be able to provide the constitutional continuity from administration to administration which also characterizes the American system, and the Canadian constitution may therefore ultimately provide lesser security for fundamental rights."

Dr. Steve Mansfield, Psychology Department

Dr. Mansfield explained that "During my fellowship I explored the incidence of plagiarism in an Introductory Psychology course. In previous semesters I had accumulated 4835 written assignments from my Introductory Psychology course. I have compared each assignment word-by-word with the course textbook to find cases where students copied phrases from the textbook rather than using their own words. My research had indicated that a copied sequence longer than 18 words is unlikely to be an incidental match, and can be flagged as 'plagiarized.' Using this criterion, 22% of assignments contained plagiarized phrases. A closer analysis revealed that the incidence of plagiarism is higher when students write longer answers. This relationship can be explained by a simple Poisson model: If plagiarism occurs at a certain base rate then longer answers are more likely to contain plagiarism. This finding indicates that answer length needs to be considered when we assess plagiarism. For example, plagiarism was approximately 1.5 times more frequent when answering fact-based questions (e.g., "How did the researchers go about answering their research question?") than it was for opinion-based questions (e.g., "Describe and explain a strength or weakness of this study.") However when the answers are compared using a length-independent measure of plagiarism, this difference is less marked. The incidence of plagiarism increased during the semester from about 10% of assignments to over 30%. A length-independent measure of plagiarism shows that the time during the semester accounts for 56% of the variance in plagiarism. This trend was not found in sections of the course where the students were given feedback to prevent plagiarism. Overall, using an objective criterion for plagiarism I have found that plagiarism was more likely when students wrote long answers to fact-based questions. This type of plagiarism may be considered to be petty--after all, the students are not copying whole paragraphs into their work. However, the increase in plagiarism during the semester underlines the importance of detecting and dealing with petty plagiarism before it becomes a serious problem."

Dr. Heidi Schnackenberg, Adolescence Education Department

Dr. Schnackenberg described that "I used my semester at the Institute for Ethics in Public Life to immerse myself in a new literature concerning ethics, technology, and non-American cultures. Overall, I read over 57 journal articles, from 2000-2005, in the International Review section of Educational Technology Research and Development (ETR&D). I had been interested in the ethical concerns involved with introducing or infusing technology into emerging countries or cultures. As the premiere journal in the field of educational technology, I thought that ETR&D would have articles which would give me the best sense of what was occurring in my field surrounding my issue of interest. As a starting point in my new line of research, I categorized the articles that I had read and analyzed what the trends in the literature were telling the educational technology community. I subsequently wrote a manuscript entitled "What is the Literature in ETR&D's International Review Telling Us About Educational Technology and the International Community in the New Millennium?" The manuscript is currently in submission to Educational Technology Research and Development (ETR&D). This new knowledge also enabled me to create a 3-credit, graduate-level elective course for education majors entitled, Ethical Issues in Educational Technology (EDU 558). As all the units in this course encompass various ethical issues in my field, I will have a wonderful opportunity to pass along what I've learned at the Institute to my students. This course will be offered for the first time in the summer of 2006. It is a fully distance-delivered course, facilitated via SUNY Plattsburgh's Angel Course Management System. I've also modified EDU 580, Foundations for Education, to include one unit addressing educational technology and ethical issues."

Spring 2005

Dr. Robert Cabin, Biology Department

Dr. Cabin explained that "Over the course of this fellowship I read a great deal of important and helpful literature outside my field that I never would have come across, let alone read, on my own. These readings, along with our formal and informal discussions of this literature, have greatly informed and deepened my thinking about ethics in public life in general and various specific bioethical and conservation issues. Over the course of this semester I also worked on my forthcoming book, Restoring Paradise: Rebuilding and Rethinking Nature in Hawaii and discussed an excerpt from this book with the greater Ethics Institute community. This discussion and my overall experience as a Fellow substantially deepened and enriched my research on and thinking about this project. Finally, I began working on a teaching module for incorporating discussions of ethical issues within my biology courses.

Dr. Lonnie Fairchild, Computer Science Department

Dr. Fairchild explained that as a fellow she "focused on finding ways to bring the consideration of social and ethical issues involving computer technology into the introductory computing courses that she regularly teaches. I was concerned with curriculum and pedagogy for improving the treatment of these concerns in a general education course, as well as in introducing them into an introductory course for majors where they had been given scant attention. The discussions at the Institute were a great source of constructive suggestions and valuable ideas, and I am working on revisions of both courses that will be implemented the next time that I teach them."

