On The Frontier of Complex Social Challenges

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Decision Times

Dear Faith & Work,

Every day corporate leaders make difficult decisions. These include where and how to invest their resources to fulfill their mission, satisfy shareholder expectations, and consider the interests of stakeholders.


As a result of Russia’s invasion and war on Ukraine, corporate leaders still face these same decisions, but the stakes and ramifications are higher. For many corporate leaders, their current decisions about Russia and Ukraine have less to do with making money or meeting profit targets, and more to do with a shared sense of humanity, morality, and faith.


As of this writing, Professor Jeff Sonnenfeld and his research team at Yale School of Management report that over 400 prominent companies around the globe have made the decision to end or suspend commercial activities in Russia, or to limit their continuation to humanitarian products. This means leaving behind billions of dollars of company assets, future revenue streams, and good will. They are also losing dreams, friendships, and decades-long relationships.


Similarly, leaders at universities, NGOs, and other research and scientific collaborations are deciding to suspend, curtail, or dissolve those relationships. And, of course, countless individuals and families face unimaginably difficult decisions, often with life and death ramifications.


Some critics of the war view these decisions as obvious and straightforward. Yet most leaders I speak with, while agreeing with the need to respond, also recognize the nuances, unknowns, and possible unintended consequences of their decisions.


We join the world in praying for a rapid and peaceful end to the war. And for wisdom, courage, and faith for those making these life-changing and world-changing decisions that will affect the world today and for generations to come.

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David W. Miller, Ph.D.

Director, Faith & Work Initiative

Princeton University


News to Use

Faith Ethics Time

The great biologist and naturalist, E.O. Wilson, famously categorized the human dilemma as follows: “we have Paleolithic emotions; medieval institutions; and god-like technology.” The collective challenge we face, according to Wilson, is how best to re-align and wise our emotional impulses with the sunken costs of our institutions and the unprecedented capacities opening to us through technology.  

At the heart of this collective challenge is our tendency toward present bias: that is, our species inclination toward immediate rewards to the detriment of later benefits that prove greater. Let me illustrate this with my five-year old nephew, Soren. Soren is a wonderful kid and more or less a willful science experiment. We happen to share a love for movies and yogurt covered raisons so over the years I’ve tested various versions of present bias on him. When we watch a movie, I give him a choice: he can have either two yogurt covered raisons at the beginning of the film or a whole box at the middle. Soren tends toward two behavioral patterns. He will either take the two treats immediately and then barter for the box later; or he’ll hold out for the box for a few minutes and quickly cave in for the treats. In both cases, the tendency toward present bias is confirmed—as well as the fact that I’m a terrible uncle. 

This experiment—which hasn’t exactly been approved by the IRB!—is repeated every day by ourselves and at our places of work. Several years ago, economists at the National Bureau of Economic Research published a report detailing how more money is lost for shareholders by executives choosing short-term wins than through financial scandals of fraud. The drive toward short-term wins costs investors more money than financiers and fraudsters who made-off with their retirement savings. Even more lamentable, according to a McKinsey and Company report published in 2016, is that 87% of C-Suite executives that were surveyed reported to feeling institutional pressure to generate quarterly results despite acknowledging that long-time horizons are richer both in terms of financial returns and richer research for innovation.

In his dialogue, The Protagoras, Plato cautioned that a miscalculation of future pleasure and future pain leads to folly. This is what Bina Venkataraman has referred to in her wonderful book, The Optimist’s Telescope: Thinking Ahead in a Reckless Age, as the tragedy of limited time horizons. When we scurry about for the acorn in front of us—and create godlike technologies that repeat these processes at scale—we are sowing a poorer future. This is where wisdom traditions can provide a fruitful pause—or a selah as the Psalter has it—within our tendency toward recklessness. And as a source for widening our ethics to consider temporal orientations of given situations. Unchecked present bias works harm against our future neighbors and families and selves. 


Michael J. Thate, Ph.D.

Associate Research Scholar

Faith & Work Initiative

Princeton University

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"Work Pray Code," Carolyn Chen in conversation with David W. Miller, Princeton University Professor and Director, The Faith & Work Initiative

Join a livestream conversation hosted by the Princeton Public Library on March 22, 2022 as Carolyn Chen discusses her new book 'Work Pray Code' with David W. Miller, Princeton University Professor and Director of The Faith & Work Initiative. The book explores how tech companies are bringing religion into the workplace in ways that are replacing ...

