The new Atkins Endowed Center for Ethics had a banner year.

When first-years come to Carlow University each fall, they begin to become closely acquainted with Mercy values. They develop a compassion for their classmates and begin to take a vested interest in Pittsburgh. Their acts of volunteerism and service on Mercy Service Day are evidence of an attitude of caring. And Carlow’s faculty and staff are fine examples of Mercy values put into action just about every day of the week.

A major milestone for acts of Mercy, Carlow recently launched the Atkins Endowed Center for Ethics. It was established through the generous $1.5 million gift of Michele Rehfeld Atkins ‘82 and her husband, Patrick Atkins, PhD.

The Center will be a go-to resource in the study and application of ethics for the university and the region. With years of experience teaching ethics, the Center’s first director is Bill Schweers, JD, a professor of political science. Several years ago he began offering an ethics course in the College of Health and Wellness that became such a huge hit that, at one point, he was the only non-nursing faculty invited to the nursing students’ annual pinning ceremony.

But Schweers is not alone and is among several professors incorporating ethics into courses, including James Carmine, PhD, a philosophy professor, and Mary Anne Basilone, MS, MA, CPA, CFE, a professor in management, accounting, and forensic accounting.

The Center will offer instructors guidance on how to address ethical decision-making in everyday life and how to involve ethics in discussions across disciplines at Carlow.

One of the first programs targeted area youth. The Center hosted the Center hosted an essay contest open to high school juniors and seniors. Entrants addressed the topic “Bleak New World – Ethics and the Dystopian Novel” to explore and question the moral values inherent in dystopian fiction.

The winners of the 2017 Atkins Endowed Center for Ethics’ High School Essay Contest were Megan McClymonds, Butler Area High School, awarded first place and $600; Jillian Kurta, Belle Vernon Area High School, awarded second place and $300; and Melody Whittaker, Norwin High School, awarded third place and $100.

The Center also hosted a panel discussion titled “The Ethics and Security of Driverless Cars” in Kresge Center in the fall. 

“Robotics is coming and is unstoppable. We’re in the early stages of a revolution with significant social, economic, and ethical implications,” Schweers said.

The panelists included Dr. Carmine and Chris Valasek, a computer security analyst and driverless car researcher, for the talk that was live-streamed on the Pittsburgh Cable Network (PCNTV).

In January, the Center collaborated with the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE) and Schneider Downs to present “Professional Responsibility: Doing the Right Thing Isn’t Always the Easy Thing,” featuring certified fraud examiner, best-selling author, and 2015 alumna Bernadette L. Harris, MS, MBA, CFE. The event offered continuing professional education credit for accounting. Harris also served as Carlow’s 2018 Executive-in-Residence.

New technologies, from robotics to cyber crime, were salient topics during the Center’s inaugural year. The events attracted a broad general audience, but importantly the Center is helping to prepare Carlow students. A Carlow education—that crosses the disciplines of ethics, history, science, and politics—prepares students to become ethical leaders and decision-makers in this ever-changing world. 


By Ann Lyon Ritchie