Markkula Center of Applied Ethics

Expanding Ethical Research


Hackworth Grants Support Innovative Projects on Ethics

From business to engineering, from El Salvador to India, from traditional academic presentations to dance performances, the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics Hackworth Grants have allowed Santa Clara University faculty and students to pursue a range of projects on ethics in many countries and many fields. Awarded two times a year, the grants were established in 2003 through an endowment from Michael and Joan Hackworth to support ethics research and teaching at SCU.

Established scholars, such as Political Science Professor Jane Curry, have used the Hackworth funds to pursue new avenues of research. As she describes it, "The main focus of my research in progress has been the glitches in the transition process from authoritarian states to democracies. I am interested, therefore, in: why the transitions started, how they have worked, why people are disaffected and what they wanted, how the past is dealt with, and how former communists have been able to transform themselves." An expert on Eastern Europe (she is the author of The Black Book of Polish Censorship), Curry won a grant in 2003 for travel to South Africa, where she looked at transitional justice in that country. The next year, she participated in a workshop on transitional justice sponsored by the SCU Law School's Center for Social Justice and Public Service. She also helped to launch the University's Dialog for Peace, exploring the possibility of building an intellectual community on campus committed to scholarship and teaching on nonviolence, conflict resolution, transitional justice, and other issues.

The grants have also gone to people just starting their scholarly careers. As an SCU senior, Jennifer Re won a Hackworth Grant and used it to create "Porous Border," a paper based on interviews with immigrants from El Salvador. A short excerpt gives the flavor of her untraditional approach to research:

Less than ten miles away from the expressway lies the community of La Chacra. The poorest, most densely populated portion of the capital, La Chacra is infamous but well-hidden. I remember the exact moment I felt myself move outside my body among those unpaved and confused streets. I was exiting a dark, pungent tin room of a house, what Salvadorans nonchalantly call "microwaves," and was hit violently by the sunlight and the voices of children covered in more dirt than clothing. "Photo," they all chanted, making clicking motions and snapping noises. Living in pieced-together housing, made all the more precarious by the railroad that ran behind them, the children were indeed photographable, objectifiable symbols of poverty among everything else they were (industrious, joyful, sometimes hopeful). The reality of their acute self-awareness seemed to add an element of responsibility to my visiting El Salvador and to any witnessing of this place.

Also untraditional have been several grants to artists to explore the ethical dimension of their work. David Popalisky, assistant professor of theater and dance, used his grant to create a performance piece, "Barred From Life," which captured the "invisible human suffering that wrongful conviction engenders." He partnered with the Innocence Project at SCU, which works within an educational framework to exonerate indigent California prisoners who have been wrongly convicted. Barbara Fraser, also a professor of theater and dance, received production and summer support for a staged reading of her play, "Carl Upchurch: An American Shaman," about the activist and former gang member. And Kristin Kusanovich, a laboratory instructor in the Department of Theater and Dance, won a grant to develop a teaching module, "Ethics and Esthetics: A Stance in Dance," about the role of character in the performing arts. Kusanovich presented her work at the "Making a Difference in Dance" conference in Helsinki in December 2004.

The Hackworth Grants have supported a number of curriculum projects in addition to "A Stance in Dance." Electrical Engineering Professor Aleksandar Zecevic received a summer stipend to create "Science and Theological Ethics: An Engineering Perspective on Religion," which became a unit in his course on engineering ethics. William Stover, associate professor of political science, used his grant on an interactive "International Conflict Simulation," an on-line diplomatic simulation to help students experience conflict resolution in the Middle East. Education Professor Sara Garcia, who received a Fulbright Scholar Award to develop a model for teaching about drought in the Chihuahua desert, also received a Hackworth Grant for the ethical aspects of this study. Afterwards, she consulted with the Center's Character Education Program on environmental education.

The fruits of Hackworth-sponsored research extend beyond the campus, as well. The grants helped students Brigid Quigley and Kelsey Whittier go to Mumbai to study ethical choices influencing the delivery of health care in India. While in India, the two juniors also volunteered through Child Family Health International. Each then used the data they collected in Mumbai as a central part of her senior thesis on ethical questions related to tuberculosis in India. And the knowledge they gained will inform their future careers in the medical field.

Management Professor Dennis Moberg used his grant to help develop a case study on what went wrong at WorldCom. Published on the Ethics Center's Web site, the business ethics case has had almost 43,000 hits since it was posted in 2003.

Michael Hackworth, who, with his wife Joan, provided the endowment for the grants in 2002, has had a longtime interest in business ethics. The chairman of Cirrus Logic and an SCU alum, Hackworth has used the "Framework for Ethical Decision Making" developed by Ethics Center faculty scholars in his business career. "Unfortunately, very few executives have a structured and formalized ethical decision-making process that is defined as company policy or that is anywhere near the simple but sophisticated model provided by the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics," he said. "I want to help create an increased awareness of what the Center can do."