The Rock Ethics Institute

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This is The Rock

About Us

The Rock Ethics Institute promotes engaged ethics research and ethical leadership from its home in Penn State's College of the Liberal Arts.
by admin Sep 05, 2019

Our Mission

Our mission is threefold:

  • Motivate high-impact ethics research by supporting interdisciplinary collaborations at Penn State and beyond that seek solutions to pressing ethical and social problems
  • Promote ethical literacy and leadership at Penn State with trainings and events that integrate ethical reflection into teaching, research, and outreach
  • Engage community partners and the public in collaborative ways that translate research into practical solutions and encourage public dialogue on ethical issues

Our Faculty

The Institute’s Core Faculty are the heart of our research, teaching, and outreach efforts. Core Faculty hold joint appointments in the REI and other Colleges and departments, and they teach ethics-related courses and lead ethical literacy efforts across the University. Our Core Faculty hold co-appointments with Penn State Law, the School of International Affairs, and the Colleges of Agricultural Sciences, Communications, Earth and Mineral Sciences, Engineering, Health and Human Development, Information Sciences and Technology, and the Liberal Arts.

Our Affiliate Faculty, also drawn from across the University, actively support the Institute’s mission by participating in our research initiatives, teaching ethics-related courses, mentoring students and colleagues, guiding the REI's strategic planning, and engaging in campus and community outreach on issues of ethics and justice.

The Institute regularly hosts two Sherwin Early Career Professors appointed by the College of the Liberal Arts. Faculty Fellows from across Penn State are also selected annually to pursue ethics-related research projects.

Our Research Mission

The REI is a world leader in cultivating collaborative approaches to emerging ethical challenges that span traditional fields. We regularly collaborate with other centers and institutes at Penn State, as well as with national and international organizations and with community partners.

With more than fifty faculty representing a broad range of theoretical and applied disciplines, we support ethically-informed and evidence-based solutions at the intersections of bioethics, business, climate science, communications, data science, engineering, food sciences, gender and sexuality studies, geography, health sciences, international development, law, philosophy, political science, psychology, and other fields.

The Institute supports research initiatives and projects through seed funding and research fellowships for faculty and students, with a focus on projects that engage student researchers and cultivate community partnerships. Institute research is also supported by external grants and foundation support, including funding from the National Science Foundation and the Mellon Foundation.

Our Penn State Mission

As a thriving center for ethics education and outreach at Penn State, the REI infuses ethical literacy and leadership into all aspects of the University's mission.

Our faculty teach ethically-informed courses across numerous colleges and departments, and Teach the Teachers workshops train faculty to integrate ethical perspectives into the classroom and the laboratory.

The Institute sponsors dozens of ethics-related events, speakers, conferences, and projects annually for all members of the University community, including two endowed lectures: the Harold K. Schilling Memorial Lecture on Science, Technology, and Society and the Richard B. Lippin Lecture in Ethics.

Since 2008, the Institute has recognized ethical leadership on campus with its annual Stand Up Awards, presented to Penn State undergraduate students who have demonstrated courage, fortitude, and ethical leadership by taking a stand for a person, a cause, or a belief.

Our Public Mission

The Rock Ethics Institute engages broader public audiences through community research partnerships and leadership in framing public dialogue around ethical issues. 

Collaborations with community partners translate our research into real-world contexts, leading to the joint production of better knowledge and to informed solutions that benefit communities directly. Recent community partners include local K-12 schools and correctional facilities, New Orleans city planners, and the Menominee Nation, among others.

Our Supporters

The Rock Ethics Institute Institute was established in 2001 through a $5 million gift from Doug (Psychology, ‘68) and Julie Rock. In 2011 the Rocks endowed the Nancy Tuana Directorship of the Rock Ethics Institute with an additional $5 million gift. 

The Charles (Chick) & Joan Rolling Program Fund in Engineering and Ethics: A Global Perspective, established by Chick and Joan Rolling in 2001, enriches the College of the Liberal Arts and the College of Engineering at Penn State by supporting interactive workshops and seminars that address ethical issues related to the practice of engineering, the integration of an ethics curriculum that is sensitive to global contexts, and the task of assessing the impact of the curriculum on students.

The Richard B. Lippin Lectureship in Ethics is made possible by support from Richard B. Lippin (Psychology, ’68) and the late Ronnie Lippin. The Lippin Lecture focuses on current ethical issues in the fields of business, medicine, science, and technology, as well as questions of justice. Richard Lippin established the lectureship with his late wife because he felt that much of the integrity and honesty that he knew growing up now seems lacking in the world of business. His company, the Los Angeles-based Lippin Group, does marketing consulting for the entertainment industry. 

The Harold K. Schilling Memorial Lecture on Science, Technology, and Society focuses on the connection among ethics, science, technology, and the human condition, and honors the memory of Dr. Schilling—physicist, professor, and former dean of the Graduate School at Penn State. Dr. Schilling was also president of the American Association of Physics Teachers (1948–49). His physics research included work on supersonic signaling for the Office of Scientific Research and Development during World War II, and in his later years, he turned to the connection between science and religion. Professor Schilling’s 1958 lecture, Concerning the Nature of Science and Religion: A Study of Presuppositions is available here:

Sherwin Early Career Professorships are given to promising faculty in the College of the Liberal Arts at the beginning of their careers and include support for the faculty member's research and teaching program. The professorship is a gift of Douglas and Joyce Sherwin. Doug Sherwin, born in 1915, was a 1940 Penn State chemical engineering graduate and a varsity baseball player. Because his father lost all his money during the depression, Doug had to work his way through Penn State. He worked in the Comer Room and at a fraternity. He worked as a civilian employee for the U.S. government during World War II, on loan from ConocoPhillips, and after, when he was in Berlin during the Berlin airlift. He met and married his wife, Joyce, a graduate of the University of Maryland, during this time. Later, he earned both a bachelor's and master's at Oxford University in philosophy, politics, and economics. He returned to ConocoPhillips until his retirement in 1983. Even though he was in his late 80s when we connected with him, he loved coming back to campus with Joyce and taking part in the Rock Ethics Institute board meetings and other events. He cherished the framed photo of him as an undergraduate in his baseball uniform from La Vie that we gave him. An article on ethics that he published in the Harvard Business Review in 1983 is available here: The current Sherwin Professorships are held by Erin Heidt-Forsythe and José Soto.