WACO, Texas – Baylor University researchers will examine virtue formation in higher education moral communities, both secular and faith-based, with a $2.7 million grant from the John Templeton Foundation.

The project, “The Role of Meta-identity in Developing Moral Communities Within Higher Education,” is co-led by Sarah Schnitker, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology, and Perry Glanzer, Ph.D., professor of educational foundations and resident scholar with Baylor’s Institute for Studies of Religion, in partnership with colleagues from Baylor, the University of Notre Dame, Wheaton College, the Oxford Pastorate, Loyola Marymount University and the Anselm House Christian study center.

Over a two-year period, researchers will conduct longitudinal studies of students at three religiously affiliated institutions, five centers or institutes for Christian study that promote spiritual formation and community for college students, and the five secular universities whose students those Christian study centers serve. Institutes or centers for Christian study are organizations and facilities adjacent to campuses serving students in a shared religious context to think and live as Christians, students and citizens.

The research team will employ both qualitative and quantitative data gathering and interviews, along with program mapping and evaluation, to measure intellectual, moral, performance and civic virtue development and to investigate the impact on virtue formation across different contexts. Researchers hypothesize that Christian study centers adjacent to secular universities are uniquely positioned to provide a hybrid model of educational and religious development. Institutes and centers for Christian study stand to benefit from the research, as researchers will create a toolkit comprised of best-practices for virtue development, along with journal articles, books and more.

Survey and interviews methods for the project stem in part from a unique Baylor University project designed to examine the impact of a Baylor education on a student’s faith and character. The Spirituality and Character Study, which was led by Schnitker, Glanzer and Kevin Dougherty, Ph.D., associate professor of sociology, provided longitudinal data indicating stronger character among students. This approach informs the new study funded by the John Templeton Foundation beyond the Baylor campus.

Source: Baylor University