Kevin Dungey, a senior lecturer with the Center for Leadership Education (CLE), spoke to students in an event titled “Living the Ethical Life and Achieving Happiness” on Wednesday in Shaffer Hall. Theta Tau, the University’s co-ed engineering fraternity, organized the talk.
In his talk, Dungey discussed what life will look like for students after leaving Homewood campus and strategies for leading a happy life through focusing on fostering personal values, relationships and altruism.
In describing the life of students, Dungey evoked the popular board game Candyland.
“You have your cards, you turn the card over, and you do what the card tells you to do,” Dungey said. “You pretty much have done everything people have told you to do. . .but now you have to begin to make these decision for yourself.”
Dungey also contrasted the choices his father had to make compared to the choices students have to make in today’s world. He stressed the importance of having control over one’s life.
“What we have that he did not is the kind of choice about. . .the kinds of things we can do. . .the challenge is to make intentional choices,” he said.
Dungey considered three aspects of people’s lives: career, community and family. As many juniors and seniors are considering what to do after they graduate, Dungey stressed the importance of following personal values in an uncertain world.
“We don’t have data, we don’t have information about our future, we don’t know the kinds of things that we’d like to know to make decisions. . .we do have a north star, which is whatever your deepest values are,” he said.
Because many students have always made decisions with the advice and under the supervision of others, Dungey stressed the importance of making decisions based on both logic and emotion.
“I look out at all of you and in many ways you’re all cauliflowers. You’re all head. . . the rest of you has to grow, your heart has to grow,” he said.
Dungey suggested as well that as people get older, they also become less selfish and more focused on community.
“Community is larger than we are and something to belong to, to try and be helpful in a way,” he said.
Dungey closed with stressing the importance of family over everything else. While sacrifice is typically perceived as a loss, Dungey flipped that belief by suggesting that sacrifice for family, or the good of others, feels much better than not making the sacrifice at all. This point was particularly salient for some.
“[My family] all like each other and I’ve been very privileged on that,” junior Mar Mador said. “[The talk] allowed me to reflect on how much my parents have sacrificed for me and my brother’s goals and futures.”
Dungey said the event was relevant to all students regardless of major.
“This is an opportunity to say things that are important for anyone at Hopkins, but engineers specifically can get caught up in a world that is demanding. . .and it’s sometimes easy to lose the balance required to have a happy life,” he said.
While those who organized the event do not believe ethics are lacking at Hopkins, they still believed the event provided an important perspective on ethics at Hopkins and beyond.
“College is the opportunity to grow personally and professionally. . .[this event] adds another dimension of what being ethical is like,” Professional Development Co-Chair for Theta Tau Ben Zhang said. “The standards for Hopkins students is really high and it’s a privilege to be at such a school.”
While these same high standards may cause students to lose sight of altruism or pursue unethical behavior like academic dishonesty, Zhang said that the best way to address these issues was for students to be aware of their actions and long-term goals.
“Let you be the judge of yourself. . .and don’t lose track of what you want to do and who you want to become,” Zhang said.
According to Dungey, many masters of business administration programs are focusing more on ethics, because some in academia have blamed the Great Recession on unethical business practices backfiring.
Theta Tau is the nation’s oldest co-ed engineer fraternity with membership of over 30,000 people. It established a chapter at Hopkins in 2011.
Dungey said that the central point of his lecture was that people have to be conscious of the decisions they make in life.