Rookies Performed Like Veterans at National Bio Ethics Bowl Competition

UC undergraduate students Alexis Chapman, Kaya Chase, Caden Fraley, Pete Siebert, Tyler Fields, and Ashley Stewart, had an outstanding season competing on UC’s Ethics Bowl Team this spring. The students competed by enrolling in UC’s Ethics Bowl Class, and traveled to Waco, TX, April 11-14, to compete in the 2024 National Bioethics Bowl Competition at Baylor University.

All but one of the students had prior Ethics Bowl experience. 20 schools competed and they tied for 5th based on their win-loss record after the three preliminary rounds; narrowly missing the opportunity to advance to the Final Four, elimination rounds.  Vincent Del Prado, co-coach, PhD candidate in Philosophy, and class GA, said “I’m so impressed with how the team did. It was so fun to watch, especially how they worked together as a team.” 

The Preliminary Rounds

In round one they faced off against Baylor University, the host institution. Andy Cullison, co-coach and Executive Director of the Cincinnati Ethics Center (CEC) and Affiliate Professor of Philosophy said “I always love the first round because even the best teams never seem fully “on” in practices. There’s something about competition where they really buckle down and you get the sense as to what they are really capable of. It was clear after that first round that they were really dialed in.”

In round two the team faced off against the University of California, Berkeley.  Not only did they win this round, but the decision was unanimous with all three judges voting for UC by a very large margin.

In round three the team lost to a second Baylor University team in very a close match.  “I was a little surprised that we lost this round,” said Cullison, “and the feedback from the judges shows us that is was really close.”  In that third round, one judge had UC winning by a healthy margin and another judge only had UC losing by one point. “So, we were two points shy of securing a 3-0 record in preliminary rounds,” Cullison added.  Only two of the twenty schools had 3-0 record after the preliminary rounds. 

Selection Elimination Round Teams

For the schools that joined UC with 2-1 record, the other two spots for finals were UC Ethics Bowl Class Team during competition determined using point differentials.  “Based on point differential we ended up in 7th place,” Cullison explained “finishing seventh on point differential is a much bigger deal than finishing seventh on win-loss record. Point differentials were originally introduced because organizers needed some way to determine who advances to elimination rounds, but I don’t think they reliably distinguish between teams that tie. I told our team that they should really think of this as a fifth-place finish, which is phenomenal.”  

Universally, all of the students thought it was an incredible experience.  Tyler Fields, the only veteran member of the team due to competing in the Fall at the Central States Collegiate Ethics Bowl Regional, was particularly impressed with how things came together. “My favorite thing to see was how quickly everyone improved technically over time,” he noted, “It was great to see how everyone grew from where they were at the beginning of the semester.”   Ashley Stewart shared, “The team was always so supportive during practice, and in competition I always knew that when it was my turn, they would always have my back.”   Alexis Chapman said, “It was so good to get outside of my comfort zone, but also do something that seems so meaningful and important.”  

Group photo of UC Team, Coaches, and CEC graduate interns that traveled to Waco.
UC Ethics Bowl team, coaches, and CEC graduate interns UC Ethics Bowl Class at the 2024 Intercollegiate Bio Ethics Competition held at Baylor University

More About UC’s Ethics Bowl Class

The Ethics Bowl Class is a collaboration between The Cincinnati Ethics Center and the UC Philosophy Department. The team meets together as a class (PHIL 1015/3015). They are coached by a philosophy graduate student who receives a graduate assistantship paid for by CEC. The CEC executive director, Cullison, also serves as a professor and coach for the class.  

The CEC has been funding the GA position and travel expenses for the Ethics Bowl class since 2020. In its very first year of existence the team performed well enough in the Central States Regional to advance to the national competition. They brought home the National Championship trophy of the Applied Practical and Professional Ethics (APPE) Intercollegiate Ethics Bowl (IEB).  “I remember hearing about that back when I was still in Indiana,” Cullison said. It’s practically unheard of for a school that’s brand new to Ethics Bowl to do so well in their inaugural year.” 

Changes on the Horizon: Building a Sustainable Team
Cullison said that there are some big changes on the horizon to help build a sustainable team.  “Historically ethics bowl started on college campuses as a club or extra-curricular activity,” Cullison said, “But it became apparent that students do the workload equivalent of an applied ethics class, so a lot of colleges and universities have turned it into a class as well.”  That’s what UC did in 2020. But in order to build a sustainable team, “We need structure like a collegiate sports team with veterans who had taken the class before and beginners who we could count on taking the class for most of their time,” Cullison said, “And this Spring class was a bit of a transition to that model.”

Beginning in Fall 2024, some changes are being implemented to make that possible. “The first change was to make the day and time of the class open, so we can assemble the team and decide on those details later,” Cullison said. “The odds that the ten to twelve students you want all being available at the exact day and time you choose is slim to none. This change lets us make the class available to everyone we know wants to be on the team.”

The second change was to create a one-credit and three-credit version of the class. The one-credit is PHIL 1015 and can be taken six times. The three-credit class is PHIL 3015 and can be taken two times. “This model allows a student to receive course credit if they want in some form for a full four years at UC,” Cullison said. 

“The one-credit course will be what most students take. Class will only meet once a week for practice. Students will be responsible for a smaller number of cases and have slightly less responsibilities than the three-credit class,” Cullison said, “It’s best to think of the three-credit class as a team member that is in more of a leadership role. These students will meet with the coaches more frequently, develop leadership skills, and be responsible for a larger set of cases.”

UC Team at dinner before 2022 APPE IEB Regional
UC Team at dinner before 2022 APPE IEB Regional

UC Ethics Bowl Class is a course that feels more like a club!  “I really enjoy participating in a dialogue-based activity that seems so much more meaningful than merely writing papers for a classroom,” said Caden Fraley.  “I’ve never done anything like this, and I’m so glad I did.”  The CEC hopes the new class structure will chart the course of an Ethics Bowl dynasty.  Kaya sums it up well, “I learned more than I can explain and ended up having such an amazing time.  I cannot wait to return next semester and take everything I learned forward so we can bring home a trophy!    

Students interested in joining the class should contact the Cincinnati Ethics Center at  

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