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Graduate MA - Article

New master’s degree after years of petition


Texas State will offer a master’s degree in applied philosophy and ethics as early as this summer.

A proposal outlining plans for the program worked its way through approval processes at the departmental, college, university and system levels before being accepted April 15 by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.

The applied philosophy and ethics degree will be the only one of its kind in the state, according to Philosophy Chair Vincent Luizzi.

The degree will be comprised of courses already available at Texas State. Luizzi said the university has been increasing its number of philosophy graduate courses for two decades with the target of one day creating the master’s degree.

“We knew our forte was applied philosophy,” Luizzi said. “Right at the very beginning we were working toward that end goal of having a sizeable number of specific courses in applied philosophy and ethics. We (recognized) we needed some sort of foundation to start out with.”

Luizzi said the degree is especially important in the context of current events. The proposal outlined how a degree in applied philosophy and ethics might be helpful given new technologies such as “life-saving and life-extending medical therapies and biological weaponry.”

According to the proposal, “The need for workers and citizens trained in ethical analysis and moral reasoning is amply demonstrated by the spate of ‘ethical lapses’ encountered during the past decade in the public and private sectors.”

Luizzi said student and faculty interest accelerated the process of writing and submitting a proposal.

Evan Bennett, graduate student, authored a petition supporting the master’s program and collected more than 400 signatures. He and 17 fellow supporters presented the petition to University President Denise Trauth at an Open Door Day event last year, he said.

“We found once we got the word out, once we told people what we were doing, students were really receptive to it,” Bennett said. “Many appreciated the dialogue, whether they were philosophy students or not. There are many other students studying law or health-related fields (who) would find it to be a great supplementary study to what they already have.”

Craig Hanks, professor in the department of philosophy, teaches professional ethics and the philosophy of technology at the graduate level. He said the master’s program will likely start off with an enrollment of about 10 students.

“For the foreseeable future it won’t be a very large program,” Hanks said. “One reason is because we’re not a huge department and won’t be able to provide sufficient support for the graduate students’ work if it became too large.”

J.D. Hill, philosophy postgraduate student, will enter the new program with the intention of one day becoming a professor. He said the program would likely attract a wide range of students with different occupational goals as more people realize its importance.

“I think you’ll find people wanting to take these studies into the marketplace, or into politics,” Hill said. “It’s becoming better understood on a large scale today. Just realizing how little ethics there (have) been in consumerist corporate America, it’s becoming recognizably necessary.”