The UMSL Center for Character and Citizenship charts the future of educational leadership – UMSL Daily

Marvin Berkowitz (facing camera, left) and Melinda Bier (facing camera, right) are co-directors of the Center for Character and Citizenship, which sits within the UMSL College of Education and positions itself as a leader in international opinion in the field of character education. (Photo by August Jennewein)

January wasn’t even over and Marvin Berkowitz had previously served as an international expert on character education in the UK and UAE to kick off 2019.

His schedule for the rest of the year was also nearly full. He had business trips to Singapore, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Colombia and Germany.

“And other countries ask me, and I just say, ‘Nah. I can’t. I’m just too busy,'” says Berkowitz, one of the co-directors of the Center for Character and Citizenship at the University of Missouri-St. Louis.

Such is the life of one of the world’s leading experts in character education, a philosophy of learning that values ​​the development of core ethical values, virtues and critical thinking for students and school leaders. alongside more traditional school subjects.

Berkowitz is the public face of the center, which exports research, programming and trusteeship from its home in UMSL College of Education to a regional, national and international audience of school and civic leaders.

Countries such as the United Arab Emirates and Colombia call on the center’s resources to inform national character education efforts. Indonesian scholars quote Berkowitz’s papers daily as the country moves toward a character education program in schools.

This does not mean that people ignore the work of the center at the national level. In fact, interest in character education is on the rise in the United States, says Melinda Bier, co-director of the CCC. Positive results from several scientific disciplines combine with relatively new and large-scale philanthropic support to advance the field.

Character education is even attracting renewed support from government agencies. the final report of the federal commission for school safety, a joint effort of the Departments of Education, Homeland Security, Health and Human Services, and Justice that was presented to President Donald Trump in December, devoted an entire chapter to character education. Berkowitz’s PRIMED model — prioritization, relationships, intrinsic motivation, modeling, empowerment, and developmental pedagogy — which Bier helped develop, was among the commission’s five recommendations.

As one of the center’s founders, Bier has been instrumental in its success, most recently securing nearly $6 million in external funding to support CCC’s leadership work.

The latest grant from John Templeton Foundation supports the development and evaluation of Bier’s Cultivating Virtue in Leaders program, which aims to promote and measure the growth of servant-leadership practices among 100 education leaders over the next three years.

“While many educational leaders today have been conditioned to think of leadership in terms of exercising power to impose control over staff and students, servant leadership fosters a motivational mindset and a educational vision,” says Bier. “Servant leaders seek to establish ethical and caring environments and promote the achievement of school goals by developing and building on the strengths and commitments of the whole school community.”

the Kern Family Foundation provides support for a new, multi-year professional development and mentoring experience, which is aimed specifically at emerging school leaders. The program, called Character Education in Emerging Leaders, merges CViL’s emphasis on personal and professional development of the virtues of servant leadership with the transformative mission of the entire school of well-established Character Education Leadership Academy.

Through blended learning and video presentation of some of the material, the center’s resources can be exported anywhere. The CCC has already had success expanding the availability of its LACE program, which locally accounted for nearly one in five national schools and neighborhoods of character across the United States over the past decade, in this way.

The CCC has continued to grow since its founding. It currently has 18 full- and part-time staff, including two endowed professors, three postdoctoral fellows, three nationally-awarded headteachers, two doctoral students and a senior researcher. It also has a network of leading local and national scholars and practitioners, as well as a body of graduate students at Masters and PhD level.

Character Education is also making inroads into the educational leadership postgraduate programs of the UMSL College of Education. With Dean Anne Taylor on board, the Educator Preparation and Leadership Department added a required character building course in the curriculum, with a possible leadership/character cohort in the EdD program on the road.

“I tell principals all the time that if they can get every teacher to be the best they can be, then they can sit in their desks and play Angry Birds all day and school is going to be awesome” , Berkowitz said. “The main task is to serve the optimal professional development of everyone in the school, changing this mindset to help teachers be the best they can be. Ultimately, it’s about building a better world by nurturing human kindness in people.

A version of this story originally appeared in the spring 2019 issue of UMSL Magazine. If you have an idea for an article for UMSL magazine, send an e-mail


Short URL:

Janice G. Ball