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Ethics minor and speakers series initiated at NMSU

Enron, Martha Stewart, stem cell research and the war in Iraq are only a few items in the news that reflect a crucial need for ethical training and reflection, said Timothy Cleveland, head of New Mexico State University's philosophy department.


U Department of Philosophy launched a minor in ethics this fall for students from all disciplines.

"Developing students' skills of critical thinking and ethical reflection so they can come to a reasoned and moral position when faced with ethical dilemmas is a valuable tool for every college graduate," Cleveland said. "More and more corporations are looking for people who have training in ethics."

NMSU's Honors College is joining the philosophy department to host a series of speakers on campus to discuss ethics.

The Ethics Series will kick off at 4 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 12, at the Corbett Center Auditorium with a presentation by NMSU alumnus Jim Ferguson.

Ferguson, who was one of the first honors students at NMSU, will talk about a major ethical dilemma he faced in a business setting. His presentation, "Doing the Right Thing," will cover his choice to blow the whistle on corporate corruption and how he managed to prevail in a lengthy legal battle. Ferguson received a bachelor's degree from NMSU in 1968 in anthropology and languages and an MBA in 1972.

The series will continue at 4 p.m. Monday, Nov. 8, in the Corbett Center Auditorium with a presentation from Allan J. McDonald, director of the Space Shuttle Solid Rocket Motor Project at the time of the Challenger accident. McDonald will speak about his involvement in attempting to delay the launch of the Challenger and the lessons learned from his experiences with the media, the Presidential Commission and the U.S. Congress investigating the accident.

"In every endeavor, professional people are confronted with difficult ethical decisions. To hear stories of people who have faced ethical challenges is of great value to students," said William Eamon, director of the Honors College. "It is more urgent than ever to help our students confront ethical conflicts."

Cleveland said the speakers for the series were selected to make students aware of issues they could really face.

"The hard choices these people had to face are examples to students," Cleveland said. "We are trying to raise the consciousness of NMSU students about ethical problems - they are everywhere."

The speakers series and the new minor were designed to meet the needs of the university at large.

The minor includes a combination of theory and applied courses and offers courses in several disciplines including engineering, business, journalism and criminal justice. Students minoring in ethics also can take some Honors courses on ethics with topics ranging from the dilemmas of war and peace to the history of ethics.

To earn a minor in ethics students must complete 18 credit hours of identified ethics courses, nine of which must be upper division. The required classes must be completed with a grade of C or better.

In support of the new minor, the philosophy department has hired Jean-Paul Vessel as an assistant professor of philosophy. Vessel, a 1993 graduate of NMSU, has written on the ethics of G. E. Moore and defended consequentialism. He also is interested in theoretical matters such as the philosophy of language and practical topics such as ethics in sports and philosophy for children. Vessel returns to NMSU from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, where he earned his Ph.D. in 2003.

For more information call the philosophy department at 505-646-4616.