NORMAN—At the heart of the newly created University of Oklahoma Institute for the Study of Human Flourishing is the belief that humans flourish when they develop their fullest potential as rational and moral creatures living in healthy communities. Funded by a $2.95 million grant from the John Templeton Foundation and OU, the primary mission of the Institute is to advance the science of virtue, improve the flourishing of OU students and all Oklahomans.
“The University of Oklahoma is proud to have some of the best faculty in the world working at the intersection of philosophy, psychology and education. This grant is a recognition of the hard work of an amazingly talented team of researchers who have the potential to enrich the way we understand moral development,” said Kyle Harper, OU Norman campus senior vice president and provost.
Nancy E. Snow, professor and director of the Institute, came to OU this summer after spending 25 years as professor of philosophy at Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She is a leading expert in the philosophy of character, virtue and moral psychology, known for her philosophically rigorous and empirically informed scholarly contributions.
“It’s a privilege to come to OU to lead this exciting and unique new Institute. I have been energized by the support and enthusiasm of colleagues here at OU and in the Oklahoma community. Together we can make a positive difference in our state, our nation and the world,” said Snow.
Snow is already establishing relationships with other institutions across the U.S. and around the world to begin a “Virtues Across Continents” initiative. Snow envisions the Institute acting as a central hub, bringing together other academic centers and universities to enable collaboration on large-scale, international programs.
The Institute’s Leadership Team consists of Snow, Provost Kyle Harper; Ryan Brown, professor of social psychology in the OU College of Arts and Sciences; Gregg A. Garn, dean of the Jeannine Rainbolt College of Education at OU; Nicole J. Campbell, associate professor of psychology and dean of University College at OU; and Linda Zagzebski, George Lynn Cross Research Professor and Kingfisher College Chair of Philosophy of Religion and Ethics in the OU College of Arts and Sciences.
The Institute takes the Sooner Virtues as a key theme of study and exploration. The Sooner Virtues are nine character traits that were collaboratively selected as best reflecting OU’s moral identity and educational mission. Crucial for personal flourishing and academic success, Sooner Virtues fall into three categories: intellectual virtues (love of learning, intellectual humility and open-mindedness); executive virtues (self-regulation, perseverance and honesty); and civic virtues (civility, compassion and fairness).
At present, the Institute is launching programs for OU students and faculty; Oklahoma leaders in business, education the civic community; and parents. Student programs being developed include a Common Read program, in which all entering freshmen are assigned to read a book that relates to one or more of the Sooner Virtues. In the fall semester, the book’s author will be invited to deliver a public lecture on campus and meet with smaller student groups. The Institute is also organizing an annual OU Welcome Lecture delivered by a distinguished OU faculty member, who will speak to the purposes and values of an OU education. Provost Kyle Harper will give this year’s lecture on Dec. 8th.
OU’s Gateway to College Learning course reaches thousands of first-year students, helping them to transition to college life. The Institute is actively working with Freshman Programs to integrate the Sooner Virtues into the content and structure of the Gateway course.
Camp IMPACT: Spring Break with a Purpose, another student program under development, is designed to provide first and second-year OU students with an opportunity for in-depth exploration of the role of character in their lives. It includes volunteer/service opportunities; personal, cultural and social experiences; and civic engagement. Students will engage in these purposeful experiences for four days during Spring Break as well as participate in pre- and post-camp activities. Applications will be available in November and will be due at the end of the fall semester.
Oklahoma community and statewide programs include the development of a network of principals, teachers and other school leaders who are interested in using the latest research to learn how to develop virtue in students. The Institute is developing a suite of ideas aimed at corporate leaders that link virtue, thriving business and the betterment of the people and the state of Oklahoma.
A civic leadership training program is planned to include four executive training sessions throughout the year. Follow-up assistance and support will be provided, facilitated by online communities for participants. Sooner Parent programs will serve Oklahoma parents by providing online resources, events and workshops throughout the state.
The Institute has launched a new website at ou.edu/flourish for those with an interest in the study of human flourishing.