About

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Our vision and work

The Oxford Character Project aims to empower a new generation of wise thinkers and good leaders to promote the good of society across industries and around the world. We join cutting edge industry research with the design and delivery of character-based leadership development programmes.


Research

Our research explores the empirical, intellectual and ethical dimensions of responsible leadership - leadership that is grounded on strong pro-social values and purpose. Our work combines insights from the humanities and social sciences with new advances in measurement technologies. Current research projects include:

  • A major survey of leaders at every level across organisations
  • In-depth case studies of selected organisations, focusing on how they approach character and responsible leadership
  • A methodical and rigorous approach to the measurement of leadership development and responsible business behaviours
  • A framework for character and leadership development in higher education
  • A new leadership paradigm centred on human flourishing

The story so far...

The Oxford Character Project is an interdisciplinary project that seeks to advance the study and development of character and responsible leadership at the University of Oxford and in universities and commercial organisations around the world.

Founded in 2014, our initial work focused on developing a model for character and leadership development that could be successfully applied amongst emerging adults in higher education. We developed and launched the Global Leadership Initiative, a seven-month extra-curricular leadership development programme for diverse cohorts of postgraduate students. And we undertook a controlled, longitudinal study in order to empirically evaluate the impact of our work.

In 2017 we brought together academics and university administrators from around the world for a conference that focused on the place and potential of character development in higher education. More recently, we undertook a consultation on character education in universities, involving academic specialists and university educators from the UK, USA, Europe and Asia. Working in partnership with the Jubilee Centre for Character and Virtues at the University of Birmingham, we published a framework for character education in universities.

We have worked in partnership with a number of global universities, including the Human Flourishing Programme at Harvard University, the Faculty of Social Sciences at the University of Hong Kong, the Centre for Leadership and Character at Wake Forest University, the Jubilee Centre for Character and Virtues at the University of Birmingham, LSE Life at the London School of Economics, and the Europauem network of seventeen leading European universities.

In 2020 we launched a major research project on character and responsible leadership in finance, tech, law and business. Supported by a grant from the John Templeton Foundation, a team of six postdoctoral fellows are working to apply expertise in the humanities and social sciences to the study of character, culture and leadership development. Industry partners include the Forward Institute and the St Gallen Symposium.


Meet the Team

  • Ed Brooks profile image

    Ed Brooks

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    Dr Edward Brooks is the Executive Director of the Oxford Character Project and also heads the Global Leadership Initiative. His academic work focuses on how the virtue of hope might be understood and cultivated in late modernity. Ed came to Oxford to study history at Magdalen in 1999, returning in 2010 following a few years in South Africa. Much of Ed’s first Oxford life was spent on the rugby pitch; these days you are more likely to find him on a long training run in the hills around Oxford. He is married to Liubov and kept busy by three “energetic” young children, Sophia, Felix and Alexa.

    Ed Brooks

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    Dr Edward Brooks is the Executive Director of the Oxford Character Project and also heads the Global Leadership Initiative. His academic work focuses on how the virtue of hope might be understood and cultivated in late modernity. Ed came to Oxford to study history at Magdalen in 1999, returning in 2010 following a few years in South Africa. Much of Ed’s first Oxford life was spent on the rugby pitch; these days you are more likely to find him on a long training run in the hills around Oxford. He is married to Liubov and kept busy by three “energetic” young children, Sophia, Felix and Alexa.

  • Emmie  Bidston profile image

    Emmie Bidston

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    Emmie Bidston is an Associate Fellow of the Oxford Character Project. Emmie studied Economics at the University of Cambridge before working for the UK civil service in a range of areas from education to contingency planning. She is currently head of Economics at Wellington College and Director of the Wellington Leadership and Coaching Institute. She co-founded a charity to help develop young leaders in Africa and runs conferences, coaching and leadership training for adults and young people. She has co-authored a book with Katy Granville-Chapman, Leader: know, love and inspire your people.

    Emmie Bidston

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    Emmie Bidston is an Associate Fellow of the Oxford Character Project. Emmie studied Economics at the University of Cambridge before working for the UK civil service in a range of areas from education to contingency planning. She is currently head of Economics at Wellington College and Director of the Wellington Leadership and Coaching Institute. She co-founded a charity to help develop young leaders in Africa and runs conferences, coaching and leadership training for adults and young people. She has co-authored a book with Katy Granville-Chapman, Leader: know, love and inspire your people.

