On October 30, 2020, Dr. Sara Etz Mendonça, Postdoctoral Fellow in Leadership and Character and Psychology, Dr. Elise Dykhuis, Senior Research Scholar, and Dr. Michael Lamb, Executive Director of the Program for Leadership and Character, gave a talk at the 46th Annual Conference of the Association for Moral Education entitled “Exemplifying Character: The Positive Effects of a Course-based Intervention on Purpose.” The paper was part of a larger symposium, “Cultivating Purpose in Late Adolescents/Emerging Adults,” which Dr. Mendonça organized.

The talk focused on character development interventions in emerging adulthood and their effectiveness in facilitating personal growth, moral formation, and the development of character virtues. Using data from Dr. Lamb’s first-year seminar course, “Commencing Character: How Should We Live?” the speakers used one of twelve targeted virtues, purpose, to demonstrate the effectiveness of the course in fostering growth in character and how this was made possible, in part, by the students’ engagement with virtuous exemplars as part of the course curriculum.  Students in the course had significantly higher purpose scores at the end of the semester than at the beginning. Moreover, after engaging with virtuous exemplars, the scores on a test measuring the importance of moral exemplars could be used to predict how high the scores would be on a test measuring purpose. This implies that the connection with moral exemplars had a positive effect on the development of purpose on students in the course. Dykhuis, Mendonça, and Lamb plan to submit their research findings for publication in the coming weeks.