Instructor teaching a class.The Western Michigan University Center for the Study of Ethics in Society encourages and supports research, teaching and service to the University and community in areas of applied and professional ethics. These areas include, but are not restricted to:

  • Biomedicine
  • Business
  • Education
  • Engineering
  • Government
  • Health and human services
  • Law
  • Media
  • Science
  • Technology


In August 1985, nearly 20 Western Michigan University faculty from across the curriculum met to discuss their common interests in studying and teaching ethics. After three days of sharing ideas, the faculty agreed to form the Center for the Study of Ethics in Society with Michael Pritchard, professor of philosophy, as its founding director.

Originally sponsored by the WMU's Graduate College, the center is now housed in the College of Arts and Sciences. The center's director is Sandra L. Borden, professor of communication. Shirley Bach, professor emerita of philosophy, is associate director, and Jill Larson, associate professor of English, is publications editor. The advisory committee has members from across the curriculum: business, chemistry, communication, education, engineering, English, philosophy, physics, race and ethnic relations, nursing, social work, and sociology, and law.


Over the years, the center has worked closely with the medical community sponsoring programs in biomedical ethics. It has also sponsored study groups on topics of general interest and book clubs. Other focus areas include research ethics, communication ethics and engineering ethics.

The center edited and produced Teaching Ethics, the official journal for the Society for Ethics Across the Curriculum, from 2008 to 2014. Michael Pritchard, WMU, and Elaine Englehardt, Utah Valley University, were co-editors. Sandra L. Borden, WMU, was the associate editor. David Charlton, WMU, was the copy editor.

Each academic year, the center sponsors 15 to 20 public presentations addressing a wide range of ethical issues. It also publishes a few of these presentations in its in-house publication series annually.

Although the center has no academic courses of its own, it serves as a resource for faculty and students. From time to time, the center offers workshops and conferences. The center also sponsors Western Michigan University's undergraduate Ethics Bowl team.