Core Values

The Four Core Values of Orlean Beeson School of Education


Being authentic; consistently living out core values in all situations; acting in ways that demonstrate belief in the importance of being honest and behaving ethically


Being respectful; acting in ways that demonstrate the belief that all people have worth and should be treated with dignity; demonstrating love and compassion for all people; acting in ways that demonstrate the belief that all people can contribute, and that collaboration and teamwork are desirable


Being responsible; acting in ways that demonstrate a belief in the importance of fulfilling individual and collective commitments, serving others, making positive contributions, working with purpose, and advocating for people and causes


Being humble; acting in ways that are not prideful or arrogant; serving others; demonstrating a commitment to continuous learning and a teachable spirit, both intellectually and personally

Higher Education Character Convening

The Higher Education Character Convening (HECC) was first established in 2019-20 by Anna McEwan, dean, Orlean Beeson School of Education, Kara Chism, assistant professor and director, MSE in Instructional Leadership and the late Jodi Newton, former associate dean.

The HECC was created to establish a higher education character community in the southeastern United States and beyond; to foster professional networks of collaboration among educators and scholars interested in character education and virtues formation; and to provide an annual opportunity to support faculty development and fellowship.

Dates: Annual conference held in late spring (May) since 2020


  • 2020 (held online; key partners Kern, Samford, UA, UT-Knoxville, Lipscomb, Hope Institute)
    • Keynotes: Thomas Lickona, Marvin Berkowitz
  • 2021 (held online; key partners Kern, Samford, UA, UT-Knoxville, Lipscomb, Hope Institute)
    • Keynotes: James Arthur; Tom Harrison
  • 2022 (held in Orange Beach, AL; key partners Kern, Samford, UA, UT-Knoxville, Lipscomb, Hope Institute)
    • Keynotes: David Walker, Marvin Berkowitz, Arthur Schwartz
  • 2023 (held in Tuscaloosa, AL; key partners Kern, UA & Samford)
    • Keynotes: Clifton Taulbert, Marvin Berkowitz
  • 2024 (held in Pensacola, FL; key partners UA, UWA, Samford)
    • Keynote: Perry Glanzer

The 5th Annual Higher Education Character Convening 2024

This year’s convening is presented by Samford University's Orlean Beeson School of Education. This two-day conference will be held on Monday, May 13 beginning at 5 pm, Tuesday, May 14 from 8 am-3:30 pm and Wednesday, May 15 from 8 am to 1 pm. This year's theme will be character and moral development; the convening will include keynote addresses, breakout sessions, problems of practice, and character-based research. Participants will choose from a varied selection of breakout sessions to attend. A networking session will provide the opportunity for attendees to connect with other school leaders pursuing similar goals. There is a limited block of rooms reserved at the Hilton Pensacola Beach Resort for this convening. Once you register, a hotel reservation link will be emailed to you to reserve your room at the event location.


Character Scholar in Residence

Clara Gerhardt

First appointment: Beeson Distinguished Professor, Clara Gerhardt (2023-2024)

The Character Scholar in Residence was established to seek opportunities through lectures, seminars, workshops, and other activities to share knowledge and expertise with students, faculty, staff, and the campus and professional communities; to collaborate with faculty and students on research projects, contributing to the academic and intellectual life of Orlean Beeson School of Education.


  • Meet regularly with Kara Chism and the Arete group to plan and implement character education events
  • Lead the faculty-staff book study for 23-24
  • Seek opportunities to present and publish on character education and related topics
  • Provide support for faculty and students in their efforts to present and publish on character education and related topics

Character Leader in Residence

Kara Chism

 First appointment: Assistant Professor, Kara Chism (2022-2023; 2023-2024)

The Character Leader in Residence was established to provide and model leadership in the areas of character education, moral and virtues development, and demonstrating core values; to represent Orlean Beeson School of Education by liaising with other units inside and outside the university who are engaged in similar efforts (e.g., Mann Center, Hope Institute, Samford’s Faith & Learning Initiative, Kern Family Foundation, etc.).


  • Lead the Arete group to plan and implement character education events for OBSOE
  • Lead the MSE in Instructional Leadership degree program with Character Infused Leadership for P-12 Educators
  • Co-lead the faculty-staff book study for 23-24 (with Character Scholar-in-Residence)
  • Liaison to Kern Partnership Character Education Leaders (KPCEL)
  • Seek opportunities to present and publish on character education and related topics, especially within KPCEL networks
  • Seek grant opportunities for Character Education initiatives
  • Plan and implement the annual Higher Education Character Convening


Created in fall 2020 under the name “Competence & Character Task Force” or C2 Task Force; the name was changed in fall 2023 to Arete (derived from the Ancient Greek, meaning excellence)

Areté is a standing committee, established to provide structure and promote shared leadership for the advancement of character education initiatives for Orlean Beeson School of Education.


  • Volunteers from OBSOE faculty AND staff will meet regularly to accomplish tasks such as but not limited to:
    • Identify OBSOE core values
    • Create and assess annual action plans
    • Plan and implement OBSOE fac-staff service projects
      • Packing gift bags for local women’s shelter at Christmas
      • Reading aloud to children for
      • Baking cookies for undergraduate students
      • Sending notes of encouragement to local P-12 teachers
    • Select books and participate in faculty-staff book studies
      • Character is Destiny (R. Gough)
      • Eight Habits of the Heart (C. Taulbert)
      • Practical Wisdom (B. Schwartz & K. Sharpe)
      • Agency (I. Rowe)
    • Support and assist during the Higher Education Character Convening
    • Conduct curriculum audits and coordinate curriculum and program changes to infuse character development and character education awareness throughout all degree programs
    • Conduct audits to assess the maturation of OBSOE character development and character education efforts as a unit.

