Character and the Professions

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. This conference explored the role of character in the professions and elevated the virtues that are most important for professionals across six professional contexts: business, divinity, engineering and technology, law, medicine, and public life. In partnership with the new Face to Face Series and the Oxford Character Project, we recruited an impressive slate of speakers, including: 

  • Madeleine K. Albright, Former U.S. Secretary of State
  • General Colin L. Powell, USA (Ret.), Former U.S. Secretary of State
  • Eric Beerbohm, Harvard University
  • Taya Cohen, Carnegie Mellon University
  • Stephanie Creary, University of Pennsylvania
  • Margaret Plews-Ogan, University of Virginia
  • Deborah Rhode, Stanford University
  • Shannon Vallor, University of Edinburgh
  • Jonathan Walton, Wake Forest University

The Arts of Leading

Wake Forest and the Oxford Character Project co-sponsored an international conference on “The Arts of Leading: Perspectives from the Humanities and Liberal Arts” in February 2019 at Wake Forest University.

While books and articles on “leadership” continue to multiply, few engage the arts and humanities. This interdisciplinary conference brought together distinguished scholars and practitioners in the arts and humanities to explore new ways of understanding and imagining the theory and practice of leadership. In turning to classics, literature, history, philosophy, religion and the arts, the conference expressed a commitment to the engaged liberal arts and explored what we can learn about leadership by engaging diverse disciplinary perspectives. Approximately 2,000 attended the keynote, and over 350 attended the conference. An edited volume from the conference is currently being produced.


  • Renée Elise Goldsberry, the Tony and Grammy Award-winning actress best known as Angelica Schuyler in the musical phenomenon, “Hamilton,” kicked off the conference. She spoke about her vision of leadership and the liberal arts and concluded with an electrifying special performance.

Conference Speakers

  • Kristin Bezio, University of Richmond
  • Melissa Jones Briggs, Stanford University
  • Edward Brooks, University of Oxford
  • Joy Connolly, City University of New York
  • Paul Escott, Wake Forest University
  • Maria Frederick, Harvard University
  • Thavolia Glymph, Duke University
  • Edith Hall, King’s College London
  • Emil Kang, University of North Carolina
  • Elizabeth Kiss, Warden and CEO of the Rhodes Trust, Oxford
  • Noelle Lopez, Harvard University
  • David Lubin, Wake Forest University
  • John Miles, University of Oxford
  • Alan Mittleman, Jewish Theological Seminary
  • Tahera Qutbuddin, University of Chicago
  • Gwendolyn DuBois Shaw, University of Pennsylvania

Workshop Leaders

  • Cindy Gendrich, Wake Forest University
  • Pegram Harrison, University of Oxford
  • Michael Lamb, Wake Forest University
  • Donovan Livingston, Wake Forest University
  • Jonell Logan, The League of Creative Interventionists
  • Allison Orr, Forklift Danceworks
  • Ann Phelps, Theodicy Jazz Collective
  • Bill Scheidt, Sewa Beats
  • Christina Soriano, Wake Forest University

Cultivating Virtue in the University

Wake Forest and the Oxford Character Project co-sponsored an international conference on “Cultivating Virtue in the University” at the University of Oxford on May 25-26, 2017.

The conference began with a public event at Rhodes House on “How Might Universities Cultivate Leaders of Character?” Attracting more than 100 scholars, students and citizens, the panel, moderated by Dr. Lamb, included:

  • Nathan O. Hatch, 13th President of Wake Forest University
  • Nigel Biggar, Regius Professor of Moral and Pastoral Theology at Oxford
  • Charles Conn, Warden of Rhodes House and CEO of the Rhodes Trust
  • Margaret MacMillan, Warden of St. Antony’s College, Oxford
  • Ngaire Woods, Dean of Oxford’s Blavatnik School of Government

Over the following two days, the conference brought together leading experts in history, literature, philosophy, theology and the social sciences to explore the role of character development in higher education. The conference concluded with a special presentation by Dr. Lamb and leaders of The Oxford Character Project on their innovative program to cultivate virtue among Oxford postgraduates. The sold-out conference attracted scholars, students and educators from the United States, United Kingdom, Hong Kong, Germany, Spain and Argentina. Read more here.