Believing The University of Alabama has a critical role to play in preparing students to serve as effective, engaged, and ethical citizens, the Center for Ethics and Social Responsibility (CESR) seeks to assist students in developing a distinct definition of moral and civic maturity, making the values and skills of citizenship a hallmark of a UA education.
The University of Alabama's strong commitment to civic engagement and UA's history of community-University partnerships serve as a foundation for the center. Faculty and students in a wide range of departments at UA have earned distinction for their scholarly contributions to the study of ethics and civic engagement. CESR builds upon these substantial resources, with the larger goal of linking curriculum and the campus culture by establishing multiple opportunities through which students can engage in meaningful service for academic credit while giving thoughtful consideration to their ethical obligations toward fellow citizens.
In particular, CESR staff assists faculty members in developing service-learning courses that engage community organizations in partnerships designed to both enhance academic learning and apply scholarly knowledge to salient community issues. Service experiences are integrated into students' academic curricula, providing structured time for students to think, talk, and write about what they did and saw during the activities.
In seeking to better connect social responsibility and ethical development to the academic mission of the University, the work of CESR also entails the development of academic programs such as Moral Forum (a multidisciplinary course wherein students develop the skills to evaluate and respond to moral claims and engage in moral discourse via a debate tournament), as well as courses such as Documenting Justice (a yearlong, justice-based documentary film-making class), Every Move Counts: A Chess in Education Project (a nationally unique service-learning course in which Honors College students teach chess in local schools while studying creative education-reform efforts), College First (a service-learning course which trains college students to implement a pre-AP summer academic enrichment program for high school students while learning about equity and education), and Poverty, Faith, and Justice in America (a service-learning course that combines academic discussions on perceptions of poverty with volunteer tax preparation services for low-income families). CESR also is concerned with developing and supporting curricular activities that incorporate ethical and social discourse across campus.
CESR began in fall 2005 as a result of a gift from Mignon C. Smith. Concerned about what she perceived to be an increasing lack of ethics in business and public affairs, Ms. Smith sought to establish a university-based ethics program that would support the study of ethics and develop projects to nurture social responsibility and reflective, thoughtful citizenship. Under the leadership of the president and provost, and along with the help of an interdisciplinary group of UA faculty, this vision became CESR.