Scholarships reward exemplary academic, real-world character education practitioners

Character education scholarships

Doctoral students Anthony Graham (second from left) and Kim Starkey (third from right) received scholarships for their research in character education and implementing their scholarly work into their schools. On hand to help them celebrate the scholarships were (from left): Center for Character and Citizenship Co-Director Marvin Berkowitz; Graham’s son, Cayden, daughter, Audrey and wife, Chelsea; CCC Co-Director Melinda Bier; Starkey’s husband, Scott; and UMSL College of Education Dean Ann Taylor. (Photos by August Jennewein)

Anthony Graham and Kim Starkey took different routes to the same destination: pursuing a doctorate in the field of character education at the University of Missouri–St. Louis.

Graham was already an administrator at H.F. Epstein Hebrew Academy in Olivette, Missouri, who was in the EdD program and interested in learning more about how the whole-community character education approach can benefit students, teachers, administrators and schools. Starkey had two degrees from UMSL – a BA in English and an MEd in counseling – and focused in on her dissertation topic in the PhD program after she heard Marvin Berkowitz, co-director of the Center for Character and Citizenship housed in the UMSL College of Education, give a talk on character education.

“I love to find answers and solve problems, and I wanted some more tools to figure out what to do with that,” said Starkey, a language arts teacher at Fox Middle School in Arnold, Missouri. “I was like, ‘Oh, what he’s talking about is what I want to do.’”

Graham and Starkey are both thriving in the professional lives and their UMSL degree programs, and they both earned $1,500 scholarships to go toward their doctoral education. Graham is the recipient of the Adolph and Carol Frank Graduate Character Education Scholarship, and Starkey received the Sanford N. McDonnell Memorial Fellowship in Character Education.

CCC co-directors Berkowitz and Melinda Bier and College of Education Dean Ann Taylor presented Graham and Starkey with their awards in the Education Administration Building on Friday.

“The University of Missouri–St. Louis is really unique in what we offer: this incredible combination of access, scholarship and the ability for you to really drive as hard as you can and achieve in an extraordinary way,” Taylor said. “We’re about advancing educational knowledge and practice. We’re about partnering with communities and schools and about promoting excellence, equity, diversity. I couldn’t think of a better two people to represent that kind of scholarship, with the way that you’ve integrated your work.”

Anthony Graham: Adolph and Carol Frank Graduate Character Education Scholarship

Marvin Berkowitz and Ann Taylor presented EdD student Anthony Graham with the Adolph and Carol Frank Graduate Character Education Scholarship.

Marvin Berkowitz and Ann Taylor presented EdD student Anthony Graham with the Adolph and Carol Frank Graduate Character Education Scholarship.

Graham’s dissertation topic, centered on the effect character education was having on his school, caught Berkowitz’s attention.

The CCC started taking on an informal advisory role in Graham’s scholarship and, last summer, Graham and members of his leadership team participated in the Center’s Summer Institute in Character Education. Two members of his staff are also currently in the CCC’s Character Education for Emerging Leaders program, conceptualized and spearheaded by Bier, which trains emerging principals and school administrators. The college’s active K-12 school administrator certification routes also connect with this program.

“Anthony is somebody who dedicates himself to high-quality work academically as a student but also as a practitioner and in the study of character education,” Berkowitz said. “He’s been leading his staff, swimming upstream at a school that didn’t understand this and really working hard to get in the good stuff, the stuff that works really effectively.”

Graham expects to finish his EdD within the year. His wife, Chelsea, and two children – son Cayden and daughter Audrey – were on hand to see him accept his scholarship.

“One of the very special things about the award is it’s representative not only of my work as principal and the work we’ve done as a staff on behalf of our students at Epstein Hebrew Academy, but it’s also representative of the work I’ve done on the personal side in the EdD program here at UMSL,” Graham said. “I couldn’t be prouder to receive an award like this because it shows that we’re making good strides at Epstein and also in the doctorate program here at UMSL.”

Kim Starkey: Sanford N. McDonnell Memorial Fellowship in Character Education

PhD student Kim Starkey earned the Sanford N. McDonnell Memorial Fellowship in Character Education, presented to her by Marvin Berkowitz and Ann Taylor.

PhD student Kim Starkey earned the Sanford N. McDonnell Memorial Fellowship in Character Education, presented to her by Marvin Berkowitz and Ann Taylor.

In her early days of learning about character education, Starkey was inspired by the speeches of McDonnell, the former chairman and CEO of McDonnell Douglas who was instrumental in bringing character education to St. Louis and supporting its growth.

So she found a special resonance in earning an award that bears his name.

“He reminded me and got me excited about what it means to be the kind of person that helps lead change and bring change,” Starkey said. “I think he’d like the things we’re doing here. That means a lot.”

Starkey’s PhD dissertation is using educational methods usually employed in STEM – science, technology, engineering and mathematics – classrooms to teach students empathy through language arts. She is not teaching summer school for the first time in a decade in hopes that she can write all summer and be ready to defend in the fall.

Her husband, Scott, was on hand to see her receive her award.

“You have world-class scholars right here in St. Louis. I don’t think we always think about that,” Starkey said. “This is world-class scholarship on social/emotional learning here with us. I think it’s given me opportunities to connect in whatever way I wanted to. If you’re limited in this program, then you’ve chosen to be. You can make any connection that you want, that you seek out.”

The CCC is one of the few international leaders in character education. The UMSL College of Education, which houses the Center, offers EdD and PhD doctoral programs that address the needs of local educators.


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