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Department of Leadership, Ethics, and Law


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Below are some of the traditional courses offered by LEL.  See your advisor to get an updated course index.

Core Courses:

  • Preparing to Lead (NL110)
  • Midshipmen examine fundamental tenets of leadership in the context of individual and group leadership theories and principles during their first semester. Topics include self-leadership, self-management, team leadership, and a seminar with First Class Midshipmen. The course instructors provide relevant personal and Fleet-based examples and emphasize interactive learning.

    Prereqs: 4/C standing.
  • Ethics and Moral Reasoning for the Naval Leader (NE203)
  • This course is structured around classical and contemporary writing in moral philosophy. Current and historical case studies are used to show how these fundamental ideas can be applied to the service of the professional military leader.

    Prereqs: 3/C standing.
  • Leadership: Theory and Applications (NL310)
  • Students examine the theory and research of the contingent and dynamic process of leadership. Students refine and further develop their understanding of personal strengths, values, and growth opportunities in the context of the team, group, and organizational leadership and create a leadership vision and professional development plan. The course combines literature from social psychology, organizational behavior, and group dynamics to help students understand the factors that influence leadership in a military context.

    Prereqs: 2/C standing.
  • Law for the Junior Officer (NL400)
  • This course provides a broad survey of military law applicable to the junior officer. Students examine operational law concepts, including the Law of Armed Conflict and the Law of the Sea. The course also explores various military justice topics, including constitutional issues such as search and seizure and self-incrimination, judicial and non-judicial forums, and the administrative separation of enlisted service members from the Navy and Marine Corps.

    Prereqs: 1/C standing or waiver from the department chair.


  • Change Management (NL340)
  • This course will explore the theories, practices, and tools/techniques for managing change in an organizational environment. Applicable theories and strategic approaches to solving organizational problems such as human performance technology, organizational development, and "Lean Six Sigma" will be analyzed and compared. The overarching goal of this course is to develop the knowledge, abilities, and skills that will assist future Navy and Marine Corps officers to successfully implement change and transformation in a variety of military organizational environments in the Fleet. Counts for upper-level humanities-social science credit.

    Prereqs: NL310 or waiver from the department chair.
  • Culture and Leadership (NL360)
  • This course will explore the theories and concepts of culture from multiple perspectives to provide future military officers with a broad understanding of the role of culture and human terrain in communities, societies, and the armed forces. Students will develop knowledge, abilities, and skills that will assist future officers to successfully operate in the context of complex military environments around the globe. The course will follow a pedagogical approach of classroom theory integrated with the case study method of analysis and fieldwork conducted both on the Yard and away from USNA. Counts for upper-level Humanities-Social Science credit.

    Prereqs: 2/C standing and above or waiver from the department chair.
  • Communicating as a Leader (NL420)
  • This course examines how leaders use verbal, nonverbal, written, and visual communications to convey their vision and influence their seniors and subordinates. The students will study interpersonal communication theory, analyze historical leaders' communications techniques and styles, interact with guest speakers, assess technological aids to communication, and gain practical experience through assigned projects.

    Prereqs: NL310.
  • Engineering Leadership (NL425)
  • This course aims to study the concepts and context of leadership in the technical and industrial environment. The course combines lectures, readings about technical leadership, and real-world case studies. Programs such as Apollo, the Joint Strike Fighter, the Vision for Space Exploration, and significant failures of major engineering programs will be analyzed from the technical leadership perspective. This course will illustrate how the management of such complex technological programs requires the melding of technical expertise, organizational theory, and leadership. The subject matter is relevant for military leaders as they are increasingly being called upon to lead and manage technical and industrial environments. Counts for upper-level humanities-social science credit.

    Prereqs: NL310 or waiver from the department chair.
  • Leadership in Groups and Organizations (NL430)
  • This course investigates models of leadership drawn from military sociology and organizational behavior. It provides an overview of the critical scholarship on how large, complex, formal organizations like the Navy function and examines the leadership process. Topics include group formation and performance, organizational culture and change from the perspective of junior leaders, and the challenges and imperatives of leadership under changing organizational circumstances. Counts for upper-level Humanities-Social Science credit.