  • Jonathan Brant profile image

    Jonathan Brant

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    Dr Jonathan Brant is the Founding Director of the Oxford Character Project, having established and led the team as well as engaged in academic research as a member of Oxford University’s Theology Faculty and Research Fellow of Harris Manchester College. Jonathan is also head of the Oxford Pastorate with overall responsibility for leading a team serving in the postgraduate community. He wrote a DPhil in Theology at Trinity College, Oxford (monograph by Oxford University Press) which drew upon systematic theology, film theory and qualitative research in considering the potential religious impact of contemporary Latin American cinema. Prior to coming to Oxford, Jonathan worked for Anglican churches in London and South America and is an award-winning author of fiction and non-fiction. He is married to Tricia and has a teenage son, Isaac.

    Jonathan Brant

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    Dr Jonathan Brant is the Founding Director of the Oxford Character Project, having established and led the team as well as engaged in academic research as a member of Oxford University’s Theology Faculty and Research Fellow of Harris Manchester College. Jonathan is also head of the Oxford Pastorate with overall responsibility for leading a team serving in the postgraduate community. He wrote a DPhil in Theology at Trinity College, Oxford (monograph by Oxford University Press) which drew upon systematic theology, film theory and qualitative research in considering the potential religious impact of contemporary Latin American cinema. Prior to coming to Oxford, Jonathan worked for Anglican churches in London and South America and is an award-winning author of fiction and non-fiction. He is married to Tricia and has a teenage son, Isaac.

  • Jess  Brown profile image

    Jess Brown

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    Jess Brown is the Project Officer for the Oxford Character project. She is also studying part time for a Doctorate in Education where her research focuses on access to higher education and social theory. Jess has a background in research project management and administration and has previously worked in the Faculty of Law and for the non-profit organization, Education Development Trust. Jess holds a BA (hons) and MHist in History from the University of Manchester and an MA in Education from Oxford Brookes University. In a former life Jess competed as a full time athlete in rowing, holding several British records and winning the European Universities regatta on two occasions. Jess now enjoys marathon running, cycling, gardening, cooking and exploring the Cotswolds.

    Jess Brown

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    Jess Brown is the Project Officer for the Oxford Character project. She is also studying part time for a Doctorate in Education where her research focuses on access to higher education and social theory. Jess has a background in research project management and administration and has previously worked in the Faculty of Law and for the non-profit organization, Education Development Trust. Jess holds a BA (hons) and MHist in History from the University of Manchester and an MA in Education from Oxford Brookes University. In a former life Jess competed as a full time athlete in rowing, holding several British records and winning the European Universities regatta on two occasions. Jess now enjoys marathon running, cycling, gardening, cooking and exploring the Cotswolds.

  • Scarlett  Brown profile image

    Scarlett Brown

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    Dr Scarlett Brown is the Industry Engagement Lead for the Oxford Character Project, working in conjunction with the Forward Institute. Scarlett is an independent researcher and consultant specialising in responsible business, diversity and corporate governance, working at the intersection between academia and business. Her book, “Gender and Corporate Boards” was published this year, based on her PhD completed at King's College London. She holds an MSc in Sociology from the London School of Economics and was previously director of research at Tomorrow’s Company. She spends an almost-unreasonable amount of her time listening to Prince.

    Scarlett Brown

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    Dr Scarlett Brown is the Industry Engagement Lead for the Oxford Character Project, working in conjunction with the Forward Institute. Scarlett is an independent researcher and consultant specialising in responsible business, diversity and corporate governance, working at the intersection between academia and business. Her book, “Gender and Corporate Boards” was published this year, based on her PhD completed at King's College London. She holds an MSc in Sociology from the London School of Economics and was previously director of research at Tomorrow’s Company. She spends an almost-unreasonable amount of her time listening to Prince.

  • Edward  David profile image

    Edward David

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    Dr Edward David is a Research Fellow of the Oxford Character Project, researching responsible leadership and character development. Edward is also an academic consultant for the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses programme, contributing to a suite of management and leadership development courses for entrepreneurs, including Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses UK and the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Women programme on Coursera. Edward also publishes in the field of law and religion, and has a monograph on corporate religious liberty with Palgrave Macmillan. Edward holds a degree in music and business from New York University as well as graduate degrees in theology from the University of Oxford.

