Mercer to Host Conference on Teaching of Character

March 26, 2010

Media Contact:
Mark Vanderhoek
(478) 301-4037

Conference Contact:
Dr. Paul Lewis  
(478) 301-4166

MACON — Mercer University’s Phronesis Project will host a conference, titled “Character Across the Disciplines,” April 9-10. The conference commences Friday, April 9, with a panel discussion, titled “Character in Disciplinary Perspective,” by three of the nation’s leading experts on character development. The panel begins at 7:30 p.m. in the Medical School Auditorium and is free and open to the public.

In addition to the discussion, each panelist will give a brief presentation. The presentations include: “The Untold War” by Dr. Nancy Sherman, professor of philosophy at Georgetown University; “The Psychology of Moral Formation” by Dr. Darcia Narvaez, associate professor of psychology at the University of Notre Dame; and “Smart and Good Schools: A Paradigm Shift for Character Education” by Dr. Thomas Lickona, professor of education at State University of New York, Cortland.

The Phronesis Project was formed through a grant from Mercer’s Academic Initiatives Monetary Fund out of both a national need and previous local initiatives to explore character, practical wisdom and professional formation. The project expands on a four-year exploration within the University of vocation and professionalism across the professions, which was sponsored by the University’s Quality Enhancement Plan and the University Commons. The project seeks to deepen and highlight Mercer’s distinctive focus on developing the whole individual through transformative education and the cultivation of practical wisdom in the professions.

“People who study human moral development often focus only on what their specific area of that development might be, without looking at moral development across the lifespan,” said Dr. Paul Lewis, associate professor of Christianity and co-director of the Phronesis Project. “This conference is intended to foster cross-disciplinary conversation about character and its development that can contribute to practices that promote character development and stimulate further research and conversation.”

Dr. Sherman’s most recent book, The Untold War: Inside the Hearts, Minds, and Souls of Our Soldiers, explores the moral weight that soldiers carry on their shoulders. Since 1995, she has consulted for the U.S. Armed Forces on issues of ethics, resilience, and posttraumatic stress. She has also served on the board of directors for the Carnegie Council on Ethics and International Affairs.

Dr. Narvaez’ research explores questions of moral cognition, moral development and moral character education. She most recently co-edited and contributed to Personality, Identity, and Character:  Explorations in Moral Psychology. Her “Triune Ethical Theory” integrates moral psychology with work in the neurosciences.  

Dr. Lickona is a frequent consultant to schools on character education and a frequent speaker at conferences for teachers, parents, religious educators, and other groups concerned about the moral development of young people. His publications include a book describing his 12-point character education program, Educating for Character: How Our Schools Can Teach Respect and Responsibility; and a popular book for parents, Raising Good Children. He currently directs the Center for the Fourth and Fifth R’s (Respect and Responsibility) and is co-director of the Smart and Good Schools Initiative.

The conference will also include workshops on Saturday at the Walter F. George School of Law targeted for Mercer students, faculty, and administrators. The workshops, which will begin at 8:30 a.m., are: “The Guilt They Carry” by Dr. Sherman; “An Integrative Approach to Educating Virtue” by Dr. Narvaez; and “Creating Smart and Good Schools: Best Practices for Developing Performance Character and Moral Character within an Ethical Learning Community” presented by Dr. Lickona.

About the Phronesis Project
The Project is co-directed by Dr. Paul Lewis, associate professor of Christianity; Mark Jones, professor of law; and Dr. Kelly Reffitt, assistant professor of education, and engages in a comprehensive investigation into the nature and stage-appropriate development of good character and practical wisdom.  It is comprehensive in its focus on life’s various contexts and stages. The project seeks to draw upon and integrate a range of theories of moral development, pedagogical practices and insights from the neurosciences, and its interdisciplinary reach across all relevant disciplines and professional fields with their corresponding departments, colleges and schools at Mercer.  For more information, visit http://www2.mercer.edu/phronesis/.

About Mercer University
Founded in 1833, Mercer University is a dynamic and comprehensive center of undergraduate, graduate and professional education. The University enrolls more than 8,000 students in 11 schools and colleges – liberal arts, law, pharmacy, medicine, business, engineering, education, theology, music, nursing and continuing and professional studies – on major campuses in Macon, Atlanta and Savannah and at three regional academic centers across the state. Mercer is affiliated with two teaching hospitals — Memorial University Medical Center in Savannah and the Medical Center of Central Georgia in Macon, and has educational partnerships with Warner Robins Air Logistics Center in Warner Robins and Piedmont Healthcare in Atlanta. The University operates an academic press and a performing arts center in Macon and an engineering research center in Warner Robins. Mercer is the only private university in Georgia to field an NCAA Division I athletic program. For more information, visit www.mercer.edu.
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