Careers in Ethics – Integrating values into law, medicine, business and research ethics

via Steven Swartzer

On Wednesday, April 12th, 2023, the Center for Ethics Education, jointly sponsored by GSAS Graduate Student Council, hosted the annual Careers in Ethics panel featuring alumni of the Master’s Degree Program in Ethics & Society, a 10-course interdisciplinary program that can be completed in one year on a full time basis, or two years if enrolled part time. The alumni panelists, Nicholas Garcia, JD, MA ’12, Maria Colucio, MD, MA ’16, Patricia Voorhees, MA ’13, Stefanie Juell, CIP, MA ’12, and moderator Steven Swartzer, PhD, Associate Director of Academic Programs and Strategic Initiatives, engaged in a discussion on how an ethics degree helped shape their careers since attending the program. Each panelist shared their experiences in integrating ethic into their respective fields, and how such decision making has impacted their development as real-world professionals, followed by a Q&A. 

Nicholas Garcia, JD, MA ’12, Policy Counsel at Public Knowledge
Nicholas Garcia, MA ‘12, was a part of the five-year program at Fordham which allowed him to begin taking graduate courses in his final year of undergraduate. During his undergraduate career, he studied philosophy and visual arts before joining Fordham’s Master’s in Ethics and Society program. After he finished the program, he attended law school. Garcia worked for around five years in the Bronx County District Attorney’s Office in their investigation division. After that, he went to Public Knowledge, which is at the intersection of creating policy and law, and advocating for regulations and reforms. The mission of the organization is to promote free expression and open internet and affordable access to creative tools and creative works. The use of his ethics degree allows for weighing different value systems and critical thought around the difficult cases he faces.  

Maria Coluccio, MD, MA ’16, Surgical Resident, Montefiore Medical Center Maria Colucio, MD, MA ’16, was also a part of the five-year program. She studied English and psychology in her undergraduate studies before joining the Master’s in Ethics and Society program. She decided later in her undergraduate career that she wanted to attend medical school, enrolling in the ethics program as an opportunity academic transition due to its interdisciplinary nature. Now, she is a Vascular and Endovascular surgical resident at Montefiore Medical Center, where she uses her ethics degree on a weekly basis, analyzing the risk-to-benefit ratio of different procedures for her patients, and having in-depth conversations with them about treatment options. Coluccio discussed the difficult ethical scenarios she has seen as a surgical resident including mass transfusion calls, ICU beds, and surgical options

Patricia Voorhees, MA ’13, Director, The Alta Group Patricia Voorhees, MA’ 13, majored in economics and minored in computer science and history. Her early career path began in the IBM Trading Program as a systems engineer, followed by sales and marketing, IT finance, and then she was recruited by the Mergers and Acquisitions team at GE Capital. Finally, she was recruited to become the Pricing Leader for GE Capital just before the great recession. This major shift in career led Voorhees to question how she wanted to spend the rest of her career. She did a joint Master’s in Education for Peace and Social Justice and in Ethics and Society. She wanted to understand how we live authentically and in concert with our environment. The program aided her by asking the right questions and learning how to apply her ethical values in climate finance. Currently, Voorhees is a strategy, mergers, and acquisitions advisor for The Alta Group. She works with environmental, social, and governance groups to develop and fund equipment aimed towards climate progress. She works with manufacturers of equipment to make products as energy efficient as they could be, how they can get their products financed

Stefanie Juell, CIP, MA ’12, Director of Research Regulatory Affairs, Albert Einstein College of Medicine Stefanie Juell, CIP, MA ’12, majored in philosophy in her undergraduate studies before entering the academic space in various career positions. Desiring a field more intellectually challenging, she applied to the Ethics and Society Master’s Program. Through the program Juell was introduced to the work of Institutional Review Boards (IRB), which are responsible for legal, regulatory, and ethical compliance of human subjects research. She currently oversees the Office of  Research Regulatory Affairs at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, where she utilizes her masters degree everyday to address the difficult moral questions that arise in experimental research. The most prominent example of which is the increase in cases of unapproved research by physicians happening without patient knowledge or consent, since the COVID-19 Pandemic.

The field of ethics goes beyond theoretical analysis, as it plays a fundamental role across all professions, whether in medicine, business, research, or law. Below are some examples of what the panelists shared about their experiences since earning a degree in ethics:

…[working] in a prosecutor’s office…the job here is to do justice. So that’s a big broad mission to have If you don’t have an ethics background, in my opinion. When I went into law school with the background from the [ethics] masters, I had a leg up honestly on a number of my classmates who hadn’t really interacted with the philosophical underpinnings of the law…. or haven’t thought very deeply about society and these different interdisciplinary things like economics and psychology, all come into play in legal work…And so that was an amazing background to have going to law school, and I even had the benefit of through the program taking classes as part of the Law School as part of the interdisciplinary program which gave me a peek into. Is this actually what I want…”

I think it’s probably because of my ethics education that I’m often one of the people thinking about those professional ethics dimensions of the jobs and I found myself as an impromptu counselor to colleagues who are struggling with the decision that they are making. We’ve been asked to do something that they’re uncomfortable with, or have a particularly hard decision on the case, and having a background. That kind of ethics education, the intersectionality it gives you the ability to sit with people, work through from their perspective, work through stakeholder perspectives and try to help evaluate and make good decisions”

“I don’t think it can be underestimated. The value that just spending time thinking about problems in advance before you’re dealing with them, and understanding ethics and morality, and thinking about what that means for you yourself gives you a remarkable ability to approach these problems with more confidence than other people do. Or sometimes you have people that approach problems with misplaced confidence because they have no no underlying examined framework for making decisions, and in those situations. I found that the value of the Ethics study was in exactly identifying these kinds of things… ”

“So that for me [the masters in Ethics] answered a lot of questions, because I was at a point in my career where I wanted to think about one, how did I want to spend the rest of my career. And two, how could I use the skills that I had developed in business and in the commercial world, and try to get things going in the direction that I thought was more authentic and made more sense...”

The panel was led by Dr. Steven Swartzer, prompting an insightful discussion regarding careers options available to those pursuing Ethics, for current or potential students interested in the program. The reaming Q&A was led by audience members, with questions for the panelists.

Dr. Steven Swartzer 

Dr. Steven Swartzer is the Associate Director for Academic Programs and Strategic Initiatives in Fordham University’s Center for Ethics Education. In this role, he directs Fordham’s interdisciplinary master’s degree Program in Ethics and Society, and interdisciplinary undergraduate Bioethics minor. He is also the coach and advisor for Fordham’s Intercollegiate Ethics Bowl team. He earned a B.A. from the University of Minnesota in Philosophy and Political Science, and a Ph.D. from the University of Nebraska in Philosophy. 

Please visit the Fordham University Center for Ethics Education’s Events Page for upcoming events and webinars. For questions on the series, please email Dr. Steven Swartzer, Associate Director of Academic Programs, at To watch the full webinar, click here.

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