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ASU offers graduate degree programs in applied ethics

April 15, 2009

Arizona State University will offer two new innovative master’s degree programs in ethics that will prepare students with the knowledge of contemporary moral philosophy and social ethics and how to apply these tools to the pressing issues of today.

The programs – Applied Ethics and the Professions, and Applied Ethics and the Professions Executive concentration – will equip leaders in government and corporate organizations with broad ethical training to make sound decisions in fields like law, medicine, technology, and engineering.

The master’s degree programs are a collaboration of ASU’s Lincoln Center for Applied Ethics in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Graduate College, and New College for Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences. Many of the courses will be taught by the Lincoln Center’s Lincoln professors.

Applying ethics to professional life

The master’s degree in Applied Ethics and the Professions will be available this fall for 30 students. It will encompass four concentrations: leadership, management and ethics; biomedical ethics; sustainability and environmental ethics; and ethics and emerging technologies. Concentrations in the degree are available on all four ASU campuses.

A concentration in pastoral care ethics and spirituality is pending final approval.

“The master’s degree program will provide students with the theoretical and historical basis to pursue specialized applied ethics expertise,” says Peter French, director of the Lincoln Center for Applied Ethics.

“ASU is taking the lead in offering this degree in the various professional concentrations,” says French. “The intent is to provide those who will be making the most crucial decisions in the areas of managing technologies, such as emerging technologies that have the potential to totally redesign our lives as robotics, with the tools they are most likely to need to make ethically supportable and sustainable decisions.

“We cannot overstate the enormous impact on the future of our society, the global community, and the planet, that the management of these fields will have for good or ill. The need for ethically trained managers in these fields is essential to the effort to minimize missteps that could have catastrophic consequences,” French says.

The program will include an applied project where students learn in a hands-on environment to apply their skills with identifying, analyzing and resolving ethical issues within a professional context. This project will be a summative experience where students will use their knowledge of ethics and reasoning and put it in a real life context.

Ethics and emerging GRINN technologies

The emerging GRINN technologies – genomics, robotics, information technologies, neurosciences and nanotechnologies – have been looked to create products that can solve many of the world’s problems, including preventing life-changing diseases. These technologies are developing at a rapid rate and have spurred looming questions about how to evaluate ethical issues and manage potential risks.

The online master’s degree in Applied Ethics and the Professions, executive concentration, will focus on the management of such emerging technologies. The courses in this master’s degree concentration will be created and offered only by Lincoln professors.

“Professionals who enter this degree program will be able to indentify, analyze and resolve ethical issues that arise from the rapid development of the GRINN technologies,” says French.

The executive concentration is designed for working professionals, scientists, and high-level decisionmakers in companies and organizations who will be managing the development and commercialization of GRINN technologies. Due to the nature of their professions, the degree will be delivered entirely online and available to students worldwide, French says. The program will offer high-caliber educational materials and experiences while exposing students to real-world assignments and opportunities to speak to scholars and technology management experts virtually.

“There has been a strong market demand for a degree in ethics and emerging technologies. For a number of summers, Lincoln professors have held three-day sessions at the Chautauqua Institute in New York on ethics and the emerging technologies,” says French. “More than 1,000 people attended each of the three sessions last summer, demonstrating the enormous interest in the management issues related to the GRINN technologies and their potential impact on all of us and a high demand for such a degree.”

Scholarship opportunities

The programs will provide scholarships for students from developing countries as well as students who show a need and hold managerial positions in non-governmental organizations and non-profit organizations.

Applications are now being accepted and are reviewed year round. More information at