Academic Courses


At the heart of higher education is the exchange that happens between faculty and students. Teaching and mentoring are among the most effective ways to develop leadership and character.

Two new courses have been introduced as part of the Program for Leadership and Character.

Commencing Character: How Should We Live?

Wake Forest’s motto, Pro Humanitate (“for humanity”), calls us to cultivate the qualities of character needed to serve humanity. This course explores how we can fulfill this vision by considering fundamental questions of human existence: What is a good life? Which values and virtues are needed to flourish as individuals and communities, and which practices enable us to cultivate these values and virtues? How do we educate others and ourselves to live virtuously?

To examine these questions, the course pairs Aristotle’s ancient ethics with contemporary commencement speeches and integrates pedagogical exercises designed to cultivate virtue. The course culminates with students delivering their own commencement addresses on their vision of a good life.

How to Keep a Republic

At the conclusion of the Constitutional Convention, when asked whether the new government of the United States was a monarchy or a republic, Benjamin Franklin replied, “A republic, if you can keep it.” What is a republic, and how do we keep it? How do we preserve liberty and justice for all against threats of domination? What role should checks and balances and the rule of law play in our political system? Which virtues are required for political leaders and citizens, and how can citizens hold their leaders accountable? Beginning with ancient Rome and concluding with contemporary America, students learn how to develop the virtues, practices and institutions needed to keep our republic.

Leadership and Adversity

What are the skills, habits, and character traits of lawyers who lead others through adversity? Kenneth Townsend’s course in the School of Law answered this question by engaging seminal texts on leadership and conducting a series of interviews with lawyers who have led in varied professional contexts. These exemplars highlighted numerous pathways into principled legal leadership.

Leadership and Character in the Professions

Wake Forest’s motto Pro Humanitate (“for humanity”) calls us to cultivate the qualities of character needed to serve humanity. This course, taught by Kenneth Townsend in the School of Law, fulfills this vision by introducing students to classic and contemporary texts on ethical leadership in order to promote creative, cross-disciplinary dialogue on the responsibilities of lawyers and other professionals and to equip students with the knowledge, skills, and virtues needed to lead with integrity.

“Some days I feel like a fool for caring about something other than preparing myself for a safe career. But I am fully convinced that conversation and practical action on virtue, character and higher goods are some of the highest forms of human activity.” Student in a Leadership and Character Discussion Group