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UM ethics expert takes position in Florida
After 11 years at the University of Montana, ethics professor Deni Elliott is taking a new academic post at the University of Florida's St. Petersburg campus.
Photo by MICHAEL COLES/Missoulian

University of Montana ethics professor Deni Elliott has accepted a distinguished post at the University of Florida's St. Petersburg campus.

Elliott will begin her new job as the university's Poynter-Jamison chair in media ethics and press policy once she wraps up her teaching and administrative duties at UM when fall semester concludes.

Elliott's new appointment with the institution's journalism department means UM will have to decide what to do with its Practical Ethics Center, which Elliott created in 1996 and which is home to the nation's only graduate program in teaching ethics.

"Ethically Speaking," Elliott's weekly Montana Public Radio show, may yet continue if talks with National Public Radio move forward and the show becomes nationally syndicated.

Elliott said she is excited about her new position and career advancement because the University of Florida is in a growth cycle that includes expanding programs and hiring more faculty, and because she will have the opportunity to develop interdisciplinary doctorate programs.

"It is an exciting time to be going there," Elliott said. "There is leadership that is very eager for new ideas and it seems to be a place with the resources to put into new ideas."

While at Florida, Elliott will be responsible for promoting high-quality teaching and researching of ethics across campus, promoting faculty development in the ethics arena, and providing leadership in areas relating to press policy and media ethics on campus, national and international levels.

In her 11 years at UM, Elliott also served as an adjunct professor in the School of Journalism, tenured professor in the Department of Philosophy and as the Mansfield Professor of Ethics in Public Affairs.

"We are sad to see her go," said Burke Townsend, chairman of UM's philosophy department.

Townsend credits Elliott for helping his department double the number of its graduate students when she developed the teaching ethics program and put together the ethics center with funding from the provost's office and from grants.

"She's been very active in the teaching of ethics and promoting activities on campus, hosting talks, guest lecturers, getting grants and creating regional ethics competitions," Townsend said. "What she had done has benefited our department and the community.

"Hopefully, we will be able to continue on with her activities and what she has started with the center," he said. "But the future of the center has not been decided. The campus has helped (financially) patch the center together, but it does not have a regular endowment, and without her energy to find sources the campus could be in danger of losing it."

UM Provost Lois Muir could not be reached for comment about the center's future Monday.

"It is a good and logical move for Deni. She is a person of national reputation and caliber and she will have a much better platform to speak from and do her research, and she will be even more influential," said Albert Borgmann, a UM philosophy professor. "But from our point of view her leaving is a terrible loss."

"She has put us on the map as an institution where ethics is very important," he said. "The significance of ethics, which has been a wonderful part for the university, will continue but it will be certainly diminished."

Elliott said she does not plan to abandon her ties to UM and to her colleagues, and hopes that she will be able to stay engaged with the campus community in some capacity.

Elliott received her doctorate degree in philosophy of education from Harvard University and her master's degree in philosophy from Wayne State University.

She has published numerous books and articles on the topic of ethics, and has won numerous awards, which according to her vitae include being listed in Who's Who Among America's Teachers, Who's Who of Public Service and the Who's Who of American Women.

Reporter Betsy Cohen can be reached at 523-5253 or at bcohen@missoulian.com

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