Professional Values Seminars

The Donchian Seminars in Professional Values Program

The Donchian Seminars in Professional Values encourage professional and graduate students both to recognize ethical conflicts that arise in professional and public life and to engage in critical reflection about their ethical responsibilities. By bringing together students from two or more schools and disciplines, the seminars challenge students to think from inside and outside of their professional identities and provide a rich opportunity to explore ethical responsibilities that cut across the professions in contemporary American life. Through seminar discussion, students gain an enriched understanding of ethics, not simply as a body of rules, but as part of the fabric of professional and public life.

Seminar Description

Each seminar is cross-listed in different schools and limited to about 16 students. Very important for the success of these seminars is the role of the faculty members. Each seminar is directed by two faculty members, usually from different schools, and is held in the homes of faculty members, thereby promoting closer relationships between faculty and students. The seminars meet five to six times for two to three hours, and students typically receive one hour of credit.

The materials for these seminars are books and articles, both classic and contemporary, selected because they raise issues of ethics, broadly defined. Examples of books that are appropriate for these new interdisciplinary seminars include A Man for All Seasons by Robert Bolt, Lord of the Flies by William Golding, The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare, The Reader by Bernhard Schlink, Justice Lewis F. Powell, Jr. by John Jeffries, The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down by Anne Fadiman, Wit: A Play by Margaret Edson, Elephant Man by Bernard Pomerance, Our Town by Thornton Wilder, Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf, The Cure at Troy: A Version of Sophocles' Philoctetes by Seamus Heaney, Middlemarch by George Eliot, Howard's End by E.M. Forster, and Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. Some seminars feature or include films.

Examples of Recent Seminars

  • Medical School and Law. Faculty: Lois Shepherd (Professor of Law; Wallenborn Professor of Biomedical Ethics; Professor of Public Health Sciences) and Dr. Bradford Worral (Professor of Neurology).
  • Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, Nursing School, and Medical School. Faculty: Dr. Margaret Mohrmann (Associate Professor of Religious Studies; Professor of Pediatrics) and Elizabeth Epstein (Associate Professor of Nursing).
  • Arts and Sciences and Medical School. Faculty: Larry Bouchard (Professor of Religious Studies) and Dr. Julie Connelly (Professor of Medical Emeritus).
  • Graduate School of Arts and Sciences and Law School. Faculty: David T. Gies (Commonwealth Professor of Spanish) and Daniel R. Ortiz (Professor, Law).
  • Medical Humanities, Medical School and Law School. Faculty: Marcia Childress (Director, Humanities in Medicine Program, Medical School) and Julia Mahoney, (Professor, Law). This seminar has also included graduate students from architectural urban planning and arts and sciences.
  • Graduate School of Arts and Sciences and Law School. Faculty: Stephen Cushman (Robert C. Taylor Professor of English) and George Rutherglen (O. M. Vicars Professor of Law).
  • Darden Graduate School of Business Administration and Law. Faculty: R. Edward Freeman (Olsson Professor of Business Administration and Director of the Olsson Center for Applied Ethics at Darden) and George Cohen (Professor, Law and Director of John M. Olin Program at the Law School).
  • Medical School and Law School. Faculty: Dr. R. Ariel Gomez, (Vice-President for Research and Public Service and Professor of Pediatrics), Ruth Gaare Bernheim (Executive Director, Institute for Practical Ethics and Public Life), and Walter Wadlington (James Madison Professor of Law Emeritus).
  • Medical School, Darden Graduate School of Business, and Law School. This seminar included students from the three professional schools. Faculty: Dr. R. Ariel Gomez, (Professor of Pediatrics), Ruth Gaare Bernheim (Chair, Institute for Practical Ethics and Public Life), and Andrew C. Wicks (Ruffin Professor of Business).