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Ethical Leadership

In addition to his teaching his undergraduate class, affectionately called by students "Succeeding without Selling Your Soul," David has been teaching a new graduate course in the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences with Michael Thate on Responsible Conduct in Research and Engineering Ethics (EGR501A). Our recent guest was Dr. Laura Forese, Executive VP and COO at New York-Presbyterian. Dr. Forese graduated from Princeton University (’83) in Civil Engineering and Operations Research.   

 Learn more about her insights here.


Toni Townes-Whitley, Princeton University class of 1985, is a former president of US Regulated Industries at Microsoft and current FWI Advisory Board member. She joined Professor David W. Miller in class to discuss real world issues of faith and work.

Leadership Perspective


Time for Thanks

David W. Miller, Ph.D.- Director of the Princeton University Faith & Work Initiative, ethicist, thought leader, and CEO advisor - enjoyed a conversation with Robert Reiss of The CEO Forum Group to discuss his thoughts on ethical leadership and the importance of “thanks” and “giving," especially in these difficult times.

View the full article on Forbes.

Let's Connect

Public Engagement and Thought Leadership

Towards a "Restoration of Trust?"

From the classroom to the boardroom, from the factory floor to the C-suite, from Denver to Davos, over the past months we’ve been involved in stimulating conversations around the intersection of work, ethics, and faith. Stemming from the growing lack of trust in society’s institutions, David Miller and Michael Thate co-authored Towards a "Restoration of Trust?", exploring how companies and other organizations might embark on a journey to restore trust by drawing on the insights and wisdom found in faith traditions.

An Ethics Perspective on Facebook

Michael J. Thate interview in Forbes discusses the ethical questions arising from Facebook’s history and recent whistleblower revelations in an article with Curt Steinhorst of Forbes Magazine.

Learn More

Advisory Board

  • George Bauer, Chairman, GPB, Ltd.
  • Marc Belton, Founder, Wisefellows Consulting
  • Rich Berg, Executive Chairman and Co-Founder Performance Trust Capital Partners
  • Brill Garrett '88, S89, Jason Garrett Starfish Charities
  • Pat Gelsinger, CEO, Intel
  • Lou Giuliano, Non-Executive Chairman, Vectrus
  • Tom Horton P'15, Partner, Global Infrastructure Partners
  • Dale Jones, President and CEO, Diversified Search
  • Yung Bong Lim '87, Managing Partner, RDG Funds LLC
  • Gene Lockhart, Chairman & Managing Partner, MissionOG
  • Mimi Pivirotto Murley '76 S72, Leading civic volunteer

  • Robert Murley '72 S76, Senior Advisor Credit Suisse (former vice chairman Credit Suise and former chair of Investment Banking in the Americas
  • Wendy Murphy, Managing Director and Global Practice Leader, ZRG Partners
  • Craig Philip '75 S76, Director, Vanderbilt University Center for Transportation Research
  • John Tyson, Chairman, Tyson Foods, Inc.
  • Kevin Weiss, '79 CEO, Spireon, Inc.
  • Toni Townes-Whitley '85, Former President, US Regulated Industries, Microsoft
  • Jacob Worenklein, Chairman and CEO of US Grid Company
  • Johanna Zeilstra, CEO, Gender Fair

Princeton University


Faith & Work Initiative

Princeton University

Keller Center for Innovation

Engineering Quadrangle

Princeton University

Princeton, NJ 08544


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The Faith & Work Initiative is a teaching and research center within the Princeton University School of Engineering and Applied Science and the Keller Center committed to exploring ethics, values, and practices of exchange on the frontier of complex social challenges. We explore foundational meanings and promote ethical awareness across our constituencies at every phase of life and work. To do so, we look back—both in terms of the histories of ethical philosophy and also the varying authoritative traditions of religious communities. We approach such histories and wisdom traditions as beneficial for understanding as well as framing contemporary global challenges. With our team of ethical philosophers, philosophers of religion, and historians, as well as our global partners from a range of other disciplines, we commit to this rigorous portfolio of offerings for students, academic peers, religious communities, and leaders in the marketplace.