Reimagining Culture: Integrity in Higher Education
This piece was co-authored with Erin Mosley of Emory University’s Ethics Center.
The importance of integrity in higher education extends beyond the traditional boundaries of academic integrity. Taking a holistic approach, fostering integrity becomes a comprehensive aim, one that requires collaboration across campus. Integrity can serve as a motivating value for students and educators across their academic, personal, professional, and civic roles as members of a campus community. Embracing this comprehensive approach to integrity, Emory University launched the Emory Integrity Project (EIP), a joint initiative of the Emory Center for Ethics and Emory Campus Life, in 2016.
The EIP is a grant-funded initiative dedicated to deepening and strengthening the culture of integrity at Emory University. Focused on undergraduates, the project has engaged students through a comprehensive program of co-curricular activities and intellectual engagements designed to challenge perspectives, encourage ethical reflection, and promote moral courage. Before the implementation of the project began, the faculty and student affairs professionals involved in the planning process realized the value in making integrity, a concept that we learned is understood in a wide array of ways among students, faculty, and student affairs professionals, more tangible for our community. The project defined integrity for the Emory context as “consistently and reliably acting with honor, humility, and helpfulness.” The three virtues – honor, defined as ethically reliable thinking and behavior, in which challenging situations may require moral courage; humility, other-regarding behaviors and attitudes, including respect for and consideration of differing viewpoints, along with an awareness of one’s own limitations and imperfections; and helpfulness, an interest in and willingness to assist other in fostering their legitimate goals, interests, and aims – undergird the EIP’s approach to designing integrity programming.
Building on these three principles, the EIP implemented a set of initiatives intended to build on Emory’s strengths and foster sustainable progress in our commitment to integrity as a community and as individuals. After taking an expansive approach and trying a variety of options early on, we found that the most sustainable and impactful initiatives included a combination of efforts with broad reach and more targeted programs to support integrity among student leaders. These efforts included:
- Incorporating integrity modules into student orientation and student leader trainings (e.g., resident advisors, orientation leaders, and student athletes);
- Launching a new common read program for first-year students and accompanying programming throughout the academic year that highlight themes of ethics and integrity from the selected book;
- Incorporating integrity into a required first-year health course;
- Collaborating with existing popular programs and offices across campus to incorporate themes of integrity into their programming;
- Launching a new ethical leadership mentorship program, which provides a small group of student leaders with opportunities to explore the practical implications of integrity for leadership with a faculty or staff mentor.
Over the course of the project, the EIP has worked with an external assessment team, comprising faculty from the University of Georgia and University of Iowa. Based on the insights we have garnered so far, we have identified the following key recommendations for other colleges or universities seeking to expand the scope of their integrity programs:
- Identify programming opportunities that build on campus strengths;
- Prioritize partnerships and bring new people to the table;
- Establish an assessment strategy that provides formative insights from the start;
- And last but not least, maintain flexibility.
Undertaking this kind of initiative is complex and inevitably involves challenges along the way. As the EIP approaches its formal end date in May 2019, we are working to ensure the programs described above will be sustained in permanent homes across the university. We are also compiling the insights we have gained through the implementation and assessment processes into a handbook that will be a resource for others interested in expanding or rethinking what they are doing to foster a culture of integrity at their institution. The handbook will be available later this Spring on the EIP website: integrity.emory.edu.
The Emory Integrity Project will conclude with an ICAI Southeast Regional Event – a two-day symposium titled Reimagining Culture: Integrity in Higher Education. To register, please visit http://integrity.emory.edu/get-involved/conference.html
The Emory Integrity Project is funded by the John Templeton Foundation and is a joint effort between the Emory Center for Ethics and Emory Campus Life. The opinions expressed in this post are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the John Templeton Foundation