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Press Release

Debra Humphreys
Vice President for Communications and Public Affairs
202-387-3760 ext. 422   

AAC&U Announces National Initiative on Fostering Personal and Social Responsibility in Today’s College Students

The John Templeton Foundation Provides $2 Million Grant to Support Core Commitments Initiative

Washington, DC—June 21, 2006—The Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) announced today the receipt of a $2 million grant to support a national initiative designed to work with a network of colleges and universities to more purposefully develop their students’ personal and social responsibility. Core Commitments: Fostering Personal and Social Responsibility on College and University Campuses will support educational leadership, research, and campus change to help college students pursue excellence and develop integrity and responsibility.

“College can and should be a time when students consciously make a commitment to reach for excellence in the use of their talents, take responsibility for the integrity and quality of their work, and engage in meaningful practices involving both action and reflection that prepare them to fulfill their obligations as responsible citizens,” said AAC&U President Carol Geary Schneider. “We are very pleased to build on our earlier work in the Greater Expectations Initiative to advance these important goals of college learning.”

The Core Commitments initiative is part of AAC&U’s continuing effort to achieve “greater expectations” for student learning. It builds on AAC&U’s Greater Expectations initiative and will be focused on five major dimensions of personal and social responsibility and those aspects of campus culture that might positively or negatively affect the development of these key dimensions of identity. The initiative will work on:

  • developing a strong work ethic
  • recognizing and acting on a sense of academic integrity
  • recognizing and acting on the responsibility to contribute to the larger community
  • recognizing and acting on the obligation to take seriously the perspectives of others; and
  • developing competence in ethical and moral reasoning.

The initiative will entail four interrelated strands of work including A Call to Action that provides a conceptual framework for this work, the development of research tools and evidence, a leadership consortium initially involving 20 campuses, and an expanding network of educational leaders across the country.

The initial phase of the project will entail the development and testing of an assessment template that examines attitudes toward the five dimensions of personal and social responsibility named above.

“We believe it is crucial to assess and document the effects of college on students’ growth on dimensions of personal and social responsibility,” says AAC&U’s Senior Vice President, Caryn McTighe Musil, who will be directing the project. “We have turned to two of the nation’s leading experts to help us accomplish that.”

Those experts are Richard Hersh, former president of both Trinity College in Hartford and Hobart and William Smith Colleges, former director of Harvard University’s Center for Moral Development, and currently with the Council for Aid to Education, and L. Lee Knefelkamp, professor of psychology and education at Teachers College, Columbia University and a leading national scholar on intellectual and moral development. These two AAC&U Senior Fellows will lead the research components of the initiative.

Thanks to earlier support form the Templeton Foundation, AAC&U consulted with leading scholars and researchers on individual and social responsibility as outcomes of college learning. The results are available in a special issue of its journal, Liberal Education. To read some of the articles in that issue or order copies, see

A Call for Participation in Core Commitments will be issued in Fall 2006.

For information about the project, or about AAC&U’s Greater Expectations Initiative and other AAC&U resources on the topic, see

AAC&U is the leading national association concerned with the quality, vitality, and public standing of undergraduate liberal education. Its members are committed to extending the advantages of a liberal education to all students, regardless of academic specialization or intended career. Since its founding in 1915, AAC&U's membership has grown to more than 1100 accredited public and private colleges and universities of every type and size.

AAC&U functions as a catalyst and facilitator, forging links among presidents, administrators, and faculty members who are engaged in institutional and curricular planning. Its mission is to reinforce the collective commitment to liberal education at both the national and local levels and to help individual institutions keep the quality of student learning at the core of their work as they evolve to meet new economic and social challenges.

Information about AAC&U membership, programs, and publications can be found at

The mission of the John Templeton Foundation is to pursue new insights at the boundary between theology and science through a rigorous, open-minded, and empirically focused methodology, drawing together talented representatives from a wide spectrum of fields of expertise. Using "the humble approach," the Foundation typically seeks to focus the methods and resources of scientific inquiry on topical areas which have spiritual and theological significance ranging across the disciplines from cosmology to healthcare. Recognizing the importance of character and virtue in a free society, the Foundation supports a broad spectrum of programs, publications, and studies that promote character education from childhood through young adulthood. The goal is to encourage schools and colleges to reinforce such positive values as honesty, compassion, self-discipline, and respect, and to foster widespread conversations about character development and values.

Information about the John Templeton Foundation can be found at