Rhodes College Receives $50K Grant to Focus on Character Education

image of Charles Diehl statue on Rhodes College campus
Diehl Court on Rhodes College campus

Rhodes College has been awarded a one-year Capacity-Building Grant of $50,000 by Wake Forest University’s Educating Character Initiative, thanks to Lilly Endowment Inc.

The Educating Character Initiative aims to equip a wide range of public and private institutions of higher education with the resources, funding, and support needed to integrate character education into their distinctive institutional contexts, curricula, and cultures.

“Creating a Community of Character at Rhodes College” is the title of Rhodes’ proposal for the capacity-building grant, which will focus on several activities, including forums and research, throughout the 2024-2025 academic year to reflect on the ways in which character education has traditionally aligned with a Rhodes liberal arts education and to strengthen the integration of character education going forth.

The project leaders are Profs. Catie Welsh (principal investigator, computer science), Daniel Cullen (philosophy), Rebecca Finlayson (English), Mary Miller (biology), Laura Taylor (educational studies), and John Bass (music).

The group will engage Rhodes faculty across disciplines in finding solutions for recommitting students to the values upheld by the Rhodes Honor Code and to help students rediscover their intrinsic joy of learning. In addition, they will prepare materials to pilot a program in Fall 2025 centering attention in the first-year experience on the virtues associated with liberal arts. They also will work with the Division of Student Life to ensure that the character education efforts dovetail with their work and new initiatives.

“With this capacity-building grant, we aim to establish a cohesive framework for character education at Rhodes,” said Welsh. “By identifying commonalities across our work as teacher-scholars, we will develop an approach to intentionally cultivate virtues that align with the Rhodes College mission, helping students develop a lifelong passion for learning, compassion for others, and the ability to translate academic study and personal concern into effective leadership and action in their communities and the world.”

“We truly believe in character education at Rhodes,” said Dr. Timothy S. Huebner, provost and vice president for academic affairs. “A century ago, President Charles Diehl described the college as an institution ‘vitally concerned with scholarship, but . . . even more concerned with character.’ The capacity-building grant from the Educating Character Initiative will help Rhodes reclaim this important part of his mission. The work that our faculty will do in the next year has the potential to transform the first-year experience at Rhodes.”

The Educating Character Initiative stems from Wake Forest’s Program for Leadership and Character, founded and directed by Prof. Michael Lamb, a Rhodes College alumnus and 2004 Rhodes Scholar.