    Prereqs: none.
  • Experiential Leadership (NL440)
  • Experiential Leadership provides a supervised, self-selected opportunity to experience, reflect, conceptualize and deepen an understanding of leadership in an applied context. The course seeks to extend and complement the student's understanding of leadership by leveraging coursework completed at USNA (e.g., NL110, NE203, NL310) with a focused and professionally guided real-world experiential activity outside the Naval Academy. Various military and civilian-based internships are available; however, the exact nature of the experiential activity will be developed and coordinated with a designated faculty mentor/sponsor. Midshipmen enrolled in the course undertake a commitment to research, scope, and gain faculty approval of a learning plan with specific objectives before the experiential experience begins; communicate regularly with their faculty mentor during the experience to focus reflection and understanding; continually seek out challenges and active participation opportunities during their experiential activity; record (log) their experiences as they pertain to their learning plan objectives and deliver a major paper and presentation following their return which meets the approved learning plan objectives.

    Prereqs: NL310 and permission of department chair.
  • Understanding Iranian Leadership Dynamics Through History and Culture (NL485A)
  • This course uses Iran, a potential military threat to US interests, to help students understand cultural elements shaping leaders and their decision-making process. Decision-making is perhaps one of the most important facets of leadership. The historical and cultural context provided by this course will enable students to "know your enemies and know yourself." It does this primarily through studying Iran's military history and an introduction to the concept of strategic culture. The exploration of the latter will also give students an appreciation of how cultural values influence their own approaches to leadership and decision-making. Counts for upper-level humanities-social science credit.

    Prereqs: 2/C standing or above.


  • Piracy, Maritime Terrorism and Law of the Sea (NL485C)
  • This course will examine the policy and legal frameworks applicable to maritime security and sea law. The course will focus on piracy repression, responding to the maritime transport of WMD and terrorists, and the Law of the Sea (LOS) Convention. Topics addressed will include articles of the LOS Convention applicable to military operations, policy and legal considerations in piracy repression operations, authorities to conduct compliant and non-compliant maritime boardings, and the impact of national maritime strategies on U.S. naval operations. Counts for upper-level humanities-social science credit. Prereqs: 1/C standing or permission of instructor.
  • Law of Armed Conflict (NL486)
  • This course will develop a basic understanding of the law of armed conflict (LOAC), emphasizing contemporary issues facing junior officers at the tactical level. The course will introduce a historical background of LOAC, examining the sources of the LOAC to include Hague Law, Geneva, and customary international law (CIL). The course will examine the complex issues on today's battlefield to include conflict status and individual status, the use of force and targeting, and detention operations. Counts for upper-level humanities-social science credit.

    Prereqs: 2/C standing or higher.


  • Human Behavior (NL200)
  • An introduction to the science of psychology, this course covers the theories and principles of individual and group human behavior. Topics include learning, personality, social psychology, memory, human development, brain-functioning, health psychology, and psychopathology. This course emphasizes research-based discoveries in the field of psychology. Students are prepared to critically evaluate behavioral science research and apply salient principles to leadership. Counts for humanities-social science credit.

    Prereqs: none.
  • Social Psychology (NL211)
  • This course focuses on human behavior in the social context. How individuals influence and are influenced by groups and the field of group dynamics will be examined. Emphasis is placed on research-based findings in causal attribution, social perception, interpersonal attraction, attitudes and attitude change, group dynamics, prosocial behavior, and aggression. Particular emphasis is given to applicants in the military setting. Counts for humanities-social science credit.

    Prereqs: none.
  • Psychology of Intimate Relationships (NL285)
  • This course will provide an in-depth understanding of the psychological processes involved in intimate relationships through the application of psychological theory to our own lives in the context of interpersonal attraction, friendship development, affiliation, loneliness, shyness, theories of love, courtship, sexual relationships, commitment, violence in close relationships, marital conflict, divorce, and marital therapy. Counts for humanities-Social science credit.

    Prereqs: 3/C standing.
  • Personality (NL306)
  • This course explores major influences on the development of personality from both theoretical and clinical perspectives. Theories covered include psychoanalytic, behavioral, cognitive, humanistic, and biopsychosocial. This course addresses contemporary research and practice relative to assessing and understanding personality traits, styles, and disorders. Midshipmen will examine their own personality assets and liabilities and implications for leadership. Counts for upper-level Humanities-Social Science credit.

