New faculty mark expansion of Penn State leadership in ethics research

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — This fall semester, Penn State welcomes the first group of faculty recruited to expand the University’s national leadership in ethics research and ethical literacy. The faculty members are part of the University’s transformative initiative to position itself at the intersection of its research strengths and the world’s major ethical conversations.

The hires are the first four in a series of 12 tenure-track appointments across an array of academic disciplines over three years, co-funded by the University and the hiring colleges and departments. Eight additional co-funded hires will be made over the next two years, with final appointments made in the 2017-18 academic year.

“Penn State has a significant record of accomplishment in ethics education and research. These new faculty scholars, and the next group of faculty hires, will advance our strong national presence in this arena,” said Nicholas P. Jones, executive vice president and provost. “Our goal is to contribute to the next generation of thought leaders and to ensure that our graduates continue to bring high levels of ethical literacy to the workplace.”

The new faculty and their areas of expertise are:

Food ethics: Robert Chiles, assistant professor of rural sociology, explores how the social acceptability of meat has been disrupted and renegotiated in light of growing controversies over health, food safety, sustainability and ethics.

Sports ethics: Francisco Javier López Frías, assistant professor in the Penn State Department of Kinesiology, studies sports ethics and human enhancement, as well as political philosophy, normative ethics and applied ethics.

Communications ethics: Yael Warshel, assistant professor of communications, specializes in peace communication, or the assessment of the role of mass and interpersonal communication in managing political conflicts, especially ethno-political conflicts in the Middle East and Africa. 

Public health ethics: Laura Williamson, associate professor of biobehavioral health, focuses her teaching and research on public health and the ethical challenges associated with involving citizens more fully in health policy and practice.

Continuing the University’s commitment to interdisciplinary ethics research and teaching, these new faculty members will integrate ethics into research projects in the sciences, engineering, humanities and social sciences. Additionally, they will work to integrate ethical analyses into policy-relevant research and to enhance collaborations with colleges to advance the integration of ethics into the curriculum at all levels, including graduate and postdoctoral mentoring in research ethics. The new faculty will have partial appointments in the Rock Ethics Institute, based in the College of the Liberal Arts at Penn State. 

Nancy Tuana, who holds the Nancy Tuana Directorship of the Rock Ethics Institute, noted, “Penn State is without equal in its commitment to integrating ethics across the curriculum. The expertise of these new faculty members will help us ensure that Penn State students have the skills needed to address the ethical challenges they will face in their professions, in their personal life, and as responsible citizens.”

The hiring committee, including members of the Rock Ethics Institute, will seek candidates who can bring an ethical dimension to Penn State’s areas of research strength and to disciplines where global ethical conversations intersect with academic research, such as climate science, issues of global and local well-being (such as water security, poverty, health, economic development, and energy), cyber ethics, business ethics, and professional ethics. More information on the current searches can be found on the Rock Ethics Institute website.

The Rock Ethics Institute was established through a $5 million gift in 2001 from Doug and Julie Rock to the College of the Liberal Arts. The institute’s mission is to promote ethical awareness and inquiry across the University, and in the public and professional sectors, through a three-fold emphasis on teaching, research and outreach. Recently, the Rocks endowed the Nancy Tuana Directorship of the Rock Ethics Institute with an additional $5 million gift, which was part of a larger commitment they made to the college during "For the Future: The Campaign for Penn State Students."

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Last Updated May 19, 2016