Dr. Jonathan Slater, Communication Department

Dr. Slater described that: "There is a way of understanding ethics in America as related to the devices we use to sustain our various cultural narratives... Today, much of our story as a society is recounted and reinforced through outlets of mass communication, and the thousands of mediated messages we attend to every week often deliver a conflicting, incomplete and otherwise unclear vision of what it means to be ethical and act ethically... The mass media, by their very nature, make the serious examination and contemplation of virtue an impossibility. The mass media provide a virtually endless supply of trivia. And what is not already trivial easily becomes trivialized in today's media environment. The mass media are more than just a way of knowing about the world; they are a way of being in it. Unfortunately, a mass-mediated existence is seldom profound. With its emphasis on sensory (and sensual) rewards and gratifications, the mass media easily corrupt worthy ideas, supplant them with petty and cynical views of the world, and in the process undermine our capacities to make it a better place." Dr. Slater incorporated these and other insights into his teaching of courses in "Mass Media and Society" and "Public Relations." He also developed a proposal for a book elaborating on these themes.

Fall 2004

Dr. Tim Palkovic, Theatre Department

Dr. Palkovic described his work as a fellow by explaining that: "Using the model of the 'case study,' I revised and updated my teaching and performance idea called Small Town USA. This expansion of the role-play idea successfully focuses on characters in ethical crises. The role-play gives the impression, to the audience, of the performance of a play because of the focus on moral dilemmas grounded on the structured development of character. I have successfully demonstrated this role-play in demonstration classes in January 2005 at the NYSTEA, New York State Theatre Education Association Convention, as well as in my Spring 2005 Intro to Acting class at SUNY Plattsburgh College."

Dr. Tracie Church-Guzzio, English Department

Dr. Church-Guzzio explained: "I am interested in the ways in which African Americans responded (and continue to respond) ethically to slavery and to racism. My concept of a "blues ethic" develops out of this concern. In the midst of the cultural domination of slavery and white supremacy, African Americans established an expressive culture of music, poetry, dance, sermons, and satires that politically and spiritually engaged them, offered practical advice on surviving their situation, and argued for social justice and equality. A "blues ethic" not only investigates these characteristics historically, it also provides a code of conduct for the contemporary, multicultural world. The ethic is pro-active, communally-based, artistic, civically engaged, and mindful of history, while at the same time it embraces humanity in the face of evil, darkness, and despair, often with ironic, biting humor, but with grace and dignity. I can see the framework for such an ethic being useful not only in our classrooms but also in our local and global communities. Students really respond enthusiastically to African American expressive culture, but it has rarely been used (with the exception of the 1960s) for political and civic purposes in America at large."

Dr. William Teter, Computer Science Department

Dr. Teter focused his work at the Institute on the question of: "What role is possible and appropriate for a public liberal arts undergraduate institution to play in the development of civic and moral behavior of its students? This is the question that was central to my work while at the Institute. By civic and moral behavior I mean the actions (present and future) that are taken by our students as members of various public (i.e. outside family) communities -- the professional community in which one works, the local community in which one lives, and the political community, which one supports with taxes" and other political acts... I think the major obstacle to educating a wise citizenry is not the corporate control of media but a misunderstanding of the connection between science, world knowledge, beliefs, and behavior."

Spring 2004

Dr. Amy Mountcastle, Anthropology Department

Dr. Mountcastle used her time as a Fellow at the Institute to further develop and focus the course she teaches on human rights--to more sharply define the goals and objectives for the course, devise an outline for the course, and establish contacts on and off campus to develop an experiential component of the course. She explained that "Through the process of rethinking, reading and discussing the course with colleagues, what has emerged as a primary personal goal for the course is that it facilitate and nurture in students and understanding of themselves as global citizens with obligations to their fellow human beings, both near and distant. The idea that human rights are possible to the extent that people are willing to safeguard those rights on behalf of others is, I believe, an important starting point for the course. Anthropology students must then learn how to intellectually and ethically negotiate the complicated terrain that arises in cross-cultural contexts." Her work at the Institute will culminate, in part, with a course and general education proposal that she expects to complete by the end of the Fall 2004 semester.