    Edward David

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    Dr Edward David is a Research Fellow of the Oxford Character Project, researching responsible leadership and character development. Edward is also an academic consultant for the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses programme, contributing to a suite of management and leadership development courses for entrepreneurs, including Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses UK and the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Women programme on Coursera. Edward also publishes in the field of law and religion, and has a monograph on corporate religious liberty with Palgrave Macmillan. Edward holds a degree in music and business from New York University as well as graduate degrees in theology from the University of Oxford.

  • Lily Elsner profile image

    Lily Elsner

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    Lily is a current MBA at Saïd Business School at Oxford. She previously worked in strategy and operations for the Board of Directors and senior executives at a large bank in the USA, and in global M&A at a large NYC law firm. She graduated from Wellesley College with a double major in Philosophy and Biological Sciences. In collaboration with Ed Brooks of the Oxford Character Project and GLI alums in the Oxford MBA, she has developed a personal leadership development curriculum for MBA students called 'Just Business,' a series of workshops allows the participants time, materials, and facilitated discussion to focus on how to become the values-driven, thoughtful business leaders that students aspire to become. Outside of her course, she enjoys rowing in the Pembroke College Boat Club.

    Lily Elsner

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    Lily is a current MBA at Saïd Business School at Oxford. She previously worked in strategy and operations for the Board of Directors and senior executives at a large bank in the USA, and in global M&A at a large NYC law firm. She graduated from Wellesley College with a double major in Philosophy and Biological Sciences. In collaboration with Ed Brooks of the Oxford Character Project and GLI alums in the Oxford MBA, she has developed a personal leadership development curriculum for MBA students called 'Just Business,' a series of workshops allows the participants time, materials, and facilitated discussion to focus on how to become the values-driven, thoughtful business leaders that students aspire to become. Outside of her course, she enjoys rowing in the Pembroke College Boat Club.

  •  Katy  Granville Chapman profile image

    Katy Granville Chapman

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    Katy is an Associate Fellow of the Oxford Character Project. She is the co-founder of Global Social Leaders, a leadership programme which has participants in 105 countries, all passionate about creating and sustaining positive change in the world. Katy is currently completing a DPhil (PhD) in Education at Oxford, asking how leaders could improve the flourishing and wellbeing of those they lead, and she is a research associate at the Oxford University Wellbeing Research Centre. She is a deputy headteacher and founder of the Wellington Leadership and Coaching Institute. Katy is (with Emmie Bidston) co-author of the book, Leader: Know, Love and Inspire Your People.

    Katy Granville Chapman

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    Katy is an Associate Fellow of the Oxford Character Project. She is the co-founder of Global Social Leaders, a leadership programme which has participants in 105 countries, all passionate about creating and sustaining positive change in the world. Katy is currently completing a DPhil (PhD) in Education at Oxford, asking how leaders could improve the flourishing and wellbeing of those they lead, and she is a research associate at the Oxford University Wellbeing Research Centre. She is a deputy headteacher and founder of the Wellington Leadership and Coaching Institute. Katy is (with Emmie Bidston) co-author of the book, Leader: Know, Love and Inspire Your People.

  • Liz  Gulliford profile image

    Liz Gulliford

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    Dr Liz Gulliford is Senior Psychology Advisor for the OCP's Virtues and Vocations Project and Associate Professor in Psychology at the University of Northampton. Since completing her doctorate at Queens' College Cambridge (2011), she has carried out extensive interdisciplinary conceptual and empirical work on virtues, including gratitude, forgiveness, compassion and hope. Her work has been published in a range of journals in psychology, education and philosophy. Liz also enjoys creative writing and the arts, and swims most days.

    Liz Gulliford

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    Dr Liz Gulliford is Senior Psychology Advisor for the OCP's Virtues and Vocations Project and Associate Professor in Psychology at the University of Northampton. Since completing her doctorate at Queens' College Cambridge (2011), she has carried out extensive interdisciplinary conceptual and empirical work on virtues, including gratitude, forgiveness, compassion and hope. Her work has been published in a range of journals in psychology, education and philosophy. Liz also enjoys creative writing and the arts, and swims most days.

