Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote in his college newspaper that “intelligence is not enough. Intelligence plus character—that is the goal of true education.” Inspired by this view, Dr. Michael Lamb, Director of the Program for Leadership and Character, elaborated on the work of the Program and the empirical findings of his first-year seminar focused on fostering virtue in college students. His presentation on February 19 was part of the virtual mini-conference “Teaching Intellectual Virtues” by the Institute for the Study of Human Flourishing at the University of Oklahoma. The mini-conference, which was hosted by Dr. Hong Lin and Dr. Nancy Snow of the University of Oklahoma, also featured Dr. Sarah Schnitker of Baylor University, Dr. David Craig and Dr. Kimberly Wolfinbarger of the University of Oklahoma.
Dr. Lamb discussed the Program’s comprehensive effort to foster character at Wake Forest through student programming, one-on-one mentoring, research, and academic courses. His award-winning first-year seminar, “Commencing Character: How Should We Live?,” challenges students to evaluate their own character by critically engaging Aristotle’s ancient ethics of character alongside contemporary commencement speeches focused on specific virtues.
In Dr. Lamb’s words, “we try to focus not just on knowing what virtue is, but helping them become good…with very explicit practices and assignments to really grow their character in ways that align with their own values, identity, and commitments.” The empirical data collected suggests that students’ understanding and commitment to several specific virtues improves throughout the course of the semester.