“Character and the Professions” Conference
March 18-20, 2021
In America and across the globe, we are facing a crisis of leadership. Trust in institutions and the professionals who lead them is at a near-historic low, and in the aftermath of COVID-19, the importance of effective leadership has only become more apparent.
This crisis of leadership reflects, in part, a crisis of character. Once trusted to promote the public good, the professions are increasingly seen as captured by narrower concerns of self-interest and self-preservation, and character is often subordinated to technical skills and expertise.
This virtual conference seeks to explore the role of character in the professions and elevate the virtues that are most important for professionals across six professional contexts: public life, religious leadership, engineering and technology, medicine, business, and law. By bringing together distinguished scholars and respected practitioners in each field, we will explore new ways of understanding the theory and practice of ethical leadership while attending to insights from particular professions. The conference will consider questions such as:
- What distinctive virtues or character traits are most important in given professional contexts?
- Which habits of mind and practice are required for ethical leadership in the professions?
- How can character be educated or improved?
- What role does professional identity play in facilitating or inhibiting ethical reasoning and action?
- What present and future challenges do professionals face when preparing to lead with integrity?
- How do specific institutions, incentives, and cultures form or de-form the character of professionals?
- What, if any, obligations do the professions have for advancing the public good?
Thursday, March 18, 2021
Character and Public Life
Eric Beerbohm, Professor of Government, Harvard University
Moderator: Rogan Kersh, Provost, Wake Forest University
- Rogan Kersh, Provost, Wake Forest University
- Bill Haslam, former Tennessee Governor
- Debbie Mukamal, Executive Director, Stanford Criminal Justice Center
- Donna Edwards, former Congresswoman, Wake Forest University board member
- Sabeel Rahman, Senior Counselor, Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs
Face to Face Speaker Forum partnership event featuring remarks from former Secretaries of State Madeleine K. Albright and General Colin L. Powell, USA (Ret)
Friday, March 19, 2021
Character and Religious Leadership
Jonathan Lee Walton, Dean of the Wake Forest School of Divinity
Moderator: Jill Crainshaw, Vice Dean for Faculty Development and Academic Initiatives and Blackburn Professor of Worship and Liturgical Theology, Wake Forest University
- Deb Richardson-Moore, Author, Speaker, and Pastor
- Walter Fluker, Professor of Spirituality, Ethics, and Leadership at Candler School of Theology, Emory University
- Najeeba Syeed, Professor of Muslim and Interreligious Studies, Chicago Theological Seminary
- Shmuly Yanklowitz, Rabbi, Activist, and Author
Character, Engineering, and Technology
Shannon Vallor, Professor and Chair in the Ethics of Data and Artificial Intelligence, University of Edinburgh
Moderator: Olga Pierrakos, Professor and Chair of Engineering Department, Wake Forest University
- Norman Fortenberry, Executive Director, American Society of Engineering Education
- Doug Melton, Director, Kern Entrepreneurial Engineering Network
- Deborah Johnson, Professor Emeritus of Applied Ethics in the Department of Engineering and Society, University of Virginia
Character, Diversity, and the Professions
Stephanie Creary, Assistant Professor of Management, The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania
Moderator: José Villalba, Vice President of Diversity and Inclusion, Wake Forest University
- Noorain Khan, Director of the President’s Office at the Ford Foundation
- Stephanie Pinder-Amaker, Chief Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity Officer, McLean Hospital, Assistant Professor, Harvard Medical School
- Eboo Patel, Author, Speaker, and Founder of Interfaith Youth Core
Saturday, March 20, 2021
Character and Medicine
Margaret Plews-Ogan, Chief and Associate Professor of General Medicine, Geriatrics, and Palliative Care, University of Virginia School of Medicine
Moderator: Julie Freischlag, CEO of Wake Forest Baptist Health and Dean of Wake Forest School of Medicine
- Patrice Harris, outgoing President of the American Medical Association
- Farr Curlin, Professor of Medical Humanities, Duke University School of Medicine and School of Divinity
- Adina Kalet, Director, Kern Institute for the Transformation of Medical Education at the Medical College of Wisconsin
Character and Business
Taya Cohen, Associate Professor of Organizational Behavior and Theory, Carnegie Mellon University
Moderator: Michelle Roehm, Dean, Wake Forest School of Business
- Larry Culp, CEO at General Electric, Wake Forest University Trustee
- Mary Gentile, Professor of Practice, University of Virginia Darden School of Business
- Sean Hannah, Professor of Management, Wake Forest University School of Business
- Carolyn Woo, former CEO of Catholic Charities and former Dean of Notre Dame College of Business
Character and Law
The late Deborah Rhode, Professor of Law, Director of Center on the Legal Profession, Stanford University
Moderator: Jane Aiken, Dean, Wake Forest University School of Law
Support for the Conference
The conference is co-sponsored by the Oxford Character Project and the Program for Leadership and Character at Wake Forest University as part of an ongoing partnership to promote leadership and character development. In addition to strong research institutes and professional programs, both universities have been home to research projects seeking to understand how leadership and character can be developed, including The Oxford Character Project, The Character Project, The Beacon Project, Allegacy Center for Leadership and Character, and the Program for Leadership and Character at Wake Forest. Both institutions have also sought to apply this research to develop programs that help students cultivate the virtues needed to lead for the common good. A central focus on character formation—not merely the skills and strategies of leadership—has led these programs to draw heavily from diverse disciplinary and professional contexts.
The conference is made possible in part by support from the Lilly Endowment, Kern Family Foundation, and the John Templeton Foundation.