NAU Faculty Awarded NSF Grant in Ethics Education

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Dr. Jeffrey Downard

Northern Arizona University (NAU) Associate Professor of Philosophy Jeffrey Downard is the principal investigator of a multidisciplinary project that has been funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF).  The purpose of the three-year project is to develop and test a model for graduate education that incorporates ethics into the curriculum for Master’s degree students in NAU’s Climate Science and Solutions and Environmental Sciences programs.

The NAU team from the College of Arts and Letters and the College of Engineering, Forestry, and Natural Sciences are partnering with e-Learning and the Office of Academic Assessment to develop and test course modules, screencasts, and videos that will help students draw on moral principles and ideals when deliberating about environmental issues and communicating with the public. At the completion of the curriculum, students will be expected to:

  • distinguish among scientific, ethical, and public-policy components of climate controversies;
  • articulate and reflect on competing moral principles and their own perspectives; and
  • develop entry points of discourse based on shared values.

“Graduate students in environmental sciences should work through the same kinds of questions and problems that practicing scientists face,” says Downard. “This leads to skills and the confidence needed to navigate the intersection of ethics, public policy, and environmental science.”

Other lead members of the NAU team include Deborah Huntzinger, Assistant Professor of Climate Sciences; Erik Nielsen, Assistant Professor, School of Earth Sciences and Environmental Sustainability; and Andrea Houchard, Director, Philosophy in the Public Interest, who also teaches in NAU’s philosophy department.

The NAU team is collaborating with teams from the University Of Montana and University of Colorado-Boulder; the latter team has been awarded a related NSF grant to create a series of documentary videos about environmental issues around the Colorado Plateau that will be used in public discussions and shown at the Museum of Northern Arizona.