Foundations of Bioethics
Complete a foundational course in the liberal arts through an intensive, six-day residency on our storied Hyde Park campus. Application Deadline: April 5, 2024Apply
Study in historic campus buildings, attend educational and social events, explore local landmarks, and engage in rigorous classroom discussion.
UChicago’s Residential Seminar, Foundations of Bioethics, is designed for lifelong learners seeking to rigorously engage big, ethical questions during an immersive educational experience.
The course will take place from Sunday, May 19, through Friday, May 24, and will be taught by Laurie Zoloth, the Margaret E. Burton Professor of Religion and Ethics at the University of Chicago.
The seminar will provide an introduction to the field of bioethics. Grounded in case-studies, it will explore how different philosophical and theological traditions describe and defend differences in moral choices in contemporary bioethics. The class is based on the understanding that case narratives not only serve as the motivation for the discipline of bioethics, but that complex ethical issues are best considered by a careful examination of the competing theories as they work themselves out in specific cases.
This course provides an introduction to the field of bioethics. Grounded in case-studies, it will explore how different philosophical and theological traditions describe and defend differences in moral choices in contemporary bioethics. The class is based on the understanding that case narratives not only serve as the motivation for the discipline of bioethics, but that complex ethical issues are best considered by a careful examination of the competing theories as they work themselves out in specific cases.
We will examine both classic cases that have shaped our understanding of the field of bioethics and newly emerging ones. We will ask how religious traditions both collide and cohere over such topics as embryo research, health care reform, terminal illness, issues in epidemics and public health, and our central research question, synthetic biology research.
The class will also explore how the discipline of bioethics has emerged to reflect upon such dilemmas, with particular attention to the role that theology philosophy, law, public health, and religious studies have played in such reflection.
A leader in the field of religious studies with particular scholarly interest in bioethics and Jewish studies, Laurie Zoloth’s research explores religion and ethics, drawing from sources ranging from Biblical and Talmudic texts to postmodern Jewish philosophy, including the writings of Emmanuel Levinas, Hannah Arendt, and Margaret Susman. Her scholarship spans the ethics of genetic engineering, gene drives, stem cell research, synthetic biology, social justice in health care, and how science and medicine are taught. She also researches the practices of interreligious dialogue, exploring how religion plays a role in public discussion and policy.
Zoloth is author of four books: Health Care and the Ethics of Encounter: A Jewish Discussion of Social Justice; Second Text and Second Opinions: Essays on Jewish Bioethics ; An Ethics for the Coming Storm: Jewish Thought and Global Warming; May We Make the World?: Gene Drives, Malaria, and the Future of Nature, and co-editor of six books, including Notes from a Narrow Ridge: Religion and Bioethics; The Ethics of Error: Mistakes in Bioethics and in Medicine; and Jews and Genes: The Genetic Future in Contemporary Jewish Thought.
Zoloth has been the president of both the American Academy of Religion and the American Society for Bioethics and Humanities and Vice-President of the Society for Jewish Ethics. She was the director of the Jewish Studies program at San Francisco State University and director of graduate studies in religious studies at Northwestern. She is an elected member of the Hastings Center and a life member of Clare Hall, University of Cambridge. She was a founding board member of the Society for Scriptural Reasoning, the International Society of Stem Cell Research and the American Society for Bioethics and Humanities.
Her work on bioethics and health care led her to serve on the NASA Advisory Council, the space agency’s highest civilian advisory board; the International Planetary Protection Committee; the National Recombinant DNA Advisory Board, and the executive committee of the International Society for Stem Cell Research. She served as chair of the first bioethics advisory board at the Howard Hughes Medical Research Institute and has testified in front of Congress, the President’s Commission on Bioethics, and state legislatures.
Zoloth began her career as a neonatal nurse working in impoverished communities; she holds a bachelor’s degree in history and women's studies from the University of California, Berkeley and a bachelor’s degree in nursing from the University of the State of New York. She received a master’s degree in Jewish studies and a doctorate in social ethics from the Graduate Theological Union. Zoloth also holds a master’s degree in English from San Francisco State University.
Prior to joining the University of Chicago, Zoloth served as Charles McCormick Deering Professor of Teaching Excellence at Northwestern University, holding appointments in the Department of Religious Studies in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences and in the Feinberg School of Medicine. At Northwestern, she was founding director of the Brady Program in Ethics and Civic Life at the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences and founding director of the Center for Bioethics, Science and Society at the Feinberg School of Medicine.
She currently serves on the national Ethics Advisory Board of NASA and the national steering committee of The Engineering Biology Research Consortium, She has served as the dean of the Divinity School and as the Senior Advisor to the Provost on Social Ethics at the University of Chicago.
We offer the Residential Seminar as a non-credit course for $2,995.
If you are accepted into the program, a deposit of $500 will be requested within one week of acceptance to hold your spot. Balances will be due by April 15, 2024.
Note: Students in the Master of Liberal Arts may complete this seminar as a for-credit course (with assignments and grades) by reaching out to Tim Murphy (Director of the MLA program) at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Residential Seminar is open to lifelong learners seeking a rigorous learning experience, including Graham School students, UChicago alumni, and friends of the University.
To apply, please fill out and submit the Application form.
A $500 per person deposit is required upon acceptance of your application. The balance of the fee is due no later than April 15, 2024. All cancellations and requests for refunds must be submitted in writing and will be subject to a $250 per person cancellation fee. Cancellations received between April 16, 2024 and May 6, 2024 will result in a forfeiture of 60% of the program cost per person. No refunds will be given for cancellations received after May 6, 2024. In the event of the cancellation of the program by the University of Chicago Graham School of Continuing Liberal and Professional Studies, a full refund of tuition will be given.
The University of Chicago and the University of Chicago Graham School of Continuing Liberal and Professional Studies have no responsibility in whole or in part for any loss, death, damage, or injury to person or property or accident, mechanical defect, failure or negligence of any nature howsoever caused in connection with any accommodation, transportation, or other services. The right is retained to decline to accept or retain any person as a Seminar member should such person’s health, mental condition, physical infirmity, or attitude jeopardize the operation of the Seminar or the rights, welfare, or enjoyment of other participants.