Dr. Mark Beatham, Educational Studies and Services

Dr. Beatham investigated what he describes as a "field theory of ethics," as a way of expanding the social imagination. At the end of the semester he presented a paper on this theme to a conference in Mytilene, Greece, on "Nature, Science, and Social Movements." He also considered carefully many of the most fundamental questions about ethics in public life, specifically as they relate to education, and explored ways that they can be incorporated into modifications in the curriculum for education majors.

Dr. Gary Kroll, History Department

Dr. Kroll spent his time at the Institute engaged in a critical inquiry of something he calls "ecological civics." "Ecological civics is a model of thought and practice that 1) challenges the domination of national sovereignty and advocates a more inclusive and global sense of citizenship, 2) acts on the understanding that environmental issues and social issues are intricately related, 3) fosters a historical understanding of justice, and 4) comes to all of the above through the act of genuinely listening to the concerns of the lesser-developed world and the American underclass."

The project is essentially the work of critical theory--identifying the core maladies of the modern world and providing solutions. The work has essentially involves researching environmental justice movements, critical ecological theory, social theory, cultural theory, and political science. The lion's share of his time was spent composing a manuscript that outlines the tenets, justifications, and overall purpose of ecological civics and relates them to teaching.

Fall 2003

Dr. Deborah Altamirano, Anthropology Department

Dr. Altamirano pursued two projects while a fellow at the institute. The first involved expanding her background in anthropological ethics or "ethno-ethics" in order to enhance the ethics component of the research methods/AWR course--a required for anthropology majors- which she teaches. Second, she researched ethics in social movements. Specifically she sought materials on the codes of ethics espoused by and practiced by revolutionary movements. In the course of this research she looked at the Sandinista movement in Nicaragua, the Zapatistas in Mexico, Tito's Partisans, and writings on the ethics and politics of Che Guevara.

Dr. Shakuntala Rao, Communication Department

Dr. Rao revised both the format and the content of the course she teaches on mass media ethics (MSM/JOU 348 ) including in-depth study of various philosophers who have written about ethics. With particular assistance from Dr. Beth Dixon (Department of Philosophy, SUNY Plattsburgh) she was able to integrate the philosophical works of Aristotle, John Stuart Mill, and Immanuel Kant into her lectures. She also developed a set of case studies from the media, which address specific moral and ethical dilemmas that media practitioners face on a daily basis. Additionally, she worked with Dr. Seow Ting Lee (Nanyang University, Singapore) on a paper titled, "Globalizing Media Ethics? An Ethnographic Assessment" which was presented at a prestigious colloquia (in April 2004) titled, "Media, Ethics, and Politics" at the School of Journalism, University of Missouri-Columbia. This paper will be published in the Spring 2005 special issue of Journal of Mass Media Ethics. Finally she worked with Dr. Dixon in running a series of workshops on ethics for members of the local media.

Dr. James Rice, History Department

Dr. Rice sought the capacity to "acquire a facility with the conceptual tools that would make it possible to more firmly ground his teaching and writing about Indians in an ethical, rather than a political context." Accordingly, he spent the Fall 2003 semester at the Institute considering more fully the ethics of representing others, especially the Native Americans who feature so prominently in his writing and teaching. In addition to following the course of reading prescribed for the weekly seminar, he read Native-centered works on history, memory, and their contemporary uses. He also developed a new course on Native American history, strengthened his connections to local First Nations communities, and made presentations in Toronto; Alexandria, and Virginia, as well as presenting his research at a conference in Williamsburg, Virginia, and submitting an article for publication in a forthcoming University of North Carolina Press volume that will mark the 400th anniversary of the founding of Jamestown.

Fellows in Residence in Former Years

Spring 2003

Ms. Holly Heller-Ross, Library and Information Technology Services

Ms. Heller Ross focused on ethical considerations in the acquisition and use of information, with a particular focus on the academic honesty issues of cheating and plagiarism. She reviewed the college's online plagiarism tutorials for inclusion in an introductory information and technology literacy course and revised the Library web guide: "Preventing and Detecting Plagiarism." she also collaborated on a conference session entitled "Turning the Tide of Plagiarism" for the SUNY Librarians Association Annual Conference in June of 2003.

Dr. Richard Schnell, Counselor Education Department

Dr. Schnell developed a graduate course, Ethics Case Studies for Mental Health Counselors, as well as the case studies for a proposed accompanying book. Based in part on his work as a fellow at the Institute, Dr. Schnell was selected as a member of the State Board for Mental Health Practitioners. Among other activities this board reviews ethical complaints.

