Altruism Course Receives National Recognition
November 10, 2004
A course developed and taught by Andrew Flescher, Department of Religious Studies, and Daniel Worthen, Department of Psychology, has been recognized as one of the top ethics courses in the country. Their honors course "What Motivates Altruism?" was one of 11 courses selected for top honors by the Institute for Research on Unlimited Love.
Each course selected will receive a $6,000 award. In addition, the recipients are invited to attend a small working-group/conference on the pedagogy of unlimited love, to be held at the Claremont School of Theology in Claremont, California, in April 2005. The goal of the conference will be to develop a book to which award winners will be invited to contribute.
More than 70 applications were reviewed through a four-step process, including experts external to the institute. The colleges offering the award-winning courses, in addition to CSU, Chico, are Greenville College, Hendrix College Institut fur Evangelische Theologie, Saint Paul School of Theology, Southern Baptist University, Colorado Christian University, Boston College, Travis Research Institute, Fuller Theological Seminary, Bethel Seminary and Calvin College.
Flescher and Worthen's course is a 6-unit psychology/religious studies honors capstone course, which pairs students with community altruists engaged in social advocacy, welfare or service. Students are expected to spend four to five hours per week shadowing their altruist, in addition to a heavy schedule of course work that focuses on a multi-disciplinary approach to analyzing what accounts for selfless human behavior.
Flescher, the author of "Heroes, Saints, and Ordinary Morality" (Georgetown University Press, 2003) and the director of the Center for Applied and Professional Ethics at CSU, Chico, worked with Worthen to develop the course. The initial concept for the course came from work Flescher did for his book. In the introduction of the book, Flescher writes, "Heroes and saints urge us to regard morality not in terms of avoiding wrongdoing, but rather in terms of doing what good we can for those who need our help."
Student Molly Priest said that she and other students in the course learned that people who accomplish great things are not necessarily special-they are often everyday people who have taken steps to do amazing things.
"The 'What Motivates Altruism?' course, which was developed for students in the University Honors Program, is remarkable in the way that it forges connections. This team-taught course examines the nature of goodness through multiple lenses, including those of ethics, religious studies and behavioral psychology. As campuses work to develop opportunities for their students to engage in meaningful community involvement, the altruism course offers a striking model in its pairing of students with community leaders," said Andrea Lerner, director of the University Honors Program.
Flescher said about receiving the award for the class, "This speaks so well of CSU, Chico. Our course competed among many of the best schools in the nation. It is amazing that we were selected, on one hand, given the competition, and predictable on the other, for those of us who know what a good school this truly is."