Oct. 27, 2021

Building an enriched life: a conversation with CCAL fellow Dr. David Dick

Why should you study ethics? The answer may surprise you.

When CCAL fellow Dr. David Dick first began the study of ethics, he was struck by the idea that ethics is an open and living question, and that learning ethical skills can help create a rewarding and happy life. This positive powerful message is what he teaches to others. In a year filled with repeated lockdowns, economic uncertainty, and Zoom fatigue, new students will find his optimism about his field very refreshing:

Lots of students come to required ethics classes and then get inspired. They find it exciting and freeing to learn different outlooks. Business ethics study provides Haskayne students an unusual opportunity for a different kind of engagement set.

David confesses that, in common with many people, he initially and incorrectly believed that ethics is about denial. This impression is frequently reinforced by news stories about the Enron’s and Facebook’s of the world, where ethics is usually brought up in terms of punishment for bad behaviour. However, David discovered that ethical principles can be used to expand one’s practical knowledge, to create, and to live well. This discovery developed into a distinguished academic career.

David first started his studies with renowned philosopher Margaret Pabst Battin in medical ethics research at the University of Utah. After earning his PhD at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, David then joined the University of Calgary. His initial position allowed him to develop a new course, The Philosophy of Money. This, combined with his work on business ethics both in the academy and in the community led to his Fellowship with CCAL with a redoubled focus on business ethics. David believes that one role of his Haskayne fellowship is to give students the tools they need:

These courses provide access to an intellectual toolkit that will help you figure out problems you cannot imagine that you will face. This is a general-purpose, very valuable skill set.

Further goals for the business ethics program include giving students access to world-class faculty, raising the profile of business ethics at UCalgary, and attracting others to come to Haskayne to study. This global focus is valuable for both students and for the local business community. Calgary and Alberta are facing new ethical issues in business, both as a result of the upheaval in the oil industry and the effects of the pandemic, and industry leaders need to look for guidelines on how to build for the future. When asked about what ethical issues are ahead for Alberta, David had this to say:

The biggest local challenge that comes to mind is finding and creating workplaces and spaces for people to earn a decent living and to feel that they are contributing beyond just job tasks. The work itself should be meaningful beyond earning a living… it is a question of humans flourishing.

To help with just these sorts of challenges, David is also a community leader in providing forums to discuss ethical issues. He is the organizer of the Integrity Network, a Calgary-based working group of professionals in business ethics, which he refers to as “a big tent for all types of ethics and compliance professionals.” It is a group that allows people who are in ethics compliance to think through problems collaboratively: furthermore, it is a highly successful venture that has been meeting several times a year for more than a decade.

What about the community outside of ethics professionals? David believes that Haskayne, and CCAL in particular is providing people the opportunity to learn how to use ethical skills in their lives.

“CCAL is offering great programs that make ethics available to the general population at different levels of involvement. Everyone can come for a couple of hours, or they can come for a day, or they can join the network for longer-term involvement.”

For more information, contact leadership@haskayne.ucalgary.ca or visit our website.

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