Dr. Charles R. Simpson, Sociology Department

Dr. Simpson worked on issues of "Local Community and Ecological Sustainability." His objective has been "to re-conceptualize environmental preservation as part of a sustainable global matrix which avoids shifting resource extraction and waste disposal burdens to the politically weakest regions of the globe, and which respects the variety of culturally-shaped relationships which communities have forged with the landscapes around them."

Fall 2002

Dr. Anna Battigelli, English Department

Dr. Battigelli engaged in an intensive reading program to cultivate expertise in commentaries of Virgil's Aeneid and on Dryden's seventeenth-century translation of the Aeneid. The purpose of this reading program was to explore the ethical dimensions of ancient Greek and Roman texts so as to redesign English 295, "Ancient Myth and Modern Mythmaking" to emphasize the ethical complexity of these texts, as well as to include these insights in her future scholarly publications.

Dr. Sylvie Beaudreau, History Department

Dr. Beaudreau examined the construction of individual and collective identities and the meaning of citizenship in national and international contexts, and the challenge of multiculturalism. In the process of this analysis, she elaborated a general comparison of the divergent national "personalities" of the United States and Canada, with an attendant "ethical identity checklist" of these two nations, which she has been able to integrate into several of her courses.

Dr. Lynn Schlesinger, Sociology Department

Dr. Schlesinger pursued three related projects. First, she focused on learning more about classical philosophical theories. Second, she explored ways in which teachers can better introduce students to ethical issues, and ways for teachers to address student concerns once such issues have been introduced. Finally, she is using her insights in her scholarship on women who live with chronic pain.

Spring 2002

Dr. Helen Deresky, Management Department

Dr. Deresky, developed a comprehensive teaching module entitled Social Responsibility and Ethical Decision Making in International Business. This module will be made available with training to other faculty in the School of Business and Economics for use in their courses.

Ms. Diane Fine, Art Department

Ms. Fine pursued her work on the role of "gift" in art. She will integrate this unique perspective on ethics in art into her teaching in both art and women's studies courses as well as in her "gift project" which was an inspiring campus event in the spring of 2002 attracting almost 100 participants. This work will be reflected in a soon to be released set of prints.

Dr. Daphne Kutzer

Dr. Daphne Kutzer, of the English Department, undertook research on the ethical treatment of children in America, which she now incorporates this research into her course on Films for/about and Children. She is also developing a course on utopian literature to more fully focus on ethics, and she is refocusing her teaching in ENG 371 and ENG 260 to contain an emphasis more heavily influenced by ethics. She is now working on a book entitled Teaching the Buddha's Way: A Path to Compassion in the Classroom.

Fall 2001

Dr. Bryan Higgins, Geography Department

Dr. Higgins has incorporated ethics into three of his geography courses (GEG 317, GEG 301, and GEG 321/MLS 544.) He has developed active learning exercises on ecotourism and international development in ethics and developed bibliographic and website resources on Global Ethics and Environmental Justice.

Dr. Kate Joyce, Center for Earth and Environmental Science

Dr. Joyce developed a new course on "International Environmental Law and Policy" for the general education program in collaboration with another faculty member. Additionally, they worked together on an article on the Ethics in International Trade Agreements. She also modified her courses on Environmental Law, Environmental Policy and Environmental Science to include material on ethics.

Spring 2001

Dr. Thomas Morrissey, English Department

Dr. Morrissey used his time at the Institute to integrate and foreground ethics into his Science Fiction course ENG 339, which is a course in the Global Issues category of the General Education Program. He will also use the knowledge and insights from his work as a fellow to inform all teaching in all his courses.

Dr. Amy Bass, History Department

Dr. Bass worked on her manuscript entitled Not the Triumph but the Struggle (which was published in the summer of 2002) incorporating into that work her thinking about citizenship, the nation-state and the global community. In part, as an outgrowth of her work at the Institute, she would like to continue to design a course on citizenship and culture for the History Department.

Dr. Stewart Denenberg, Computer Science Department

Dr. Denenberg now incorporates ethics in all of his courses, but particularly in his course Computer in Society. He also prepared an application and was selected as a participant in the MSF Program on "Teaching Computer Ethics."

