renae dower
By Roanoke College News

Roanoke professor's book dives into young adult ethical quest

Dr. Ned Wisnefske, a religion and philosophy professor at Roanoke College, has created a picture-story book that dives into the ethics of young adults. 

Wisnefske's book, "The Ought," is written for young adults who wonder where morals originate and why they vary between individuals.

Wisnefske said the book asks "what is around us, in us, and tells us what needs to be done. 'You ought to do this. You ought not do that.' That's The Ought."

Wisnefske came up with the idea for the book one day while writing a paper for a conference on moral education.

"I was thinking that moral education is all about 'the ought,' when it occurred to me that that sounded like something from Dr. Seuss. So, I thought I would write something similar to Dr. Seuss'  'O the Places You will Go,'" said Wisnefske. 

He contacted Dr. Kate Shortridge, who is associate professor of Fine Arts at Roanoke, to help him find a Roanoke student who could illustrate "The Ought." Shortridge recommended Renae Dower '14.

Dower began her work on the book's illustrations while she was a student at Roanoke. The book was published last September. "Illustrating the book was challenging, but also very enjoyable," she said. "Dr. Wisnefske and I would discuss what it was we thought 'the ought' would look like as a character and what the setting of the story should be. We went through quite a few ideas and sketches before finding what we were both looking for."

Dower, who lives in Roanoke, graduated from Roanoke with a bachelor's degree in Art and a minor in Art History. She wants to illustrate children and young adult books. 

"We met at least a dozen times imagining how to create images that fit with the story," Wisnefske said. "It was a genuine collaboration between the two of us. Thinking that the project would help her with her career was another reason I wanted to go through with the project." 

"The Ought" is sold online, at, under Wisnefske's author name of Prof Wiz. 

"My real name is awkward and hard to pronounce, and students have been calling me Prof. Wiz for years," said Wisnefske, about the pseudonym. 

Wisnefske has been a professor at Roanoke since 1985. He is the Schumann professor of Lutheran Theology at Roanoke.

Published April 14, 2015

-By Allison Shannon '15