Leadership & Character | Winston-Salem, NC

The group began by sharing personal experiences of witnessing character in action, some from their professional lives, some from family or community and some from Wake Forest. Themes that emerged included:

  • Character is often portrayed in tiny decent things done everyday;
  • Community and broader purpose; overcoming obstacles to contribute; putting the good of society over personal interests; selfless community service;
  • Generosity and commitment; giving back; unwavering belief and kindness in the face of tragedy;
  • Fostering civil political discourse in a polarized society;
  • Serving as an example to our children and youth.

We then connected the opening theme to how character can be taught and modeled to our students at Wake Forest. The group’s spirited discussion included many observations, concerns and suggestions about student life.

  • Current students are highly focused on volunteerism, but some lack focus in their service opportunities.
  • It is late in the game to form character by the time students reach university; character cannot be taught but we can provide opportunities for character development.
  • The teacher/scholar model creates opportunities for faculty to model character.
  • We need to teach students to listen to opposing opinions; conversely, students need to listen before forming opinions.
  • This may be the first time students have their ideas challenged.

The group coalesced around the concept of a shared first-year experience to teach character. The “culture of the cohort” – something in common to talk about. Ideas for this included:

  • Common First Year Seminar – everyone taking the same class;
  • Adding character to the new First Year Experience course and making the course mandatory;
  • Having a required first year book to read instead of the current multiple book, optional program; could tie into the First Year Seminar.

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