History of the Center

On March 25, 1995, the Board of Governors of the University of North Carolina system for higher education approved plans to establish the Center for Professional and Applied Ethics at Charlotte. As conceived, the Center had five aims: 1) to serve as a focus point where university students could examine the ethical issues embedded in the professions for which they were being trained; 2) to help develop ethics-related curricular initiatives, particularly interdisciplinary ones among the professional schools; 3) to increase ethics-related research collaborations and conference/seminar/workshop interactions among the faculty; 4) to involve regional and national members of the professions in the Center’s activities, both for their own growth as morally-aware persons and the sharing of their moral concerns, dilemmas, and experiences with students and faculty; and 5) to offer services to local and regional professionals who express a need for ethics consultations or education.

To a large extent, the initial activities of the Center arose from and were sustained by faculty members in the Department of Philosophy. Applied ethics had been an integral part of the Department of Philosophy’s programming for over a decade and provided the framework within which the members of the department were able to pursue their long-standing commitments to an active involvement with professional communities in the region. Each member of the department was involved in an area of applied-ethics teaching or research, and most had regular, even extensive, interaction with professional groups and organizations in health care, business, education, public policy, information technology, engineering, architecture, and the ministry. In the fall of 1998, the Surtman Distinguished Professor in Business Ethics joined the Management Department in the Belk College of Business Administration and became a Center Faculty Associate. In the fall of 1999, the Mecklenburg County Medical Society Distinguished Professor in Health Care Ethics joined the Department of Philosophy in the College of Arts and Sciences and became a Center Faculty Associate.

Under the leadership of its first Director, Dr. John Lincourt, Bonnie E. Cone Distinguished Professor of Teaching at UNC Charlotte, the Center chose to emphasize its ethics-related services to local and regional professionals, particularly health care professionals and business persons. Specifically, the Center provided professionals with ethics audits, seminars, in-service ethics education, individual case consultations, and speakers.

One of the major accomplishments of Dr. Lincourt, assisted by Dr. Richard Toenjes, also of the Philosophy Department, was the inauguration of the Barnhardt Seminar on Ethics and The World of Business. Begun in 1989, the Barnhardt Seminar is regarded as a model for many of the Center’s other outreach activities. The seminar revolves around a real world business ethics dilemma presented by a corporate leader who speaks from his or her own experience. The invited-only audience is comprised of 50 emerging leaders from large and small businesses who are sent to represent their companies as well as their own perspectives. Center Faculty Associates help facilitate conversation about the case as sub-groups of 6-7 persons attempt to resolve the speaker’s business ethics dilemma.

On July 1, 2002, Dr. Rosemarie Tong, Mecklenburg County Medical Society Distinguished Professor in Health Care Ethics, became Director of the Center. Currently, Center Faculty Associates come from a wide variety of disciplines, including Philosophy, Biology, Physics, Management, Psychology, Nursing, Health Behavior and Administration, Sociology and Anthropology, Political Science, Marketing, Engineering, etc. The Center is also assisted by an Advisory Board that is composed of prominent lawyers, judges, business people, health care professionals, members of the clergy, and educators in the state of North Carolina. Although the Center continues its long-standing commitments to regional professional communities, particularly the business and health care communities, it is increasingly involved in ethics-related research collaborations across the UNC Charlotte campus and ethics-related curricular initiatives that serve UNC Charlotte’s professional schools in particular.

On July 1, 2013, with Dr. Tong’s retirement, Dr. Gordon Hull, Associate Professor of Philosophy, took the helm as the Center’s new director. Dr. Hull’s priorities include integrating the Center in regional academic collaborations, sustaining high quality academic programming to serve both the university and the community, and engaging topic areas of central importance to the University.