  • Carl Hildebrand profile image

    Carl Hildebrand

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    Carl is an Associate Fellow of the Oxford Character Project and a Research Assistant Professor at the University of Hong Kong. He is a philosopher who works in ethics and the history of philosophy, focusing on Kant's moral psychology. His research engages questions concerning habituation, moral worth, human frailty/vice, and concepts of sympathy among other things. He has taught philosophy in a variety of settings, including at the University of Oxford, the University of British Columbia, and most recently (prior to the University of Hong Kong) at the University of the Fraser Valley in his hometown of Abbotsford, Canada.

    Carl Hildebrand

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    Carl is an Associate Fellow of the Oxford Character Project and a Research Assistant Professor at the University of Hong Kong. He is a philosopher who works in ethics and the history of philosophy, focusing on Kant's moral psychology. His research engages questions concerning habituation, moral worth, human frailty/vice, and concepts of sympathy among other things. He has taught philosophy in a variety of settings, including at the University of Oxford, the University of British Columbia, and most recently (prior to the University of Hong Kong) at the University of the Fraser Valley in his hometown of Abbotsford, Canada.

  • Harry Jones  profile image

    Harry Jones

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    Harry is an Associate Fellow of the Oxford Character Project. He is a former US Army officer who flew helicopters for over a decade and taught philosophy at the United States Military Academy during the course of a 21 year career. He is the co-founder of the Altimeter Design Group, a consortium of leaders and designers who are passionate about making progress on complex problems, especially those that involve improving the moral qualities of people and organizations. Harry completed a PhD in Philosophy at the University of Virginia, where he worked on character development in the US Military. He works best at intersections, such as philosophy and psychology or design and character, and the like, believing that the hardest and most interesting problems can only be solved by interdisciplinary teams.

    Harry Jones

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    Harry is an Associate Fellow of the Oxford Character Project. He is a former US Army officer who flew helicopters for over a decade and taught philosophy at the United States Military Academy during the course of a 21 year career. He is the co-founder of the Altimeter Design Group, a consortium of leaders and designers who are passionate about making progress on complex problems, especially those that involve improving the moral qualities of people and organizations. Harry completed a PhD in Philosophy at the University of Virginia, where he worked on character development in the US Military. He works best at intersections, such as philosophy and psychology or design and character, and the like, believing that the hardest and most interesting problems can only be solved by interdisciplinary teams.

  • Matthew  Kuan Johnson profile image

    Matthew Kuan Johnson

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    Dr Matthew Kuan Johnson is a Research Fellow of the Oxford Character Project. Matthew is a moral philosopher who works on topics related to ethics, embodiment, empathy, and the emotions. He is also a leading researcher on the psychology of joy, and recently authored the target article for a special issue on joy of the Journal of Positive Psychology. Matthew earned his PhD in Philosophy from the University of Cambridge as a Gates Cambridge Scholar, writing his dissertation on the role that the imagination plays in moral perception and character formation. He also holds a BA in Cognitive Science from Yale University and an MPhil in Social Psychology from Cambridge. Previously, Matthew has consulted for Google AI, was a contributing scholar at the Yale Center for Faith and Culture, was an Adjunct Professor at Pepperdine University, and has taught in the University of Cambridge’s Philosophy and Psychology Departments.

    Matthew Kuan Johnson

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    Dr Matthew Kuan Johnson is a Research Fellow of the Oxford Character Project. Matthew is a moral philosopher who works on topics related to ethics, embodiment, empathy, and the emotions. He is also a leading researcher on the psychology of joy, and recently authored the target article for a special issue on joy of the Journal of Positive Psychology. Matthew earned his PhD in Philosophy from the University of Cambridge as a Gates Cambridge Scholar, writing his dissertation on the role that the imagination plays in moral perception and character formation. He also holds a BA in Cognitive Science from Yale University and an MPhil in Social Psychology from Cambridge. Previously, Matthew has consulted for Google AI, was a contributing scholar at the Yale Center for Faith and Culture, was an Adjunct Professor at Pepperdine University, and has taught in the University of Cambridge’s Philosophy and Psychology Departments.

