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Stuart Yoak takes the helm at the Association for Practical and Professional Ethics

Stuart Yoak became the executive director of the Association for Practical and Professional Ethics on July 1. The Poynter Center is the IU host for APPE.

Q: What was it that attracted you to the executive director position at APPE?

This is an exciting time to be working in practical and professional ethics. Almost daily we see media accounts of the financier who cheats the investor, the professional who takes advantage of those seeking help and the researcher who misuses public funds for their own self-interest. As a result of the increased public attention to ethical issues, I believe, there is an urgent call for ethical discourse in civic and professional life, and a broad determination for positive action. And APPE is precisely the best professional organization to address these issues and take a leadership role.

As members of the Association for Practical and Professional Ethics, we have the expertise and experience necessary to advance human understanding of ethical decision making. No other professional organization brings together scholars, educators, practitioners and researchers from such a vast array of subject specialties. Our members are academics, business leaders, community volunteers, government employees, journalists, professionals from all areas and many others concerned with the practical application of values.

Q: How do you think your background and experience prepared you for this position?

For the past 28 years, I held faculty appointments and taught professional ethics at Washington University in St. Louis in the John M. Olin School of Business, the School of Engineering and the School of Medicine. Prior to joining APPE, I was the project director in medical ethics in the Department of Surgery at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. From 2002 to 2010, I served as the founding executive director of the Center for the Study of Ethics and Human Values at Washington University.

From 1982 to 2011, I chaired the Biomedical Ethics Committee at Christian Hospital in St. Louis and directed the Ethics Consult Service. In this capacity, I led a medical ethics education program for physicians, nurses, staff and members of the broader community. I also served as a member of the Washington University Human Subjects Review Committee on new protocol and continuing review subcommittees.

I continue to teach courses in government ethics and organizational leadership as a member of the executive faculty at the Brookings Institute in Washington D.C.

Q: What are some of the key strengths of APPE?

I believe the two major strengths of APPE come from the founding mission of the association and the multidisciplinary membership we have brought together to accomplish that mission.

The founding charter of APPE challenges us "to address concerns about educating for civic and professional responsibility" among "individuals concerned with the interdisciplinary study and teaching of practical and professional ethics," and to "foster discourse … in practical ethics" in "colleges and universities, centers, professional associations, and local, state, and national governments."

Over the past 20 years, APPE has built a prestigious membership of scholars and professionals in more than 50 different subspecialty areas of practical and applied ethics. Our nearly 1,000 members come from academic faculty; corporate and government leaders; professionals in business, engineering, journalism, law, medicine, scientific research, social work; and all others concerned with the application of ethics and values in professional and public life.

Our 140 institutional members at APPE represent major academic research universities, professional schools, community colleges, research and compliance offices, corporations, government agencies, the military and other organizations that support professional ethics. APPE Ethics Centers are changing the world -- locally at their home institutions, regionally in the metropolitan areas they serve, and professionally throughout the world. Today, with more than 100 ethics centers, APPE truly is the leading professional organization focused on advancing ethics education, research and practice across all subject disciplines.

Q: What are some of the goals you see for the Association for Practical and Professional Ethics?

I believe APPE can become the premiere ethics organization in the country and set a standard for excellence that will be a model for others to emulate. We can do this by advancing scholarship and professional practice, and by training the next generation of students, teachers and professionals.

I believe APPE is a national and increasingly international resource. Through our individual and institutional members we can lead the effort to improve ethical conduct in the workplace and advance public dialogue in ethics and values.

It is an exciting time for those of us in practical and professional ethics, and I am thrilled and deeply honored to be a part of this great association.