Excellence in Character Education Award

First awarded in 2021 as the Character Education Leadership Award; renamed in 2023 in honor of the late, Jodi Newton, the Jodi Newton Excellence in Character Education Award is presented to an alumni who embodies Christ-like virtues and excels in advancing character education in families, schools and communities.


In the fall of 2022, our Samford family and the field of character education lost one of our guiding lights. Dr. Jodi Newton was admired for her role in advancing P-12 character education and collaborating with character-focused leaders nationally and internationally. The Character Education Leadership Award was renamed to honor her memory and continue her legacy through this important work. Through the Jodi Newton Excellence in Character Education Award, Orlean Beeson School of Education honors a graduate who embodies Christ-like virtues and excels in advancing character education in families, schools, and communities.


  • 2021-Dr. Quintin Lee
  • 2022-Dr. John Lowry
  • 2023-Dr. Patricia Simpson

This esteemed recognition is awarded annually at Orlean Beeson School of Education’s Learning for Life awards. If you know of an Orlean Beeson School of Education graduate who excels in his or her career and/or makes a significant impact in the lives of others, we encourage you to nominate them for the Learning for Life Awards. Nominations for this year's event will close on April 26. Subsequent nominations will be automatically considered for next year's event.


Scholarly Works

Spring 2024

Dissertation Title: Teachers’ Experiences During Implementation and Sustainment of Character Education in National High Schools of Character
Students: Cristy York
Chair: Dr. Kara Chism 

Summer 2023

Dissertation Title: Character Education: An Exploration of Implementation in National Schools of Character
Students: Tanya Crockett, Benjamin White
Chair: Dr. Kara Chism 

Dissertation Title: Implementation of Effective Character Education Programs by High School Administrators of National Schools of Character
Students: Brian Sauls, Frederick Scott
Chair: Dr. Kara Chism 

Spring 2022

Dissertation Title: Preservice and Inservice Teachers' Sense of Efficacy for Character Education and Digital Citizenship in Alabama
Students: Jacklyn Rivers, Brittany Spillman
Chair: Dr. Jane Cobia 

Dissertation Title: An Exploratory Collective Case Study of Leadership of Implementation of Effective Character Education Initiatives in Elementary National Schools of Character
Student: Blair R. Inabinet
Chair: Dr. Amy Benton 

Spring 2021

Dissertation Title: Educators' Perceptions of Character Education and Its Influence on School Climate
Students: Sandy Jolivette, Kesia D. Smith, Angela J. Watkins
Chair: Dr. Jane Cobia

Fall 2020

Dissertation Title: Teachers' Perceptions of Principal Leadership Styles in Schools with Effective Character Education Programs 
 Thomasena Garner, Edwards Williams
 Dr. Jodi Newton

Character Resources

Promising Practices for Character Education: A Report of the Kern Partners for Character and Educational Leadership (KPCEL)

The purpose of this report is twofold: to share promising practices that higher education and education leadership participants have successfully adapted to local contexts; and to share the improvement science processes that guided development and implementation.

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Jubilee Centre for Character and Virtues

Established in 2012 by Professor James Arthur, The Jubilee Centre for Character & Virtues at the University of Birmingham in Birmingham, England impacts research, education, and policy around the world

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Character Education in Universities by The Oxford Character Project in partnership with the Jubilee Centre

The specific aim of this framework is to help universities articulate and structure their mission to further the flourishing of their students and the holistic character development that is central to it.

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The Program for Leadership and Character at Wake Forest University

Created in 2017, the Program for Leadership and Character is known for student programming and coursework at the university level, for academic research on leadership and character, and most recently for creating the Educating Character Initiative, which supports other colleges and universities in their character education endeavors.

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Cultivating Virtue in the University, edited by Brant, Brooks, and Lamb

Published in 2022 by Oxford Press, this volume is quickly becoming a valued resource among scholars and educators interested in character and virtue formation in college and university settings.

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The Commitment-Based Teacher: Cultivating Professional Character for Lasting Impact by Hoaglund & Birkenfeld

Published in 2023, the purpose of this book is to inspire and empower teachers to uncover their personal “why” in teaching. It emphasizes the connection between professional character, teacher commitment, and positive student outcomes.

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Communities of Character Podcast

The Communities of Character podcast brings you leaders, experts, and practitioners in education, research, medicine, counseling, and other fields to share their wisdom and insightful conversations about character development and the impact on their work and lives. Their stories will leave you inspired and hopeful!

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What is Effective Character Education? by Dr. Thomas Lickona

Our challenge as schools is not whether to do character education but rather how to do it well. In this paper, Thomas Lickona proposes ten criteria that can be useful in defining and assessing effectiveness in character education.

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PRIMED for Character Education: Six Design Principles for School Improvement by Dr. Marvin Berkowitz

In PRIMED for Character Education, Dr. Marvin Berkowitz turns decades of research and field experience into a clear set of principles that leaders, administrators, and teacher-leaders can implement to help students thrive. “11 Principles in Action”

Videos of Schools of Character and how they responded to remote character development and relationship building during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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The Hope Institute

Founded in 2016 by Liz Huntley and Drayton Nabers Jr., The Hope Institute supports P-12 schools in Alabama to implement best practices for developing character in students.

Partner With Us

If you are interested in supporting Character Education and Virtues Development initiatives of Orlean Beeson School of Education, partner with us by giving to the Character Development Fund.

The Character Development fund exists to support and advance the awards, professional development opportunities, scholarly work, service and outreach efforts among faculty, staff, students and community partners.

Give Today