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K-State Today

May 10, 2011

More than words: Colleges offer pledges, oaths to remind graduates of ethical, professional responsibilities

Submitted by Julie Fosberg

Before taking up their professional careers, the soon-to-be graduates of Kansas State University's colleges of Education, Engineering and Veterinary Medicine will receive or recite some words of wisdom to guide them in them future.

The three colleges all make a professional pledge or oath a part of their commencement ceremonies.

After walking across the stage to receive their doctor of veterinary medicine degrees, the 107 graduates of the College of Veterinary Medicine will take the Doctor of Veterinary Medicine Oath -- an oath the students are required to memorize, said Ron Elmore, the college's associate dean for academic programs, admissions and diversity.

"By committing this oath to memory, our graduates will always be able to use it as a reminder of their professional responsibilities," Elmore said.

The oath is:

"Being admitted to the profession of veterinary medicine, I solemnly swear to use my scientific knowledge and skills for the benefit of society through the protection of animal health and welfare, the prevention and relief of animal suffering, the conservation of animal resources, the promotion of public health and the advancement of medical knowledge. I will practice my profession conscientiously, with dignity and in keeping with the principles of veterinary medical ethics. I accept as a lifelong obligation the continual improvement of my professional knowledge and competence."

Elmore said the veterinary medicine oath is similar to the Hippocratic Oath taken by new medical doctors as both require professionals to practice ethically and to address the needs of their patients first and foremost.

"More importantly, we hope that the oath will be a reminder throughout our graduates' professional lives of the ethical principles upon which our profession is built," he said. "The oath is a solemn promise made by our graduates to serve society ethically and professionally. It reminds our graduates of the responsibilities they have accepted as veterinarians."

Elmore said taking the oath is pretty standard at commencements for the nation's 28 veterinary colleges. At K-State, the president of the college's alumni association is given the honor of administering it to graduates.

Graduates of the College of Engineering recite the Engineering Pledge to close their commencement ceremony.

The pledge is based on the Engineer's Creed of the National Society of Professional Engineers, but has been revised slightly to make it more relevant to all of the college's degree programs, said Tom Roberts, the college's assistant dean for recruitment and leadership development.

The pledge is:

"As a graduate of the College of Engineering, I pledge: to give the utmost of performance; to participate in none but honest enterprise; to live and work according to the laws of humanity and the highest standards of professional conduct; to place service before profit, the honor and standing of the profession before personal advantage, and the public welfare above all other consideration. In humility and with need for divine guidance, I make this pledge."

"The pledge is a charge to our graduates to think about how they're going to lead their professional lives," Roberts said. "As engineers we are charged with protecting the safety, health and welfare of the public. Having our graduates recite this pledge is one way to remind them of that responsibility."

In fact, Roberts said, students in the college are reminded of the pledge during their undergraduate experience. It's discussed with new engineering students each fall and is part of ethics discussions in the college's curriculum.

The Oath of Education for K-State's College of Education was created 25 years ago by David Byrne, then dean of the college, and Michael Holen, then associate dean of the college and now its current dean.

"The oath expresses the commitment of the college's graduates to enhance the learning of all children, whatever they bring to the classroom. It also emphasizes the crucial role education plays in nurturing the values of a democratic society," Holen said.

While graduates no longer recite the oath at commencement ceremonies, a copy of the oath is given to each graduate and it is included in the commencement program. The oath also is in the college's student handbook.

The oath reads:

"I hereby pledge my dedication to the profession of teaching. I accept the obligations and the challenges of guiding students to knowledge, always showing them care and concern. I will encourage respect for all people, and will cultivate the disciplined, yet free minds necessary for a democratic way of life.

"I promise to champion policies which promote quality in teaching and learning. I will provide everyone engaged in education the opportunity to achieve their own level of excellence. I will strive to become a knowledgeable, ethical, caring decision maker and emulate these qualities, which I pledge to foster. I recognize that at times my endeavors may prove discouraging. Nonetheless, I remain faithful to the belief that my actions in the pursuit of these goals make me worthy of my profession, and make my profession worthy of a free people."