Markkula Center of Applied Ethics

Reflections on the Applied Ethics Pathway

By Jessica Reiner

All Santa Clara University students have the opportunity to declare a "Pathway," a cluster of courses with a common theme, which promotes integrative and intentional learning. Students reflect on this theme in an essay at the end of their college career. This reflection received a Distinguished Pathway Essay Award in 2013.

       When I was eight years old, my father was killed in the line of duty in a helicopter accident working as a firefighter/paramedic. He has been a beacon of hope and courage for my four siblings and me throughout our entire adolescent and young adult lives. He truly exemplified what it meant to live a life of service, committing himself to his community, his work, and his family. When I came to Santa Clara, my hope was to continue to expand my knowledge and thirst for learning. I wanted to honor his memory by furthering my education and pursuing a career in the mental health field that worked toward serving my community, just like my father had exemplified in his career.

       I believe I have been incredibly blessed to attend an establishment like Santa Clara University. I have always been one of those students who was excited to go to school. School supply shopping was truly my favorite kind of shopping throughout the year. When I graduated from high school, I was eager to start school especially because I was excited that I had now had the power to choose my own classes. Since my freshman year, I have had the opportunity to take a wide range of classes that have truly been impacting to me as a student and a life-long learner.

       During my sophomore year, I had the privilege of taking an Intro to Ethics course from Professor Brian Buckley. I believe this class was the course that impacted me the most as a student. I have always felt great compassion for those who are suffering and felt that I was able to empathize with other people. After taking this course, I learned that one of my passions was learning about ethics and the subject of philosophy. As I began to think about what Pathway I wanted to declare, I knew I wanted to take as many philosophy and ethics course my schedule would permit. I did not just want to declare a Pathway that would completely align with my major or necessarily be the easy road to take. I wanted my Pathway to be one that excited and interested me. Through the Applied Ethics Pathway I have been able to pursue my passion for learning and have really begun to understand what it means to be an educated leader of competence, conscious, and compassion. My Pathway has been an exciting journey for me in the sense that I have been able to integrate psychology with applied ethics, as well as many more other interesting subjects. It allowed me to further my growth as an educated person who will be able to work towards a more just and harmonious community.

       One way that I was able to integrate my major of psychology with my Applied Ethics Pathway was by taking the course Ethics in Psychology. This was one of my favorite courses because it allowed me to learn more about all of the ethical dilemmas that may arise as a therapist working in the mental health field. Each class day was a new challenge because we were constantly wrestling with ethics and many of the issues that are present in our society, for example, confidentiality and consent. Surely in many other fields this is an important topic and for a psychology major hoping to become a therapist one day, this topic hits home. It was very important for me to learn about ethics in psychology so that I am an ethically aware and competent person who is able to treat my patients professionally and properly.

       The Applied Ethics Pathway has also allowed me to analyze many different situations that occur in our society. One great example of this was in my Ethics of Gender course, where we dove into many pressing issues. In this class I was able to learn about gender stereotypes and ideologies through an ethical lens, applying my values and ethical framework to issues such as rape, pornography, sexual violence, and gender discrimination. One of the most impactful topics of discussion in this class was the section on rape, where we read many case studies about women being violently attacked. This issue is so prevalent in our society and truly a very hard topic to face, especially for women. However, I believe it was important to gain insight into the reality of what happens on a daily basis in our world. In addition, this course allowed me to grow in my understanding of gender expectations and stereotypes. I am now able to go into the world fully aware of the challenges and obstacles I may face as a female and be able to combat them with my own ethical framework and value system.

       As I am in spring quarter of my senior year, I am happy and proud to say that I still love my Pathway. The last course I am taking is called the Ethics of War and Peace. This course has been especially powerful because I have been learning about the ethics of war, terrorism, torture, just war theory, and women in combat. With so much chaos and violence happening across our world, I believe that as a citizen and educated young adult, it is imperative for me to learn about the ethics of war so that I can go into my own community and be an advocate for peace.

       Santa Clara has taught me a great deal about being a person of competence, conscious, and compassion. I have been taught these Jesuit values through each of my Applied Ethics Pathway courses; competence for my future patients and ethical dilemmas I may face as a mental health professional, consciousness of what it means to be a female embarking on a career path, and compassion for those in my community and around me. While we live in our smaller communities, we are all still children of a greater community. My experiences here at SCU and the Pathway courses I have completed have given me the hope, wisdom, and courage to go into the world and truly fight for a more just and ethical community.

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