For Immediate Release - Southwest Tennessee Community College

Date: October 31, 2011

Southwest Premiers Ethical Literacy Initiative

Southwest Tennessee Community College will be joining the Ethical Literacy Community this fall with the support of the Assisi Foundation. Ethical Literacy equips school-based teams to educate the entire school community about ethics, engaging all constituents in building school culture where “doing the right thing” is top priority. The conceptual framework is aimed at individual skill building, individual ethics and based on best practices across the school culture, toward systemic alignment around ethics. There are three broad phases to an Ethical Literacy initiative at any school. First, the school must establish its readiness to participate in the work. Second, the school must develop capacity to get the work done. Third, the school must carry out the work in a thoughtful, coordinated manner.

Community college students are about to enter the 21st century work and career world; the Institute for Global Ethics (IGE) provides leadership, faculty, and staff with highly effective and unifying professional development opportunities aimed at equipping college students with the soft skills needed for 21st century work environments. Socratic, activity-based approaches help community colleges strengthen the balance between academics and ethics, focusing on communication skills, problem solving, thinking skills, and appreciation for shared ethical expectations at school and at work. Through creative and customized activity, IGE helps put in place the conditions that will promote ethical behavior, and sustain a culture of integrity campus-wide.

The mission of the IGE is to promote ethical behavior in individuals, and cultures of integrity in institutions and nations through research, public discourse, and practical action. The Ethical Literacy® Learning Community is the “practical action” front for the institute’s work in schools. For more information visit,

Dean of Career Studies Brenda A.B. Smith is the chair of this new endeavor. In addition to Dean Smith, a team of 14 individuals representing various divisions within the college, will convene over a period of three years. “I’m excited to be a part of this endeavor,” says Dean Smith. “Ethical issues are an integral part of our students’ lives. Our faculty have a great deal of influence on how our students think. I believe it’s very important that we send the right message about integrity to our students. That message needs to be spoken in one voice.”

The first phase started with a Tone-at-the-Top Seminar which proved to be a very rewarding experience for Southwest President Nathan Essex and his executive staff. This four-hour highly interactive Tone-at-the-Top Seminar guided the administrative leaders through the tough ethical dilemmas inherent in running a higher education institution. All members had to consider new approaches to building cultures where trust and self-regulation are the norm.

The second phase began on October 17 with team training facilitated by Paula Mirk, IGE director of Education. According to Mirk, “The focus of the process is not aimed at fixing students but changing the overall culture of the organization. Students basically know right from wrong, but oftentimes there is a grey area; one of the goals is to aid in the navigation of the grey area.” The team will be the catalyst that creates this cultural change. Mirk also stated that members should not be considered as the “ethical police;" the role is not to point out individual behavior.

Currently, Southwest is the only college in Tennessee participating in the Ethical Literacy Learning Community Initiative.


For more information contact: Robert Jackson, (901) 333-4116,, Farris Bldg., Room 1002, 5983 Macon Cove, Memphis, TN 38134