Published in The International Journal of Ethics Education, this research article by Ed Brooks, Jonathan Brant, and Michael Lamb draws upon qualitative data collected over three years of the Oxford Global Leadership Initiative to address how modern universities might educate leaders of character in a pluralistic context.
Universities have long played an important role in preparing thinkers and leaders who go on to have significant impact around the world. But if the world needs wise thinkers and good leaders, then how might modern universities educate leaders of character, particularly in a pluralistic context where many educators are reluctant to see the university as a site of moral formation? This article shares insights from one specific program, the Oxford Global Leadership Initiative, an extra-curricular program that seeks to help diverse cohorts of graduate students develop the ethical qualities of character needed for leaders to serve the common good. Drawing upon qualitative data collected over three years of program activity to illuminate and illustrate our argument, we address three questions: (1) Can virtues of character necessary for good leadership be cultivated in a university setting among a culturally diverse group of students? (2) How can a character-based leadership program meet the particular developmental needs of “emerging adults”? and (3) How might the program’s impact translate into society and culture? We conclude that a program integrating character and leadership can make valuable contributions to the ethical and professional development of postgraduate students.