Prof. Rita Kirk the new director of SMU's Maguire Ethics Center

Prof. Rita Kirk is the new director of SMU's Maguire Center for Ethics and Public Responsibility.

Rita Kirk

DALLAS (SMU) – Rita Kirk, the new director of the Cary M. Maguire Center for Ethics and Public Responsibility, says she is committed to making ethics a continuing conversation on the SMU campus.

“One of the goals of the Maguire Center is to provoke conversation both in class and out so that ethics becomes a central point of discussion in our daily lives,” she said. “SMU is fortunate to have the Maguire Center.  The range of programs, speakers, and internships is impressive, yet awareness among students of ways to engage with the Center can be greatly enhanced. I look forward to working with SMU and its extended community.”

Kirk defines ethics as a lifelong struggle to live intentionally and to define who you are.

The center supports student and faculty ethics-related education and activities, as well as community outreach to private and public institutions in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.  The center was funded in 1995 by an endowment of $2.5 million from its namesake, Cary Maguire.

Rita KirkA professor in the division of Corporate Communications and Public Affairs in the Meadows School of the Arts, Kirk became director of the Maguire Center on Jan. 1, taking over from Tom Mayo, associate professor in the Dedman School of Law. Mayo, a medical ethicist, has guided the program for five and a half years. In addition to his faculty position at SMU, Mayo is an adjunct associate professor of Internal Medicine at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas.

“Ethical challenges surround students everywhere and all the time – in their clubs and organizations, in their personal relationships, in their dealings with teachers and classmates,” Mayo said. “I believe the first and often hardest step most of us are challenged to take is to realize that our choices are ethical ones in the first place.”

SMU Provost Paul Ludden noted that the Maguire Center has a role to play in the new University curriculum, scheduled to take effect in Fall 2012, which will require all students to receive coursework that addresses ethical issues.

“Under Tom’s leadership the Center has reached new heights and has added significantly to educational and cultural programs addressing issues of ethics and public responsibility on the SMU Campus and the broader community,” Ludden said. “I know that Emeritus Trustee Cary Maguire, chair of the Advisory Board, and Trustee Bobby B. Lyle, vice chair, join me in applauding Rita’s appointment as the new director and Tom’s accomplishments as director of the Center.”

Kirk is an Altshuler Distinguished Teaching Professor and a Meadows Distinguished Teaching Professor. She is the author of numerous articles and three award-winning books, including Political Empiricism: Communications Strategies in State and Regional Elections; Hate Speech, a book analyzing implications for hate discourse in public communication, with coeditor David Slayden; and Solo Acts: The Death of Discourse in a Wired World.

During the 2008 presidential elections, Kirk and colleague Dan Schill performed dial tests to measure audience reactions to debates for CNN and ABC/HearstArgyle stations to assist in national news coverage. CNN won the prestigious Peabody Award for its innovations, which included the dial test research.

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