EAST LANSING, Mich. - The Michigan State University Board of Trustees Friday appointed Paul B. Thompson to the W.K. Kellogg Endowed Chair in Food, Agricultural and Community Ethics.
The chair was created last year as part of a $3 million initiative funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation to strengthen MSU's efforts to address the ethical, social and political challenges related to natural resources, public policy and agriculture.
Thompson will become a member of the faculty in the Department of Philosophy with joint appointments in the College of Arts and Letters and the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. He will work closely with undergraduate and graduate students to develop new research and teaching methods that combine the values of scientific discovery, learning and engagement with local communities. The appointment is effective Aug. 16.
Areas of ethical investigation may include sustainable agriculture, health and food safety, biotechnology assessment, the protection of natural resources and animal welfare.
Thompson, most recently the Joyce and Edward E. Brewer Professor of Applied Ethics and director of the Center for Food Animal Productivity and Well-Being at Purdue University, holds a Ph.D. in philosophy from the State University of New York at Stony Brook.
From 1990 to 1997 he was the director of the Center for Science and Technology Policy and Ethics at Texas A&M University, where he was also a professor of philosophy and agricultural economics. He is the author of numerous books and articles on food and agricultural biotechnology, agricultural ethics, environmental ethics and U.S. food policy.
"I am extremely pleased that an ethicist of Paul Thompson's caliber will assume this new chair," said Jeffrey D. Armstrong, dean of the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. "It is imperative that we explore the moral dimensions of issues surrounding agriculture, natural resources and the food industry if we are to ensure their economic, social, environmental and ecological sustainability."
Wendy K. Wilkins, dean of the College of Arts and Letters, noted that the new ethics chair will help provide moral perspective and stimulate cross-disciplinary dialogue around the ethical issues that scientists face.
"The questions that researchers and scientists confront every day include so much more than narrowly defined technical matters," she said. "Dr. Thompson's presence on campus will create a learning environment that combines scientific expertise with an examination of the complex moral questions that continue to arise as the world grows more and more interconnected and as competing demands on natural resources emerge."
The W.K. Kellogg Foundation was established in 1930 "to help people help themselves through the practical application of knowledge and resources to improve their quality of life and that of future generations." Its programming activities center around the common vision of a world in which each person has a sense of worth; accepts responsibility for self, family, community and societal well-being; and has the capacity to be productive and to help create nurturing families, responsive institutions and healthy communities.
To achieve the greatest impact, the Kellogg Foundation targets its grants toward specific areas. These include health, food systems and rural development, youth and education, and philanthropy and volunteerism. Within these areas, attention is given to the themes of leadership, information and communication technology, capitalizing on diversity, and social and economic community development. Grants are concentrated in the United States, Latin America and the Caribbean, and the southern African countries of Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique, South Africa, Swaziland and Zimbabwe.