  • Michael Lamb profile image

    Michael Lamb

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    Dr Michael Lamb is a Research Fellow of the Oxford Character Project. Michael is University Scholar in Residence and Fellow in the Office of Personal and Career Development at Wake Forest University. He holds a PhD in Politics from Princeton, a BA in Political Science from Rhodes College, and a second BA in Philosophy and Theology from Oxford. His research focuses on the ethics of citizenship and the role of virtues in public life.  As the McDonald-Templeton Postdoctoral Fellow with the Oxford Character Project, Michael helped to develop the research-based curriculum for the Oxford Global Leadership Initiative and continues to support the Oxford Character Project while developing programmes in leadership and character at Wake Forest.   

    Michael Lamb

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    Dr Michael Lamb is a Research Fellow of the Oxford Character Project. Michael is University Scholar in Residence and Fellow in the Office of Personal and Career Development at Wake Forest University. He holds a PhD in Politics from Princeton, a BA in Political Science from Rhodes College, and a second BA in Philosophy and Theology from Oxford. His research focuses on the ethics of citizenship and the role of virtues in public life.  As the McDonald-Templeton Postdoctoral Fellow with the Oxford Character Project, Michael helped to develop the research-based curriculum for the Oxford Global Leadership Initiative and continues to support the Oxford Character Project while developing programmes in leadership and character at Wake Forest.   

  • Rebecca  Park profile image

    Rebecca Park

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    Rebecca Park is a Psychology Research Fellow of the Oxford Character Project. Rebecca is finishing her PhD in Positive Psychology at the University of Lincoln, which explores the use of the strengths-based intervention ‘Mindfulness-Based Strengths Practice’ in higher education. Rebecca holds a BSc in Psychology and an MSc in Psychological Research Methods from the University of Lincoln. Both her BSc and MSc dissertations explored the virtue of humility and its role in leadership, but recently her academic work has looked at character strengths more broadly and their role in higher education. In her spare time, Rebecca sits on the steering group of the British Association of Christians in Psychology. She is married to Ben and together they enjoy hiking trips in the Peaks, playing music together and hosting dinner parties.

    Rebecca Park

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    Rebecca Park is a Psychology Research Fellow of the Oxford Character Project. Rebecca is finishing her PhD in Positive Psychology at the University of Lincoln, which explores the use of the strengths-based intervention ‘Mindfulness-Based Strengths Practice’ in higher education. Rebecca holds a BSc in Psychology and an MSc in Psychological Research Methods from the University of Lincoln. Both her BSc and MSc dissertations explored the virtue of humility and its role in leadership, but recently her academic work has looked at character strengths more broadly and their role in higher education. In her spare time, Rebecca sits on the steering group of the British Association of Christians in Psychology. She is married to Ben and together they enjoy hiking trips in the Peaks, playing music together and hosting dinner parties.

  • Roger  Revell profile image

    Roger Revell

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    Roger Revell is a Research Fellow of the Oxford Character Project. He is also finishing his PhD at the University of Cambridge, which critically reflects on the way that we conceive of and negotiate our personal development. Prior to his doctoral studies, Roger worked for Ernst & Young (helping to manage their EOY program in Virginia), for several political campaigns in the United States, and served as a project manager for a Canadian multi-national manufacturing firm. Additionally, he has experience in the charities sector, having worked for the Anglican church and as a tutor for undergraduate and master’s-level students. Roger holds a BA in political science and history and has completed master's work in religious/theological studies. On his own time, he enjoys urban exploring with his wife and daughter and, as he's able to find spare moments, beer-brewing and gardening.

    Roger Revell

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    Roger Revell is a Research Fellow of the Oxford Character Project. He is also finishing his PhD at the University of Cambridge, which critically reflects on the way that we conceive of and negotiate our personal development. Prior to his doctoral studies, Roger worked for Ernst & Young (helping to manage their EOY program in Virginia), for several political campaigns in the United States, and served as a project manager for a Canadian multi-national manufacturing firm. Additionally, he has experience in the charities sector, having worked for the Anglican church and as a tutor for undergraduate and master’s-level students. Roger holds a BA in political science and history and has completed master's work in religious/theological studies. On his own time, he enjoys urban exploring with his wife and daughter and, as he's able to find spare moments, beer-brewing and gardening.

