Mission and Values

Questions of meaning, value, and purpose are ubiquitous.  They arise for all of us, both as individuals and as members of our many communities.  The Institute for Practical Ethics and Public Life exists to cultivate thoughtful reflection on how we might live good lives, meet our obligations to one another, and contribute to the flourishing of a shared world.

We thus support the integration of ethics across the University of Virginia by facilitating interdisciplinary faculty collaboration in teaching and research, and by training students to develop an ethical lens for all their academic and professional work.

We also seek to encourage attention to ethics in public life by sharing the results of our work beyond the university, both in the professions and with the larger public as a whole.


The Institute for Practical Ethics and Public Life was formally established in November of 2000 with generous support from the Donchian Foundation. Its Founding Director, James F. Childress and long-time Co-Director Ruth Gaare Bernheim, developed its first two decades of programming in partnership with the Ethics Working Group, an interdisciplinary network of faculty committed to ethics. Soon after its founding, the Donchian Foundation was joined by other long-term supporters, including the John Allen and Patricia Hollingsworth family, the Casscells family, Michael Ross, and other dedicated alumni.

With this support, the IPE established several signature programs which continue to the present.  Among them are the John T. Casteen III and Richard D. Donchian Fellowships, which enable faculty from different schools and departments to develop courses devoted to ethics or the integration of ethical analysis and reasoning into other subjects. Scores of students continueto benefit from the IPE Summer Ethics Internships, supporting students in both private and governmental contexts, focused on research, service, and learning.

Since assuming leadership of the IPE in July 2022, Co-Directors Rebecca Stangl and Willis Jenkins have built on this solid foundation to expand the programs and offerings of the IPE. Among other initiatives, all University faculty are invited to join our regular Ethics Salon, at which faculty research is shared and collaborations seeded, and to apply for research grants supporting work in emerging areas of ethical inquiry.