Fall 2000

Dr. Vincent Carey, History Department

Dr. Carey developed a new course on Genocide in History. He also prepared an NEH /Folger application on this topic, which received funding. As a result, he spent the 2001-2002 academic year on a prestigious fellowship at the Folger Library in Washington D.C. His work at the Folger led to his being asked to curate a major exhibit there entitled Voices for Tolerance In an Age of Persecution, which opened in June of 2004.

Dr. Richard Robbins, Anthropology Department

Dr. Robbins recast a second edition of his book "Global Problems in the Culture of Capitalism" by incorporating work on "The Creation of the Citizen/Activist." The book was selected for Choice's One Hundred Best Academic Books for the past year. This material has been incorporated into his course work. He also developed a paper entitled "Religious Intolerance and the Rights of Children" which was presented at the London School of Economics in April of 2001.

Dr. Jen Scanlon, Women's Studies Program

Dr. Scanlon used her time at the Institute to develop a seminar on "Gender, Film, and Consumer Culture," which has strong ethical implications and to develop expertise that informs her teaching in all her courses.

Spring 2000

Dr. Martin Lubin, Political Science Department

Dr. Lubin worked on the development of new courses on "Ethnic Politics" and "History of Political Ideas." He continued work on his book entitled "Democratic Government and Politics in Quebec." He also collaborated with Visiting Professor Dr. Henry Millner who completed his book Civic Literacy. During the semester, Dr. Millner also shared this research in draft form with students in seminars at the Institute.

Dr. Faten Moussa, Management Department

Dr. Moussa developed a 100 page teaching module on Ethics in Business Management and prepared a new course on the same topic, which has now been approved for the General Education Program.

Fall 1998

Dr. Priscilla Myers, Education Department

Dr. Myers developed a new course entitled "Teaching Culturally Responsive Arts" which is a course that responds to increasing diversity in classrooms and the ways in which educators must affirm, respect, and value this diversity.

Dr. Douglas Perez, Sociology Department

Dr. Perez has modified his teaching in all of his courses to include ethics. This impacts most specially his course on Sociology of Policing, as well as ethics in Criminal Justice. Dr. Perez also completed a book entitled Police Ethics: A matter of Character, as well as an article for the journal Criminal Justice Ethics entitled "A Typology of Police Misconduct." He undertook this work with a coauthor Dr. J. Alan Moore who was also in residence at the Institute with Dr. Perez. Dr. Moore subsequently taught the course on Ethics in Criminal Justice for our Criminal Justice/Sociology Department.

Dr. Douglas Skopp, History Department

Dr. Skopp modified the way he teaches Introduction to History, as well as his course on the Holocaust, as a result of his tenure as a fellow. Dr. Skopp also continued work on his book on Nazi Medical Doctors, which he is now completing. He has also continued to participate in the Guided Inquiry program at the Institute and has recently made a presentation (with Drs. Dixon and Moran) on this work at the national meeting of the Association for Applied and Professional Ethics.

Special Mention

Dr. Beth Dixon & John Yardan, Philosophy Department

The work of two other individuals should be noted in this section, despite the fact that they have not served formally as fellows at the Institute. But they have been very active participants at the Institute. The first is Dr. Beth Dixon, of the Philosophy Department, who has played a lead role in the Guided Inquiry Program and who completed a paper on the development of case studies in ethics, which was presented at the Society for Ethics Across the Curriculum, and which has was published in journal Teaching Ethics. This paper is an important resource for the F.P.S.E. project. She has also presented her work at professional gatherings, including the earlier a presentation, with Drs. Moran and Skopp, at the Annual Meeting of the Association for Applied and Professional Ethics in 2004. Additionally, she led a project (in concert with Dr. Rao of the Communications Department) to run workshops on ethics for professionals working in the local the media. This work was supported by a grant from the Winkel Humanities Fund of the SUNY Plattsburgh College Foundation, which she primarily authored. The second is Dr. John Yardan, of the Philosophy Department, who has been a faithful participant in seminars and meetings at the Institute, and who recently published a book entitled God and the Challenge of Evil.


Contact Information

If you would like more information about the Institute for Ethics in Public Life at SUNY Plattsburgh, please contact

Jonathan Slater, Ph.D., Director
Office: Hawkins Hall, Room 233
Phone: (518) 564-3018
Fax: (518) 564-3071
Email: [email protected]

Institute for Ethics in Public Life
SUNY Plattsburgh
101 Broad St.
Plattsburgh, New York 12901