North Central College has been awarded a $3.2 million grant— the largest private grant in the institution’s 157-year history—from the Kern Family Foundation to develop principals and teachers who foster “cultures of character” in their schools. A framework for building cultures of character in schools will be infused in the College’s master of education in educational leadership degree with eligibility for principal endorsement and through the creation of a Character Education Institute—anchored by North Central’s long-established campus wide Leadership, Ethics and Values (LEV) program and the recently launched Center for Social Impact (CSI).
The funding supports the College’s vision to become a regional and national model of educational leader preparation by providing distinctive classroom, experiential learning and professional development opportunities.
Kathy Black, assistant professor of education and coordinator of the master of education degree, said that developing character is true to the College’s mission and the grant paves the way for these programs to reach a broader population.
Within its multi-faceted mission, the Kern Family Foundation seeks to find ways to impact character education in schools across urban, suburban and rural areas.
“The Kern Family Foundation and North Central share a special synergy; we both have a long-standing and deep commitment to cultivating leaders of character,” said Black. “Through this partnership, we will have the opportunity to prepare school leaders who prioritize student character as well as academics.”
Over the next four and a half years, the grant will address the shortage of diversity in administrative ranks by supporting partial tuition scholarships for select underrepresented candidates or educators serving high-needs schools. A key component of the grant is funding fellowships for select master’s candidates to spend a semester-long, full immersion internship with a principal-mentor.
“The grant will impact from both the top and bottom, in terms of school culture,” said Kathleen King, assistant professor of education and education graduate placement coordinator. “The principal leadership piece impacts from the top down and the classroom teachers impact from the bottom up. It is best practice to see movement in both directions and our programming will offer that.”
“This grant from the Kern Family Foundation recognizes the College’s historic commitment to leadership, ethics and values and the outstanding reputation of our principal preparation curriculum,” said President Troy Hammond. “With this investment, the foundation has shown it has confidence that North Central can make an important and far-reaching impact in creating cultures of character in school districts and communities across Illinois, the Midwest—and perhaps, across the country.”
Another major component of the grant is the Character Education Institute, which will reach current principals, teachers and undergraduate education majors through a Cultures of Character Principal Academy and Character Education Certificate. The Academy will provide coaches for administrators in PK-12 schools who want to achieve school improvement goals through strong school cultures of character. Meanwhile, the Character Education Certificate will enable educators to become scholars of character development and social and emotional learning.
“This is an exciting collaboration between LEV and the College’s education department to create a distinct range of opportunities for education students at North Central College,” said Thomas Cavenagh, Schneller Sisters Professor of Leadership, Ethics and Values and Director of Leadership, Ethics and Values. “The LEV program teaches and endeavors to advance a Neo-Aristotelian virtue ethics framework that is well aligned with the philosophy and beliefs of the Kern Family Foundation.”
The College will also build collaboration among scholars, educators, legislators and other stakeholders to further explore the integration of character development initiatives with social-emotional learning standards.
“Through this process, North Central will be a place where people come to learn how to develop social, emotional and ethical competencies,” said King. “We are on the trajectory to become thought leaders in fostering cultures of character.”
The Kern Family Foundation contributes to the ongoing success of the College’s $150 million Brilliant Future Campaign.