  • Anjali Sarker  profile image

    Anjali Sarker

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    Anjali Sarker is a social innovation expert and international development practitioner with a special focus on women’s economic empowerment through financial inclusion. Previously she worked at BRAC, one of the largest NGOs in the world, to bring digital financial services to one million women in Bangladesh. She is a Senior Atlantic Fellow at the London School of Economics (LSE), a Global Shaper at the World Economic Forum, and a New Voices Fellow at the Aspen Institute. She holds an MBA from Said Business School, University of Oxford and an MSc in Inequalities and Social Sciences from LSE.

    Anjali Sarker

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    Anjali Sarker is a social innovation expert and international development practitioner with a special focus on women’s economic empowerment through financial inclusion. Previously she worked at BRAC, one of the largest NGOs in the world, to bring digital financial services to one million women in Bangladesh. She is a Senior Atlantic Fellow at the London School of Economics (LSE), a Global Shaper at the World Economic Forum, and a New Voices Fellow at the Aspen Institute. She holds an MBA from Said Business School, University of Oxford and an MSc in Inequalities and Social Sciences from LSE.

  • Luna Wang profile image

    Luna Wang

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    Luna Wang studied Law and Economics at Beijing’s prestigious Peking University and worked in the Real Estate Industry for several years in China before coming to Oxford to study for an MSc in Sociology, which she completed in 2012. Her current academic work focuses on the place of women in contemporary Chinese society. She is passionate about people and stories, enjoys travelling and watching movies.

    Luna Wang

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    Luna Wang studied Law and Economics at Beijing’s prestigious Peking University and worked in the Real Estate Industry for several years in China before coming to Oxford to study for an MSc in Sociology, which she completed in 2012. Her current academic work focuses on the place of women in contemporary Chinese society. She is passionate about people and stories, enjoys travelling and watching movies.

  • Lani  Watson profile image

    Lani Watson

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    Dr Lani Watson is a Research Fellow of the Oxford Character Project. A philosopher by training, Lani’s research focuses on the practice of questioning and the cultivation of intellectual character traits including curiosity, inquisitiveness, intellectual humility, intellectual autonomy and intellectual courage. She focuses on the role and value of good questioning and has worked with educators and industry partners across diverse sectors, including the arts, tourism and technology, helping students, professionals and teams to develop their questioning skills. Lani earned a PhD in philosophy from the University of Edinburgh with a thesis entitled ’Why Ask: The Epistemology of Questioning’. She has since worked as a Research Fellow at the Institute for the Study of Human Flourishing, at the University of Oklahoma, and as a Leverhulme Early Career Fellow, at the University of Edinburgh. She has published in numerous philosophical and interdisciplinary journals. Lani’s forthcoming book, The Right to Know: Epistemic Rights and Why We Need Them, innovates the concept of epistemic rights and, as such, lays out the social and political context for Lani's work on good and bad questioning practices in contemporary life.

    Lani Watson

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    Dr Lani Watson is a Research Fellow of the Oxford Character Project. A philosopher by training, Lani’s research focuses on the practice of questioning and the cultivation of intellectual character traits including curiosity, inquisitiveness, intellectual humility, intellectual autonomy and intellectual courage. She focuses on the role and value of good questioning and has worked with educators and industry partners across diverse sectors, including the arts, tourism and technology, helping students, professionals and teams to develop their questioning skills. Lani earned a PhD in philosophy from the University of Edinburgh with a thesis entitled ’Why Ask: The Epistemology of Questioning’. She has since worked as a Research Fellow at the Institute for the Study of Human Flourishing, at the University of Oklahoma, and as a Leverhulme Early Career Fellow, at the University of Edinburgh. She has published in numerous philosophical and interdisciplinary journals. Lani’s forthcoming book, The Right to Know: Epistemic Rights and Why We Need Them, innovates the concept of epistemic rights and, as such, lays out the social and political context for Lani's work on good and bad questioning practices in contemporary life.

'The Oxford Character Project is a very welcome initiative. Its academic strength is matched by a practical programme that has drawn together a highly diverse group of postgraduate students from all over the world to engage in a conversation about the nature and practice of good leadership. This is an initiative that should be supported by all who would want future leaders, in all areas of society, to be known for their integrity, humility, and commitment to furthering the public good.'

Prof. Lionel Tarrassenko
President of Reuben College, Oxford