Expanded gift will endow a professorship in applied ethics and the common good, and courses and research on morality, ethical behavior and social institutions.

By John Courtmanche

A year and a half after Hampshire College launched its Ethics and the Common Good program with a private gift of $2.09 million, the donor has pledged $2.5 million more to endow a professorship, raising the total to $4.59 million.

Hampshire received the transformative donation from SHIFT, a private family foundation dedicated to advancing the culture of the common good.

“This gift from SHIFT endows a professorship that will provide students with courses, mentoring, and opportunities for research to explore questions of ethics, engagement and the common good, a wonderful gift to Hampshire,” said College President Jonathan Lash.

The SHIFT Professor in Applied Ethics and the Common Good will be a full-time member of the faculty whose academic expertise is in applied or practical ethics and the analysis of real-world moral issues. Students will benefit from working with a professor who can lead and collaborate with them to look more broadly at practical questions of ethics and ethical behavior.

Dean of Faculty and VP of Academic Affairs Eva Rueschmann said a search will take place to fill the position. Once hired, the professor will develop and teach courses in applied ethics, and support student projects related to ethical actions in the world. Examples of activities and benefits:

  • New courses, open to Five College students, and new opportunities for students to concentrate their studies in applied ethics
  • New professor-level capacity to inform students and faculty to bring ethics into all disciplines and schools at Hampshire
  • Interdisciplinary research projects led by students and faculty that examine innovative models of social, ethics-based institutions.

The professor will be closely affiliated with and support the mission of the Ethics and the Common Good program at Hampshire, launched in February, 2015 with the initial grant from SHIFT. The goal of Ethics and the Common Good is to graduate students who can apply critical-thinking skills to problems and values; who have worked to identify and understand the core ethical beliefs that will guide their actions and decisions; and who have a highly effective set of leadership skills.

The first SHIFT grant launched the program by funding

  • The hiring of a director and an alumni intern to staff the program
  • Grants to support student internships that embody the common good
  • Speaker series and symposia
  • Support for faculty and student projects and research
  • Development of a Web portal for resources and alternative models
  • Training and deploying a team of student peer mentors in transformative speaking to work with other students and bring skills of productive discourse and dialogue to classes.

Javiera Benavente, a former director of the cultural center at the College, has led Ethics and the Common Good since May 2015.

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