    Prereqs: NL200.
  • Psychology of Leadership (NL311)
  • This is an intensive and experientially-focused course that emphasizes leader self-analysis and skill development. Areas covered include personnel management, team development, and performance enhancement at both individual and group levels. Research findings from industrial/organizational consultation, learning, motivation, social behavior, group dynamics, personality, counseling, social perception, and interpersonal influence will provide the undergirding for developing knowledge, attitudes, and skills which contribute to effective leadership. Counts for upper-level Humanities-Social Science credit.

    Prereqs: 3/C standing or above.
  • Abnormal Psychology (NL312)
  • Explores the origins, symptoms, diagnosis, and management of psychological disorders. Midshipmen gain an understanding of the root causes of psychological disturbance, including personality disorders. The cognitive, emotional, behavioral, and cultural manifestations of these disorders are explored. Strategies for effective prevention and management of psychopathology in operational environments are addressed. Midshipmen also learn techniques for rapid assessment and triage of psychiatric crises. Counts for upper-level humanities-social science credit. Prereqs: none.
  • Psychology of Crime (NL313)
  • Why do individuals commit crimes? Is the impetus genetic, environmental, or a matter of free will? This course explores criminal activity's biological and behavioral origins in society and examines how the justice system deals with such behavior. Special consideration is given to mentally ill defendants and the use of the insanity defense. Students conduct case studies to diagnose the psychological and behavioral bases of criminal conduct in mock defendants, to recommend appropriate punishments and treatment, and to assess rehabilitative potential. Counts for upper-level Humanities-Social Science credit.

    Prereqs: NL200, NL400, and 1/C standing.


  • Introduction to Sociology (NL230)
  • Sociology is the scientific study of society and the interactions among human beings. The purpose of this course is to provide a survey of the field of sociology and educate and inspire Midshipmen to examine contemporary situations that involve social interaction. Students will use sociological concepts, theories, and research to explain what is taking place, identify social threads and patterns across the situations, and determine the personal and social significance of the analysis. Sociology demands that the student transcend the taken-for-granted, subjective world view and develop a sociological imagination by revealing the linkages and relationships among social facts and connect public issues to self-awareness. Students will identify common threads across social situations and determine the self and social significance of facts. The teaching and learning strategy involve reading, writing, discussions, presentations, and other active-learning, hands-on projects. Particular emphasis is placed on understanding the basics of the field, including micro, macro, and meso applications. Counts for humanities-social science credit.

    Prereqs: NL110.
  • Armed Forces and Society (NL335)
  • This course examines the American military as a social institution using sociological concepts, theories, and methods. The internal organization and practices of the armed forces and the relationships between the military and other social institutions comprise the field of study. To understand the armed forces and their place in society, it is necessary to consider past, present, and future forces that influence and shape the military. Topics include military culture and socialization; race and gender, recruiting and retention; changes in a military organization; marriage and military families; warfare, technology, and the media. Counts for upper-level humanities-social science credit.

    Prereqs: NL310 is recommended.
  • Peace War and Social Conflict (NL435)
  • This upper-division course examines the social and military aspects of war and peace. Using sociological theories, concepts, and methods, the course considers war and combat as social conflict at the macro level of analysis (origins and causes, events and processes, effects and outcomes). At the meso-level of analysis, the course addresses the dynamic effects of social structure in the processes of war, combat, and peace. While the Modern Western experience occupies a considerable section of the course, non-Western analyses of war and peace and other forms of social conflict and resolution are introduced.

    Prereqs: 1/C standing.
  • Social Inequality (NL450)
  • This course investigates the social and physical constructs of race, gender, and ethnicity in America's context of social inequality. Particular emphasis is placed on understanding how these constructs, both singly and in combination, affect American society and culture. The course examines how the social institutions of marriage and families, work and employment, education, media, and the state create and maintain inequalities. Marxian and conflict theories, Weber's multidimensional model, and the structural-functionalism of Durkheim and Talcott Parsons are covered in depth. Application of key concepts, principles, and theories to the American military and Naval Service is a cornerstone of this course, as is the understanding of cultural diversity. Upon completing this course, the successful student will possess a stronger and broader understanding of how social stratification affects American society and how this stratification contrasts with stratification systems in other societies.

