CORVALLIS - Students in the University Honors College at Oregon State University are being exposed to a double dose of leadership training and ethical awareness through a special grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.
Leadership has been a part of the curriculum at the OSU honors college since it began three years ago, officials say. But the ethics component is a relatively new twist reflective of a changing society.
"The teaching of ethics is definitely an untapped area," said Winston A. Cornwall, a Ph.D. student at OSU who is overseeing an ethical leadership module for the honors college. "Both my experience and the literature suggest that employers in private business or public agencies prize values and ethics when looking at graduates."
Cornwall brings a diverse background to his position. He has worked at the managerial level in the private sector and he has been an English teacher. Upon completion of his doctorate, Cornwall says he would like to be a principal in an inner city school working with at-risk youths.
He is helping about 40 honors students at OSU become exposed to ethics through the Kellogg grant, looking at issues ranging from campus alcohol policies, to the labor practices of U.S. companies in non-industrial countries, to the dependence on gambling to fund educational programs.
A set of "pivot points" guides their discussions: Are actions dictated by altruism or self interest? Does the need for individual privacy outweigh the need for corporate or societal good? Are certain actions a step toward equality, or preferential treatment?
The students then apply these points to their own activities within the honors college in six Leadership Learning Communities, where they act as peer advisers for other honors students, address ethical issues while publishing a newsletter, and coordinate forums and other activities.
"What they have found to be a unifying theme behind their ethical exposure is the issue of personal responsibility," Cornwall said. "These are students who are highly motivated and they get frustrated when they encounter students who don't want to get involved."
The broad exposure to ethics will help the students upon graduation when they will face ethical challenges on a near-daily basis, said Joe Hendricks, director of the University Honors College.
"The learning curve doesn't stop at the edge of campus," Hendricks said.