Posted: December 16th, 2021 | By: Amelia Nitz Kennedy
Nearly $1 million of a generous grant from the Kern Family Foundation will directly expand Wake Forest University School of Law’s collaboration with the University’s Program for Leadership and Character, bolstering the law school’s efforts to grow instruction and programming for law students to develop their character and professional identity.
The grant is part of an $8.6 million investment from the Kern Family Foundation to support the Program for Leadership and Character’s work in the University’s professional schools, including the School of Law, School of Medicine, and pre-professional undergraduate programs. It builds upon the Foundation’s previous support for the Program for Leadership and Character, which was launched in 2017 to inspire, educate, and empower leaders of character to serve humanity.
“This investment is transformational for our ability to equip Wake Forest Law students with not only the knowledge and skills, but also the virtues and values, that contribute to a meaningful career beyond graduation,” said Wake Forest Law Dean Jane Aiken. “Too often, legal education separates values from work, yet the most impactful lawyers are those who are as committed to personal integrity and the public good as they are to professional excellence. We’re eager to grow our successful collaboration with the Program for Leadership and Character, and continue to impress upon our law graduates the importance of integrity and purpose in all they do.”
With this investment, the law school will redesign and create new courses and programming opportunities focused on the intersections of leadership, character, professional identity, and professional responsibilities. It will also begin the development of a new “clerkship college” centered around character for law students who will be working for judges upon graduation in positions that have a particularly significant impact on how the law is interpreted and practiced.
In collaboration with the Program for Leadership and Character, Wake Forest Law will also begin exploring steps to bring together law schools across the country who are committed to character-based leadership development in an effort to empower other institutions to undertake similar work.
“This grant from the Kern Family Foundation will allow us to build upon growing energy in Wake Forest’s School of Law and other professional schools to prioritize leadership and character education at this university and other institutions,” said Wake Forest Law Scholar-in-Residence Kenneth Townsend, who leads the Program for Leadership and Character in the professional schools. “We want to act as a model and translator for others interested in integrating leadership and character into professional education and practice.”
More law faculty have participated in leadership and character course development and redesign workshops than any other department or school at the University, resulting in new courses, the most recent of which are “Practical Wisdom and the Law,” “Women, Leadership, and the Law,” and “Health Justice: Theory and Practice.” Additionally, new leadership- and character-oriented modules have been introduced in existing courses including “Criminal Law,” “Essential Business Concepts,” and “Race, Social Science, and the Law.” Law faculty have also been the most active of any department or school in the Program for Leadership and Character’s departmental grant program, receiving support for initiatives such as “Lawyers as Leaders,” “Ethics of Software Development,” and “Leadership and Character in Bioethics.”
This past academic year, the law school also launched an inaugural Leadership and Character in the Law Scholars cohort, made up of two law students from each class. Students in the cohort have the opportunity to collaborate with cohort groups in other professional schools, engage in personalized discussions, workshops, and modules organized by the Program for Leadership and Character, participate in networking events with lawyer-leaders from various sectors and backgrounds, and interact with senior University leaders, including Dean Aiken.
Since Wake Forest Law and the Program for Leadership and Character began working together in 2019, more than 300 law students have participated in the range of courses, leadership workshops, retreats, and other programming led by law faculty in partnership with the Program.
In addition to growing the law school’s efforts focused on leadership and character development, the larger grant will also fund the creation of a Center for Personal and Professional Development at the School of Medicine, among other initiatives. With this support, the University also plans to expand character-based initiatives already underway in the department of engineering; integrate larger questions of character, purpose, and professional identity into advising for pre-law and pre-med undergraduate students; and foster interdisciplinary learning opportunities for professional school students and faculty outside of the classroom.
The mission of Wake Forest Law is to advance the cause of justice by creating knowledge and educating students to meet the legal needs of the world with confidence, character, and creativity. We instill in students a respect for the law, a devotion to the ideal of service, and a commitment to professional values. We educate students from around the world in a richly diverse, equitable, and inclusive community. Learn more at law.wfu.edu, and stay up to date on what’s happening in the Wake Forest Law community by following us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.