Ethics Across the Curriculum

The University of Scranton Initiative: Ethics Across the Curriculum


We are excited to announce that the University of Scranton has launched a new Ethics Across the Curriculum initiative, beginning during the 2023-2024 academic year.

Update: We are now accepting applications for AY23-24 Ethics Across the Curriculum Faculty Development Grants. More information can be found here. Applications are due by 3/1/2024.

A New Initiative Rooted in Our 500-Year-Old Jesuit Tradition

From its beginning, Jesuit education has never sought merely to increase students’ grasp of various bodies of knowledge, enhance their communication skills, cultivate their analytical abilities, and so on, as important as all these things are. At its heart, Jesuit education has also always aimed to form students’ moral characters, to prepare them to be persons for and with others, people who, in the words of Pedro Arrupe, S.J. (former Superior General of the Jesuits), “cannot even conceive of love of God which does not include love for the least of their neighbors” and who are “completely convinced that love of God which does not issue in justice for others is a farce.”[1]

As John O’Malley, S.J., puts it in his book, The First Jesuits, “the Jesuits looked more to formation of mind and character, to Bildung, than to the acquisition of ever more information or the advancement of the disciplines.”[2] The aim of Jesuit education has always been to graduate students who “will be able to face and solve, for themselves and others, the composite problems of life, social, civic, moral, and religious – who, in short, may contribute through influence, service, and example to the up-building of the kingdom of God in the heart of humanity.”[3] In the words of another Superior General of the Jesuits, Peter Hans Kolvenbach, S.J.,

"For 450 years, Jesuit education has sought to educate “the whole person” intellectually and professionally, psychologically, morally and spiritually. But in the emerging global reality, with its great possibilities and deep contradictions, the whole person is different from the whole person of the Counter-Reformation, the Industrial Revolution, or the 20th century. Tomorrow’s “whole person” cannot be whole without an educated awareness of society and culture with which to contribute socially, generously, in the real world. Tomorrow’s whole person must have, in brief, a well educated solidarity. We must therefore raise our Jesuit educational standard to “educate the whole person of solidarity for the real world.…

Paraphrasing Ignacio Ellacuría, it is the nature of every university to be a social force, and it is the calling of a Jesuit university to take conscious responsibility for being such a force for faith and justice. Every Jesuit academy of higher learning is called to live in a social reality… and to live for that social reality, to shed university intelligence upon it and to use university influence to transform it. Thus Jesuit universities have stronger and different reasons than many other academic and research institutions, for addressing the actual world as it unjustly exists and for helping to reshape it in the light of the Gospel.[4]"

In making these points, Fr. Kolvenbach emphasizes that, “Every discipline, beyond its necessary specialization, must engage with human society, human life, and the environment in appropriate ways, cultivating moral concern about how people ought to live together.”[5]

Inspired and challenged by this long tradition, and bolstered by the generous support of an anonymous donor, we have launched this new Ethics Across the Curriculum initiative. Upon graduation, our students will join various kinds of professions and communities - in these settings, they need to be prepared to take the opportunities afforded to them to promote justice, care for the poor, stand with the outcast, and advance the common good of all. The Ethics Across the Curriculum initiative will help prepare our students for these eventualities so that they can approach them with confidence, creativity, courage, and conviction.

Key Objectives of the Ethics Across the Curriculum Initiative

This initiative has four main objectives: 

  1. First, we seek to equip faculty from disciplines across the university with the resources and training they need to develop new, meaningful, and effective ways of incorporating careful ethical reflection, reasoning, and application in their courses. By doing so, we aim to substantially increase our students’ opportunities to engage in such careful ethical reflection, reasoning, and application while completing their academic coursework. 
  1. Second, we seek to expand our students’ understanding of the specific kinds of ethical challenges and opportunities that they can expect to encounter in various kinds of professions and to better prepare them to respond effectively to these challenges and opportunities by providing them with chances to develop their knowledge of relevant ethical considerations and to practice deploying that knowledge in realistic scenarios. 
  1. Third, we seek to increase our students’ understanding of various large-scale threats to the welfare of our global, national, and local communities (especially those aligned with the Universal Apostolic Preferences of Caring for Our Common Home and Walking with the Excluded) and prepare them to be more effective in helping to address these challenges by increasing their knowledge of relevant empirical, historical, and technological information and by promoting their understanding of the many ethical considerations at stake in how we address these challenges. 
  1. Fourth, we seek to increase our students’ opportunities to engage one another in respectful, thoughtful, well-reasoned, factually-informed discussions about current social, political, and ethical issues, especially with peers who disagree with them about such matters.

