Return your memory, for just a moment, to the year 2020. You have completed a long day of classes–in person, online, or hybrid–and your brain is nearly full. Many of your peers are already studying or eating dinner. And you have one more class left: a course not even included in your graduation requirements. But you are energized and excited: it is time for SEGL’s (virtual) Integrity 101!
Integrity 101 is unique. Each Wednesday at 8:00pm EST throughout the fall semester, thirty students and two instructors (Mairéad O’Grady and I) would log into Zoom and contribute to an extraordinary learning community. The intrinsic motivation of our “integriteers” made them stand out in the world of online learners. As our fall, spring, and summer semester-program graduates will recognize, it is also what made them SEGLettes.
The majority of participants in Integrity 101 were nominated by outstanding, hand-picked institutions: Breakthrough NYC, Chicago Scholars, EMERGE, The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation, The Steppingstone Foundation, TEAK, Thrive Scholars, and Young Eisner Scholars (YES) from Appalachia, Chicago, and Los Angeles. The cohort also included several students from our loyal sending schools.
The course features an exciting new guest speaker each week. Students engaged with them virtually, in the style of our flagship Ethics and Leadership course. Our Integrity 101 guests included some familiar faces, like Carl Wilkens, Marcia Cole, and Ambassador George Moose. We also brought some incredible first-time speakers to this cohort: Dr. Katie Conboy, President of Saint Mary’s College; Pulitzer Prize-winning Journalist Molly O’Toole; Dr. Olúfẹ́mi Táíwò of Georgetown University (pictured). In a very special unit of the course, participants learned tips and tricks of speechwriting from Golden Mug recipient Lissa Muscatine, former chief speechwriter for Secretary Hillary Clinton, and then presented their speeches to SEGL graduate Seth Herschkowitz, current chief speechwriter for Senator Chris Van Hollen. Our integriteers also completed the SEGL capstone assignments of the Social Venture Project and Ethical Credo to graduate from our course.
There are no posted grades for completing homework in this class, just qualitative feedback and questions: Did you compel our guest-speaker with your delivery of a collaboratively-prepared speech? Or did you feel underprepared? How can you learn from that experience and improve the next time? Learning in this course is about personal growth rather than letter grades.
As with all SEGLettes, these students best state their case in their own words. We have collected some excerpts from their final “Credos” below. We applaud their hard work, their commitment, and their bright futures in bringing about positive change in our world. Bravo!
Mona – “This class has been mentally rigorous in many more ways than I had anticipated. My outlook on classic and contemporary ethical dilemmas has been challenged time and time again. Sometimes I left class feeling refreshed, other times I left class feeling frustrated. Some classes hardly left an impression on me, while others completely changed my life.”
Kellsie – “My political ideology and moral scruples are built on the precipice of struggle and my intersectional identity as a member of many minority groups. When exploring difficult topics, I often struggle to understand or respect people with different ideologies than I, especially when they may not be able to understand some social issues from the point of view of those being most affected by these policies. This course has helped me to find comfort in exploring the endless boundaries of becoming.”
Weston – “Over the course of this semester, I have found myself constantly revisiting the concept of interconnectedness, human motivation based on surroundings, and the general fact that we are constantly influencing and being influenced by the other human beings that appear in our lives. These principles have guided me to think about what ethics is and how I will conduct myself when interacting with others…All of the principles and behaviors I previously mentioned can be applied for both personal and communal growth, and I think the reason behind this is that it all culminates in my personal perception of what ethics means— the selfless pursuit of personal growth in order to help those around you as much as possible in the time you have on Earth.”