Starting in September, Fordham will offer a master of arts degree in ethics and society through its Center for Ethics Education (CEE).

The 30-credit interdisciplinary curriculum has, as its signature, two core courses that offer team-taught cross-disciplinary perspectives. The courses are taught by professors from the social or natural sciences, paired with professors from the humanities, and focus on contemporary ethical issues of common interest.

The core courses for the master’s will be offered by CEE. In addition to the cross-disciplinary courses, students must complete coursework in the areas of philosophy, theology and natural or social sciences (psychology, sociology, political science and economics). Students can take electives in these disciplines, as well as in approved courses in law and business.

The degree is also available to undergraduates as a five-year program.

“A degree in ethics can be applied to almost any discipline where questionable issues arise and responsible solutions are needed,” said Celia Fisher, Ph.D., director of CEE and Marie Ward Doty Professor of Psychology. “That includes careers in health care, business, medicine, law, education, government, non-profit agencies and policymaking.

“Being educated in a single discipline or even one singular way of looking at an ethical problem is not enough,” she continued. “Each year, the public is made aware of new issues in social responsibility—whether it be with respect to embryos and research, religion and politics, or banks and lending.”

For example, the upcoming core course “Theories and Applications in Contemporary Ethics,” offered each May, features a segment pairing philosophy and computer science. The joint curriculum is taught by Damian Lyons, Ph.D., associate professor of computer and information systems, and Michael Baur, Ph.D., associate professor of philosophy. Together, they will explore ethical issues ranging from automated surveillance to robotic machines.

“Privacy is an issue already raised by automated surveillance technology,” Lyons said. “There will be many other issues raised, and as a society we need to be prepared to develop human and ethical solutions to these issues in a timely manner.”

Last year’s course, “What is Enough? Can Ethics and Economics Reunite?” paired Christine Firer Hinze, Ph.D., professor of theology, with Mary Beth Combs, Ph.D., associate professor of economics, in a segment about distributive justice.

Interest, so far, said Fisher, has come from a broad base of students, including professionals as well as current graduate students. They hail from the health care, social work, business and legal professions, and also from the humanities and social sciences.


Janet Sassi is editor/associate director of internal communications. She can be reached at (212) 636-7577 or [email protected]