The Program for Leadership and Character in the Professional Schools works with the School of Law, School of Medicine, the School of Divinity, the Department of Engineering, and other graduate-level programs to provide leadership and character-relevant courses and programs, collect and analyze data on character and professional identity development in students, and provide faculty support toward an integrated curricular approach to developing professionals of character and leadership.

What We Do

Led by Kenneth Townsend, the goals of the Program’s professional schools team are to equip students to think in character-oriented ways about their virtues, values, and future work; to foster a culture of leadership and character in Wake Forest’s pre-professional and professional programs that promotes personal and professional flourishing; and to provide a national model for cultivating character-based leadership in the professions for other colleges and universities.

Photo of Kenneth Townsend

“We prepare students to think holistically about their professional and personal responsibilities, not just to be really competent, proficient, technically-sophisticated lawyers and doctors, but to be full human beings who have thought about the connections between who they are and what they do.”

Kenneth Townsend, Director of Leadership and Character in the Professional Schools

Who We Are

Our team includes the Center for Personal and Professional Development, law scholars, researchers, curriculum experts, communications professionals, and more. We engage with professors, academics, and professionals in the field to educate, and to learn.

Where We Work

We partner with graduate schools and programs across Wake Forest University, including the School of Divinity, the Sustainability Graduate Programs, the School of Business, and more. We also work with pre-law and pre-med undergraduates who are interested in pursuing careers in the professions. We also have a years-long relationship with the Department of Engineering to support character education programming, assessment, and faculty training efforts. Recent gifts and grants have allowed us to expand our efforts in Wake Forest’s School of Law, and its School of Medicine.


worrell professional center

We support the School of Law through faculty development and student programming that work to integrate character development and character-based leadership into the entire legal education experience.


wake forest medical school

We support the School of Medicine through both co-curricular and curricular initiatives. The Program has established a new Center for Personal and Professional Development.


We support the Department of Engineering through providing additional funding for their existing work in leadership and character. Work that began in 2018 and continues to deepen and integrate leadership and character within and beyond the curriculum. 

Vision and Mission of Program for Leadership and Character in the Professional Schools

We envision an educational ecosystem that weaves character and virtuous leadership into the fabric of professional education, where character and competence are inseparable foundations of professional excellence. Beyond campus, we envision dynamic and self-aware professionals operating in complex and ever-evolving environments, who understand the social and moral dimensions of their professional roles and who are committed to lifelong character development as they serve diverse communities and lead trustworthy institutions.

We achieve our vision by:

  1. Engaging closely with students through courses, programs, mentorship, and cohorts. This will deepen their sense of purpose, cultivate their capacity for virtuous action and leadership, and promote their personal and professional flourishing.
  2. Collaborating with faculty to implement innovative pedagogical strategies that integrate character into their teaching. This will support faculty in strengthening the character-development component of their role, while equipping them to educate students who embrace the professional ideal as grounded in good, and ongoing, character development.
  3. Partnering with professional school administrators and staff to prioritize and elevate character-related considerations in decisions related to student admission, achievement, and well-being. This will produce effective and ethical service-oriented leaders and professionals who advance the University’s mission of Pro Humanitate.
  4. Providing resources and guidance on evidence-based character and leadership interventions, while also being a convener for public conversations on these themes. This will catalyze broader interest and support for the role of character and leadership in promoting collective human flourishing through the professions.


This work is funded by the Kern Family Foundation, which has awarded Wake Forest University an $8.6 million grant to develop programs that put character at the center of preparing students for work in the professions. This new grant complements and extends the work supported by the Lilly Endowment during recent years by building upon successes in the School of Law, creating major new initiatives in the School of Medicine, enhancing cross-disciplinary offerings, and integrating character into pre-professional programs in the college and professional schools across the university.