Q&A with newly appointed director of Lehigh Center for Ethics


Michael Gusmano, professor and associate dean for academic programs in the College of Health, was named the director of Lehigh’s Center for Ethics on Feb. 1. 

The Center for Ethics was founded in 2018 and supports the incorporation of ethics into student development at Lehigh. 

Gusmano arrived at Lehigh in the fall of 2021 and said he plans on working closely with the Lehigh community in his new role to increase participation and support current resources.

In this role, Gusmano will collaborate with individuals across disciplines to advance the range of ethics research, programming and education

Gusmano sat down with The Brown and White to discuss his newly appointed role as the Center for Ethics director and his future plans for the center’s success at Lehigh. 

Q: How did you come into this role? 

Michael Gusmano: I was told by a few of the faculty members on campus that they were looking for a new director and they knew about my background in bioethics and my interests more broadly, and so they suggested that I apply. After my application, I became one of the finalists and had an interview with the provost. After that, he offered me the position, so the process was fairly straightforward. 

Q: What will your responsibilities look like? 

MG: I am going to coordinate the work of the center, working with the advisory council and working with various alumni who are very interested in the center and have supported it. I will organize an annual lecture that is sponsored by the center and I will also coordinate the work of our committees in providing some financial support to our faculty and various groups around campus to help further develop ethics education. It’s about providing a forum and a structure so that people throughout the campus who are interested in ethics can come together, develop interesting programs and hopefully some interesting classes that our students can take. 

Q: What are you looking forward to with this role? 

MG: I enjoy teaching classes in ethics and in helping others develop their curricula to include ethics. I am developing a new course for the College of Health that will be on ethics. Working with people and providing them with the tools they would need to infuse ethical inquiry into what they are doing is interesting. I also just think it’s fun to work with people from different disciplines and different fields and this is going to give me yet another opportunity to interact with colleagues and students from across the university. 

Q: How does your role relate to the College of Health? 

MG: If you think about the College of Health and its mission, there are at least a couple of substantive issues that run through almost all of our research, all of our teaching and all of our community service work. We are certainly interested in the social determinants of health, but we are clearly interested in issues of equity. This raises fundamental questions about what equity means and what does fairness and justice require. If you think about the principles that drive medical practice to research in ethics, what does it mean to be beneficial to people? You have to have these deep conversations on what is a benefit and what is a harm because those aren’t obvious. Even some of the empirical questions that we explore in the College of Health have important normative dimensions, and so it fits really well with the work that I do. Ethics is really about the understanding and the debate about what society looks like and what kind of society we are trying to create. 

Q: What prompted you to take on this role and these responsibilities? 

MG: As a senior faculty within the university, you immediately have a responsibility to provide some leadership, to take advantage of the fact that you already had the opportunity to do a lot of research in your career and to learn how to teach. I think the opportunity to share those lessons and to work with other faculty, to enhance the capacity of the entire university community, particularly around a topic that I care about a great deal, is attractive. I don’t know if I would say that I felt I had an obligation to do it, but I feel like it’s a real privilege to be in a position to play this service role for the university. I feel as if I have an obligation to the university to help my faculty, to help my students and not just in the college of health, but throughout Lehigh. This is an opportunity to fill that role. 

Q: What are your future plans as of now for the department? 

MG: Right now, I have just begun. So, one of the things I am doing is having individual meetings with all of the faculty that have been part of the advisory committee. I want to understand the history of the center, the direction of the center, what it has done well and to really develop a shared vision for what it can be. I do have some ideas about some additional programming that we might put together. For example, when I was at Rutgers University, I helped organize an interprofessional education event that involved students from across the university in which it was focused on an ethics case study. We would bring people together, faculty and students, to do a deep dive into the ethical issues raised by some cases in a case book that I helped edit and offer. I would love to replicate that here if there is interest, but it is something I would like to do over the next year. Beyond that, I don’t have any specific plans yet because I am still in a discovery stage to figure out what my colleagues around the university would like to do together. 

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  1. Oh boy. Used to be that if your school was a big enough crook, you had to build a divinity school. I guess this is the new fashion. Ethics.

    Well, I await the inevitable disclosures. They’re off to a good start in that Public Health college, the way they hogtied that dean from Wisconsin and roped the B&W innocents into carrying water for the cause. Explain to me again how the Kansas crew is here doing tribal work in a state that hasn’t had a tribal population in, what, over a hundred years? Well, that’s a story that won’t likely be exciting enough for press, I imagine. Anyway. Back to awaiting etc. Keep an eye on the budget. Ethics, woof.

    • Amy’s at it again—this time, at midnight on Valentine’s Day. Can somebody say woof? Amy, how does it feel trolling in a college newspaper’s comment section decrying, of all things, an institutional center for the promotion of viewpoint-neutral ethics within academic study and co-curricular activities?

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