Training students in ethics: Ashesi’s Giving Voice to Values course

Ashesi_GVV_bannerOctober 26, 2016
In 2008, students at Ashesi took a bold stand for ethics. In the face of opposition from national educational authorities, they committed to writing unproctored examinations. In so doing, they committed to crafting an honor code that was not just a pledge to neither give nor receive unauthorized aid during examinations, but most importantly it was a small step in Ashesi’s mission to train ethical leaders.

Almost a decade later, Ashesi’s Honor Code remains a pivotal part of the community. Beyond Ashesi, however, the posture on ethics is slightly different. Students are constantly faced with decisions and scenarios where their ethics are challenged. In a bid to better prepare students to face value conflict situations at work, during internships or at home, the Giving Voice to Values course was formed.

Modeled after Dr. Mary Gentile’s Giving Voice to Values book, the six-week seminar for all freshmen is about “giving students skills in ethical action, especially around what we think they might experience,” explained Rebecca Awuah, Head of Department of Humanities and Social Sciences. “It’s really a problem solving curriculum where part of the thinking there is, if you expect something to happen, and are prepared for it, it doesn’t’ throw you off balance.”

Unlike other courses, alumni and staff join in as facilitators, guiding discussions through various modules. “Bringing in non-faculty and faculty from different disciplines is important because that sends the message that this is not an academic specialty, or an academic area,” added Rebecca. “Ethical action is not an academic subject. It’s something that everyone encounters, and everyone can learn better to deal with those situations.”

In class, through role-plays and discussions, students and facilitators simulate real-world value conflict cases and how they would deal with them. By exchanging personal experiences and how they dealt with them, facilitators and students alike are able to share tools for dealing with ethical challenges.

“By offering little anecdotes from my own life, I hope to help students connect the dots between the GVV class and practical life situations, learn from my shortcomings, and begin to simulate various values conflict situations in order to be more prepared to deal with them,” said alumnus Melvin Akaba ‘11, who is volunteering as a facilitator for this year’s seminar. “We easily get comfortable with the idea that we have values, but often when we encounter actual ethical conflict situations we are unprepared or even too surprised to speak up. Realizing there is a difference between having values, and being in a position to act on those values is a significant step in learning to stand for what we believe in.”

For the students, participating in the GVV course serves as a primer for facing situations in their interactions, from within the walls of Ashesi and beyond. “By listening to how we, alumni and staff have dealt with compromising situations, it is easier to relate,” said Dzifa Hode ’20. “When confronted with similar situations, I can also look at different sides of situations and hopefully make good judgment.”

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