The first guest-authored post in our Clare Boothe Luce Program 30th Anniversary "Room for Wisdom STEM Ethics and Society" blog is by John Lubker, Ed.D., of the University of Notre Dame. Dr. Lubker’s contribution addresses the theme of The Roots of the Ethical STEM Professional – Ethics on Campus. The post highlights his work in ethical leadership training for graduate students and the development of the Leadership Advancing Socially Engaged Research (LASER) program at the University of Notre Dame. We hope that you enjoy learning about just one of the ways that a top university is cultivating ethical STEM students.
How can someone be expected to be an ethical leader without real-world, tangible experiences to learn from? A Navy Seal once said, “Under pressure, you don't rise to the occasion, you sink to the level of your training.” Our goal at Notre Dame is to provide PhD students the opportunity to gain the training, insights, and experiences so that in their careers they can create an ethical research culture wherever they go. Such ethical leaders are needed because research1 shows that the cultivation of ethical workplace cultures is dependent upon leadership. Despite the importance of leadership in fostering ethical cultures, ethics training in STEM typically conveys content through passive learning methods rather than attempting to create ethical leaders through experiential learning and feedback. Thus, many researchers who take on leadership positions during their careers master their disciplinary content as graduate students but not the requisite skills in leadership and ethics. Therefore, more focused, and active, leadership training is needed at the graduate student level. In this blog, I’m going to introduce to you our flagship ethical leadership training program for graduate students at Notre Dame—Leadership Advancing Socially Engaged Research (LASER).
LASER grew out of NSF grants we were awarded in 2014 & 2015 to create two cohort-based programs: Social Responsibilities of Researchers (SRR) and Ethical Leaders in STEM (EL-STEM). Both programs have emphasized “ethics” but they have done so in very different ways. SRR was designed with an explicit and fairly standard philosophical ethics pedagogy approach, with emphasis on the ethical stakes of research for stakeholders. EL-STEM took a more implicit approach, embedding ethics in the course of leadership training and decision making focused on self-understanding and application. While different in approach, the shared goal of both programs has been application of knowledge in students’ particular context to make an impact.
Taking the best of both programs, we developed LASER as a one-year, co-curricular, cohort-based program focused on both leadership and social engagement for PhD students in all disciplines. Students learn about leadership in context of their real-life work. LASER provides a wide range of experiences with approximately 80 hours of face-to-face learning. Students get practice in thinking about the ethical dimensions of their future roles and receive training in communication skills, values clarification, emotional intelligence, crucial conversations, philosophical ethics, case studies, science communication, policy, public speaking, and more. Students also engage in a project of their choosing (content, scope, audience) where they apply what they are learning in a real time, real world context. Project examples include female/diversity empowerment in STEM, science policy initiatives, and distilling academic topics for public enrichment.
Our assessment of these programs shows that they are having a positive impact as measured with respect to moral judgement, self-efficacy, integrity and character. Other benefits include increased ethical discernment, contact with a diverse community of peers in the program, witness guest speakers modeling values-based leadership, and an increased level of confidence in their ethical leadership.
The University of Notre Dame’s LASER Program is just one example of the ways higher education institutions are developing ethical leaders in STEM. For more information about the LASER Program, check out the website.
1. For more information on ethical workplace research see, for example, Meyers, C. (2004). Institutional culture and individual behavior: Creating an ethical environment. Science and Engineering Ethics, 10(2), 269-276.
This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under grant no. 1338652 (SRR) and grant no. 1449469 (EL-STEM). Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.
John Lubker, Ed. D. is the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs at the University of Notre Dame. He joined the Graduate School in 2011. His roles include graduate student leadership development, oversight of ethics training for graduate students, and the administration of Graduate School policies, procedures, and appeals. He is concurrently appointed in the Department of Psychology. He received his bachelor’s degree in psychology and history from Notre Dame in 2000. In 2003, he earned his master’s and educational specialist degrees in community counseling from James Madison University, and his EdD in Sport and Exercise Psychology from West Virginia University in 2006. Dr. Lubker’s research focuses on both professional issues in sport psychology and leadership development. His academic record includes authorship or co-authorship of 13 articles and 3 book chapters and 34 national and international presentations relating to his research interests.