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Integrating Compassion into an Engineering Ethics Course

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2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

June 29, 2016





Conference Session

Innovative Approaches to Ethics Instruction

Tagged Division

Engineering Ethics

Tagged Topic


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Paper Authors


George D. Catalano Binghamton University

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Professor of Biomedical Engineering, Binghamton University
Previously member of the faculty at U.S. Military Academy and Louisiana State University.
Two time Fullbright Scholar -- Italy and Germany.

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A required undergraduate course in bioethics has been developed and taught using a hybrid of contemplative and service learning pedagogies. In addition to extensive foundational reading, students are challenged to accomplish what is termed a "compassion practicum." Compassion is the emotion that one feels in response to the suffering of others that motivates a desire to help. The etymology of "compassion" is Latin, meaning "co-suffering." More involved than simple empathy, compassion commonly gives rise to an active desire to alleviate another's suffering. A practicum is a school or college course, especially one in a specialized field of study that is designed to give students supervised practical application of previously studied theory. In this course, students are asked to identify suffering of others (others includes the human species as well as other species), design a response to the suffering and carry that action out. The project must involve at least 15 hours of service. Alternatively, students can explore issues associated with the use of animals in the research laboratory through volunteer service at the Farm Sanctuary in Watkins Glen. A vast majority of the new devices and drugs are first tested on a wide range of animal species. One will very often hear reference to “porcine” and “bovine” animal models in the presentation of the accompanying research. This activity challenges students as future professionals to confront the ethical dilemma – the use of animals in the research laboratory --head on. Both activities focus on developing compassion --either for members of our own species or members of another.

Catalano, G. D. (2016, June), Integrating Compassion into an Engineering Ethics Course Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.25790

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