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The Building of the Moral Psychology Minor '20 -'21

A Partnership with Engaged Cornell Crossing Colleges and Discipline



How can we achieve ethical and sustainable solutions to social problems when people disagree about right and wrong? The field of moral psychology takes on challenging questions like these, crossing disciplines to illuminate social, cultural, and institutional influences on moral behavior.


At Cornell University, the moral psychology interdisciplinary working group – John Doris (Philosophy, A&S; Management and Organizations, Dyson School; Undergraduate Studies Committee member); Rachana Kamtekar and Shaun Nichols (Philosophy, A&S); and Laura Niemi (P.I. Applied Moral Psychology Lab; Psychology, A&S; Management and Organizations, Dyson School), and Julie Simmons-Lynch (Program Manager) – have been working to advance moral psychology at Cornell in the classroom and in the community, through the development of the Moral Psychology Minor, the first of its kind in university education.


In the classroom, in addition to core courses, a spectrum of interdisciplinary courses will be offered to students in both STEM and the humanities, including sociology, government, developmental sociology, communications, agriculture, horticulture, PAM, natural resources, politics, philosophy, English, anthropology, Africana studies, American studies, psychology, human development, cognitive science, information science, engineering, science & tech, bio & society, nutrition science, AEM, ILR, organizational behavior, planning, human resources, economics, and law. Check out a preliminary list here: Tentative Course List.


Two new courses are being created for the minor:

(1) “Conversations in Moral Psychology,” will feature dialogues among students and rotating moral psychology researchers. There is nothing like getting the chance to learn from scientistic and philosophers themselves what the everyday process of scholarly work is like.

(2) “Moral Psychology in Action,” is the required experiential learning course where students get out in our community! Here is the draft syllabus. This course will offer a diverse range of opportunities to establish a working partnership with an Ithaca-based organization. Students will be able to apply learning and research about ethics and moral psychology through on site work, and reflect and share in in-class meetings. Some options for community partners include EcoVillage, Tompkins Community Action, the Greater Ithaca Activities Center, Friends of Stewart Park, the Cornell Prison Education Program, Words into Deeds, and research labs at Cornell.


The moral psychology minor will help students prepare for future contributions to socially responsible science, and connect students with the world that the research they learn about is meant to affect. The moral psychology research group is grateful to have been invited to partner with Engaged Cornell as Faculty Fellows in 2020 - 2021, which allowed us to streamline the plan for the minor, and better integrate the outreach component with the interdisciplinary teaching. The learning outcomes we hope to bring about include intercultural competence, integrative learning, and ethical practice. Such outcomes are not formed out of our students and community partners like they were clay. We’ve started something different, and bigger, that invites students to get engaged with us, their community, and their own driving questions about the right thing to do.




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