Center for Ethics encourages ethical literacy and philanthropy across campus

Center for Ethics encourages ethical literacy and philanthropy across campus

Professor Joyce Havstad donates 1 percent of her income to a local charity each semester based on philosophical arguments her students make, and vote on, for which organization is most deserving. The Center for Ethics matches her contribution.

Oakland University’s Department of Philosophy has launched the Center for Ethics in an effort to encourage students of all majors to learn about and implement ethical practices. The Center for Ethics also hopes to provide financial assistance to philosophy majors wishing to conduct individual research, and enhance a culture of philanthropy throughout the campus community.


“We want to facilitate discussion in ethics across the curriculum,” said Mark Rigstad, Ph.D., associate professor of philosophy and chair of the Philosophy Department. Ethics is not only relevant to the field of philosophy, Dr. Rigstad explains, but it also has significant bearing on engineering, human resources, environmental science and beyond. The Center for Ethics plans to work with departmental leaders to bring to campus a series of speakers — both industry experts and OU alumni — to discuss real-world ethical challenges faced in a wide array of workplaces and industries.


Nicole Diroff in an OU hoodie

Nicole Diroff, a sophomore double majoring in philosophy and cinema studies, is the first Ethics Bowl scholarship recipient. She will join the team this fall.

"I am so appreciative of anything that makes paying for school easier for me," says Diroff, "and it's so cool that it's going towards a class that will improve my public speaking skills and give me a better understanding of ethical concepts."

The Center for Ethics is uniquely positioned to support charitable organizations and students’ ethical development at the same time. Students in Professor Joyce Havstad’s "Introduction to Ethics in Science and Engineering" class learn this first-hand. They are given a project that involves thoroughly researching a local charity, and then constructing a philosophical argument designed to persuade fellow students that their charity is truly worth donating to. The class then votes on the best one, and Dr. Havstad donates 1 percent of her income to that organization. The Center for Ethics will be matching her contribution, and hopes to build up enough funds to encourage other faculty members to assign similar projects.


“The project is something that I developed in order to try and show students that philosophical arguments can have an impact outside the classroom,” said Dr. Havstad.

The project not only encourages students to closely scrutinize charities, but it also allows them to more clearly see the ethical value in giving, which has been linked to higher levels of charity later in life.


The Center for Ethics, in alliance with the Ethics Bowl team on campus, also provides scholarships and financial assistance to philosophy majors competing in Ethics Bowl competitions. In the future, the Center for Ethics hopes to help coach Ethics Bowl teams at local high schools, and offer Oakland University scholarships to particularly impressive high school students.


To learn more about the Center for Ethics, contact Mark Rigstad at