    Prereqs: NL310.
  • Gender and Leadership (NL485)
  • This course explores what it means to be a woman in a leadership position and the relationship between gender, work, and family. How do women's experiences differ from men's? Are there conflicts or issues that are unique to women in leadership positions? What role does leadership style play? What about subordinates? The course will explore societal pressures and expectations and look at the topic from a leadership perspective. Counts for upper-level humanities-social science credit.

    Prereqs: NL230, NL450, or NL485B and 2/C standing or above.
  • Gender Matters (NL486B)
  • Gender shapes our lives and influences our behavior, but few of us are aware of it. Although the military is celebrated as a meritocracy, gender is still an issue. Within the academy, tension and resentment remain, as evidenced by comments questioning female stripers' credentials, resentment regarding different PRT standards for men and women, and the continuing use of derogatory terms for women, to name a few. In the Fleet, subs are about to integrate. Many women believe that childbearing might be detrimental to their careers, sexual harassment is pervasive, and a military member assaulted most female military survivors of sexual assault. Moreover, the expected repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell means the possibility of new tensions and issues. Discussion in NL486 will explore these issues and others and ask what it means to be a man or a woman in our society. Counts for upper-level humanities-social science credit.

    Prereqs: 3/C standing or above.


  • Introduction to Philosophy (NP230)
  • An introduction to philosophy through close study of one or more classic works of philosophy, emphasizing examining philosophical conceptions of leadership. In recent semesters, these have included Plato's Republic (and other dialogues of Plato), Descartes' Meditations on First Philosophy, Kant's Prolegomena to any Future Metaphysics and historical essays (including "Perpetual Peace"), Nietzsche's Beyond Good and Evil, and selections of essays on political and military leadership by Plutarch, Machiavelli, Locke, Hegel, Kierkegaard, and other modern and contemporary philosophers. The emphasis of the course is on careful reading and analysis of the text, and on seminar discussion among the class participants (what Plato described as "dialectic" and reckoned in the Republic to be among the chief prerequisites for sound military and political leadership), together with several substantial writing assignments, and written mid-term and final examinations. Counts for humanities-social science credit.

    Prereqs: NE203.
  • Military Ethics: The Code of the Warrior (NP232)
  • Why do warriors fight? How do they fight? What should bring a warrior honor? What should bring them shame? What is really worth dying for? There have been special warrior cultures in countless societies across the globe through every era in history. Were these warriors just killers, or did they have their own unique codes of behavior? This course explores several warrior traditions: the Ancient Greeks, the Vikings, the Romans, the Celts, Knights and Chivalry, African Tribesmen, Native American Warriors, Chinese Warrior Monks, Japanese Samurai, and 20th Century warriors, and applies the lessons of their experience and warrior philosophy to the task of creating the ideal code for warriors of the new millennium. Counts for humanities-social science credit.

    Prereqs: none.
  • Logic and Critical Thinking (NP250)
  • First-rate officers need to be first-rate critical thinkers. Indeed, critical thinking is near the top of any list of skills needed for personal success, independence, self-understanding, and fulfillment in life. The primary objective of this course is to impart a functional ability to reason well--to improve your analytical skills and instincts (and thereby also your reading and writing skills), and to enhance your credibility as you demonstrate to others that you understand how reasoning works and that you can think rigorously, clearly, transparently, and self-critically. The course will develop your abilities to comprehend, analyze, and evaluate others' arguments and to create strong arguments of your own.

    Prereqs: 3/C and above.
  • Comparative Study of Religion (NP335)
  • This course is designed to introduce the study of religion through the examination and comparison of concepts and themes central to human cultures. Examples are drawn primarily from the ancient Near East (including ancient Israel and Iran), China, Japan, classical Greece, Rome, Southeast Asia, the Americas, Eurasia, Judaism, Christianity, Zoroastrianism, Buddhism, Manichaeism, Islam, Hinduism, and contemporary non-literate cultures. Students are challenged to think in broad comparative terms, bringing together both details and generic categories.