 Activities Sponsored by the Ethics Across the Curriculum Initiative

We will seek to achieve these goals by sponsoring the following four kinds of activities: 

  1. Faculty Development Grants – From 2024 to 2026, we expect to offer 36 grants to support faculty members interested in either (a) infusing ethics-related content into a course that doesn’t currently feature such content, (b) substantially revising ethics-related content already featured in one of their courses, or (c) developing a new course with a significant ethics-related component. By the end of this three-year process, we aim to have dramatically increased our students’ opportunities to engage in meaningful ethical reflection, reasoning, and application while completing their academic coursework.

We are now accepting applications for AY23-24 Ethics Across the Curriculum Faculty Development Grants. More information can be found here. Applications are due by 3/1/2024. 

  1. Experiential Learning Opportunities – We plan to support various initiatives that provide our students with opportunities to practice developing strategic, financially sound, and ethically thoughtful responses to real-world challenges and opportunities present in various kinds of businesses, organizations, and communities.

Current plans include sponsoring a new Business Ethics Team, providing financial support for Political Science students to participate in the Mid-Atlantic EU Simulation Program, and providing financial support for Health Admin students to participate in various intercollegiate health administration case competitions. 

  1. New Lecture Series and Associated Workshops – We are organizing a new series of on-campus lectures featuring experts who will deliver talks either (a) about ethical challenges and opportunities in a particular profession or industry or (b) about a particular large-scale challenge to the welfare of our global, national, and local communities (e.g., climate change, the rise of artificial intelligence, structural racism etc.). While on campus, in addition to giving their lectures, these speakers will be invited to offer dynamic workshops for smaller groups of interested students and faculty. 

Spring 2024: Karen Smith, LMSW, PhD will visit campus on 2/20 and 2/21. Dr. Smith is the Chief Ethicist for the Henry Ford Health System in Michigan. On 2/20, she will give a campus-wide lecture on ethics in health care, sharing her experiences working alongside physicians, nurses, patients, and family. She will also discuss the education, policy, and consultation roles of her job, explaining how each of these plays an important part in decision-making around issues of death and dying, resource allocation, and the like. On 2/21, she will facilitate a dynamic workshop for our pre-health students on advanced directives. 

  1. Opportunities for Dialogue Across Differences – Lastly, we are sponsoring on-campus initiatives that provide students with opportunities to engage in respectful, thoughtful, factually-informed discussions about current social, political, and ethical issues, particularly with peers who disagree with them. Current plans include providing support to the University’s Political Dialogues program.


[1] Quotation from Arrupe’s address to the "Tenth International Congress of Jesuit Alumni of Europe," in Valencia, Spain, on July 31, 1973.
[2] John W. O’Malley, S.J., The First Jesuits (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1993), 214.
[3] Allan P. Farrell, S.J., The Jesuit Code of Liberal Education: Development and Scope of the Ratio Studiorum (Bruce Publishing Co., 1938), 408. For further discussion of these themes, see the Gregory Kalscheur, S.J., “Core Renewal as Creative Fidelity,” in Mary Thomas Crane, David Quigley, and Andy Boynton (eds.), Curriculum by Design: Innovation and the Liberal Arts Core (Fordham University Press, 2023).
[4] Quotation from Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, S.J., “The Service of Faith and the Promotion of Justice in American Jesuit Higher Education” (Lecture, Santa Clara University, Santa Clara, CA, October 6, 2000)
[5] Ibid.


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