Templeton Foundation awards Center for Character and Citizenship $2.4 million to further leadership development programs

Templeton Foundation grant

The Center for Character and Citizenship at UMSL received a $2.4 million grant from the John Templeton Foundation to help further the center’s mission of developing school leaders. (Photo by August Jennewein)

The Center for Character and Citizenship at the University of Missouri–St. Louis has received a $2.4 million grant from the John Templeton Foundation, which will go toward helping the center pursue its mission of developing more effective school leaders through emphasizing character education and servant leadership.

The new funding follows a yearlong planning grant from the Templeton Foundation to Principal Investigator Melinda Bier that enabled the initial development and pilot test of the Cultivating Virtue in Leaders (CViL) program, which focuses on development of the servant leader virtues.

This grant will help further test the CViL program while also integrating it into the center’s Leadership Academy in Character Education. The CViL curriculum is designed to cultivate servant leader virtues such as purpose, humility, gratitude, forgiveness, courage, empowerment and foresight; engage participants in practicing servant leadership; and make the holistic development of adults and students a core value at the schools they lead. By the end of 2019, the curriculum is expected to be rolled out to an initial cohort of 60 school leaders in the St. Louis area. The grant also will enable Bier and Center for Character and Citizenship Co-Director Marvin Berkowitz to make the curriculum, along with a detailed replication guidebook, available for wider use after the work of the initial cohort is completed.

“There is a nationally recognized need for different approaches to school leadership,” Bier said. “Turnover of both principals and teachers is a serious and expensive problem for school districts across the country, although it is most intense for those serving the poorest and lowest-performing students. Research from the fields of business management, health care and government have demonstrated powerful associations between the virtues of servant leadership and higher levels of retention, job satisfaction, productivity and work-life balance. This grant will help us apply and study the practices of servant leadership in the context of developing aspiring and practicing educational leaders.”

“Many educators first enter their profession out of a strong sense of purpose and a desire to serve their students, but until recently, almost no formal school leadership development programs were centered on developing and enhancing such virtues,” Sarah Clement, director of character virtue development at the Templeton Foundation, said in a release. “Mindy Bier and Marvin Berkowitz are uniquely positioned to provide a rigorous and replicable way of helping educators leverage those values as they develop as leaders.”

The Templeton Foundation is committed to catalyzing research relating to scientific and spiritual progress, “in which all people aspire to and attain a deeper understanding of the universe and their place in it.” It provides philanthropic funding to projects that explore subjects ranging from “complexity, evolution and emergence to creativity, forgiveness and free will.”

The Center for Character and Citizenship, housed in the UMSL College of Education, has engaged in research, advocacy and education to foster the development of character, democratic citizenship and civil society since its founding in 2005. The center generates knowledge and research pertaining to individuals’ development of moral and civic character by offering workshops, consulting and professional development to the organizations and institutions that prepare the next generation of society’s leaders.

Bier and Berkowitz also received a $3 million grant from the Kern Family Foundation in spring 2018 aimed at growing a regional program to extend the impact of character education through the development of emerging school leaders.

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St. Louis Business Journal

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