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Thursday, June 13, 2024
The Observer

University rolls out new tech ethics minor

Notre Dame has created a new Technology Ethics minor this year.

While there is discourse on the topic already — including privacy, artificial intelligence, the economy, the military and mental health — Notre Dame wants to do more than just talk about these problems. In fact, the minor was created for a new class of scholars to solve them. 

“This is an opportunity for the university to take a leadership role in helping us think through the ethical implications of that through the Center,” said Warren von Eschenbach, Associate Director for Academic Affairs within the Notre Dame Technology Ethics Center. 

“The minor is our way of helping train the next generation of leaders, people who may be in industry, to have them understand these issues from an ethical perspective,” von Eschenbach said. 

von Eschenbach explained that the minor is a way to fulfill the mission of the University. Notre Dame has always emphasized its desire for the school and its students to be a force for good, and the minor hopes to meet that goal.

It is too soon to tell the number of students enrolled in the minor. Despite this, von Eschenbach has high hopes for its popularity. 

“I think my class filled up the first day,” von Eschenbach said about the Gateway course he is teaching this semester. “I have had students email me to ask to get in and we hope to open another section in the spring.”

Students do not need to be well-versed in technology to start, as the minor does not require a technology background. Instead, it is intended as a display of how the two disciplines — technology and ethics — can come together.

Academically, the future of the minor promises students the opportunity to complete a capstone project. von Eschenbach also sees a future for the minor that will help advance students in their professional lives.  

For those students, Notre Dame will be partnering with IBM to allow undergraduates to work in a lab. Here, they will receive real-world experience and the chance to see their work in the classroom come to life. 

Although neither pathway is available yet, it is the hope of the department that it will be available to students next spring or in the upcoming academic year. 

von Eschenbach encouraged students to join the minor not just for themselves, but for the greater good. 

“I don’t think there is anything else that's going to have the scale and scope and power to alter our lives again, individually and collectively,” he said. “This will impact you whether you want it to or not.”