Though still young compared with similar programs nationwide, Utah Valley Community College's humanities program already has become one of the top eight among U.S. community and junior colleges.

The recognition came this month from the American Association of Community and Junior Colleges and the National Endowment for the Humanities. The college's use of a $115,000 National Endowment grant in establishing an interdisciplinary course in ethics and humanities in 1986 prompted the recognition.Elaine Englehardt, UVCC National Endowment director who set up the college's ethics course, next year will direct the humanities faculty and administrators at several colleges throughout the nation.

The association and National Endowment for the Humanities officials hope to strengthen college humanities courses throughout the country. A book by Englehardt being published by McGraw-Hill Publishing Co. is expected to help that effort.

The book, "Ethics and Values: A Critical Look at the Humanities," will be published next year and is expected to be used widely in college humanities classes nationwide.

"We are delighted that our program has been recognized on a national level," Englehardt said. "We've worked hard to create an environment where students can ponder the ethical issues they'll face as working professionals."

Before 1986, she said, UVCC had no ethics and values course for all students as part of its humanities program. UVCC is the only state college requiring students to complete a course in ethics as part of a two-year associate degree.

The $115,000 humanities grant also has covered the cost of bringing in distinguished educators to help train UVCC humanities faculty and staff. The college has submitted a second grant application requesting an additional $160,000 to establish a related course on the history of civilization.

Elglehardt said the quality of the UVCC ethics and values course is comparable to similar classes offered at four-year universities. Students are required to read works by such philosophers as Aristotle, Immanuel Kant and John Stewart Mill, and authors Joseph Conrad and Feodor Dostoevski.

"These courses engage the student in serious reflection of values and ethics and how they relate to the student's personal life," Englehardt said. Issues discussed in the course include abortion, evolution, euthanasia, nuclear arms and capital punishment.

"Through lectures and course work, students are encouraged to confront the internal inconsistencies in their own value systems, as well as the implication of their values."

Englehardt's book manuscript is undergoing peer review, said McGraw-Hill editor Lesley Denton.

"It was designed just perfectly for the class," she said. "Her idea was very good and implemented in a very powerful way. It (the book) can be used in both ethics courses or programs that are interdisciplinary."

Though publication of books by community and junior college professors is becoming more common, Denton called Englehardt's manuscript exceptional. She said the book will be distributed nationally.

"It's a significant accomplishment for her to have a book published in that area," said Lucille Stoddard, UVCC vice president for academic affairs.

Stoddard said Englehardt is one of many outstanding humanities faculty members who offer students a quality program.

"It's nice to see that affirmed by a national group and by one's peers," she said of the recognition. "Today more than ever we need ethics education. I think it's timely and significant for our students. Many of our employers talk about how important it is to get students who think critically, make good judgments and are aware of the critical-thinking process."