    Prereqs: None.
  • Philosophy of Religion (NP336)
  • This course provides a focused introduction to philosophical questions about religion and the pursuit of religious ideals. Whether you are a person of strong faith from any religious tradition or an agnostic or an atheist, you will enjoy investigating and debating questions and topics such as these: Arguments for the Existence of God, Do Miracles Occur?, What is the Source of Evil?, What Happens When We Die?, Faith and Reason, Faith and scientific Knowledge, Religious Pluralism, and the Relationship Between Religion and Ethics. One way or another, these issues affect us all. Counts for Humanities-Social Science credit.

    Prereqs: 2/C standing and above or waiver from the department chair.
  • Philosophy of Science (NP340)
  • Everyone learns science from textbooks and tried-and-true lab experiments, but do you know how scientists really work? How do they decide to count only certain things as "facts" and to regard only certain theories as "knowledge"? How do they struggle to eliminate the subjective factor present in all human inquiry to discover objective truths? In this course, you will examine these intriguing issues by reading some classic works of philosophers, historians, and sociologists of science, comparing the processes of knowledge generation in science with the analogous processes in other fields and everyday life and actually performing your own social-scientific study. Leave behind the popular myths and stereotypes about scientists, and find out how their world really works! (*required for all General Science majors) Counts for humanities-social science credit.

    Prereqs: 2/C and above or waiver from the department chair.
  • Philosophy of War (NP410)
  • This course will begin with a careful philosophical analysis of the concept of war and then proceed to a critical investigation of its moral permissibility. In so doing, we will consider such questions as what distinguishes war from other forms of violence and coercion; whether offensive or defensive wars are ever justified; whether the use of military force for humanitarian ends is legitimate; what weapons, tactics, and strategies may be employed in fighting a war, and against whom may such weapons, tactics and strategies be used? Prereqs: NE203.
  • Philosophical Foundations of Liberty (NP420)
  • Most of us believe that liberty is an important value. Indeed, many of us believe that it is the most important moral value. But we often do so without considering what liberty is and why we think it is so important. For example, is liberty the absence of something (interference) or the presence of something (control); is liberty something one necessarily wants more of, or are there times when one might want less; can constraints on one's liberty be liberating, or are they always limiting; should one be permitted to give up one's liberty or should one be forced to be free; does a commitment to individual liberty require a commitment to free markets or is a commitment to individual liberty compatible with other types of economic arrangements? Furthermore, what is the relationship between liberty and other things we value, such as justice, equality, security, community, happiness, and responsibility? Through reading classical and contemporary texts, this course will examine these and other related questions, not to achieve a final resolution but rather to provide the student with a framework to thoughtfully consider and evaluate the relevant philosophical and moral issues. The emphasis throughout will be on class participation together with weekly writing assignments. Both a written mid-term and final examination will be given.

    Prereqs: NE203.
  • Philosophy of Law (NP485A)
  • It is often said that ours is "a government of laws, and not of men." But is that a good thing? What are laws, after all? Where do they come from? What purpose do they serve? Why are we obligated to obey them? What recourse do we have if we don't agree with them or think them immoral or unjust? For example, what if the law requires us to do something that we don't wish to do (buy health insurance) or forbids us from doing something we wish to do (marry a member of the same sex)? Must we follow such laws, or is it permissible to break them? Through a careful reading of texts and cases, weekly writing assignments, and robust discussion and debate, students will explore these and other fundamental questions in the philosophy of law. Counts for humanities-social science credit.

    Prereqs: (NE203 or NP230) and 2/C standing.
  • Philosophy of Film (NP485B)
  • This course will examine perennial problems or themes in the history of philosophy through the medium of films. Topics we will explore are skepticism, personal identity, philosophy of mind, relativism, utilitarian and deontological ethics, the meaning of life, and the problem of evil. Counts for upper-level humanities-social science credit.

    Prereqs: NE203 or NP230 and 2/C standing.
  • Philosophical Reflections on Christian Faith (NP485C)
  • The Christian faith tradition includes many metaphysical claims regarding the nature of reality and moral claims regarding the human condition. This course will help students critically reflect on those claims. Topics covered include the nature of justice, love, and forgiveness, the existence of God, the relation between religion and science, the moral assessment of the war. Authors covered include St. Augustine, Vitoria, C.S. Lewis, Nicholas Wolterstorff. Counts for upper-level humanities-social science credit.

    Prereqs: NE203 or NP230 and 2/C standing.

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