Darmouth builds character

by Kathleen McDermott | 2/18/00 6:00am

Dartmouth has been recognized as one of the top 100 character-building colleges in the nation by the John Templeton Foundation in the Foundation's most recent Honor Roll for Character Building Colleges

The Templeton Foundation recognizes colleges through its biennial "Colleges that Encourage Character Development: A Resource for Parents, Students, and Educators" book.

This fall marks the first time Dartmouth was recognized. The College was nominated and then completed an extensive application process, according to Associate Dean of the Tucker Foundation Jan-Roberta Tanjan. Over 1,000 institutions were reviewed for the 100 places on the most recent Character-Building Colleges Honor Roll.

"Although particular practices and emphasis may differ, each of the 100 institutions exhibit a strong and inspiring campus-wide ethos that articulates the expectations of personal and civic responsibility in all dimensions of college life," according to the Templeton Foundation.

In its book, the Templeton Foundation says, "Dartmouth embraces action for the common good, welcomes the diversity of the modern world, and respects religious faith and practice within a secular, pluralistic institution through the character-building attributes of its various programs."

It cites the College's close faculty and student relations, a high rate of volunteerism, Drug and Alcohol Peer Advisors and Peer Education Action Corps programs and senior year programs such as the Senior Fellows and the Senior Symposium.

Special notice was drawn to the Tucker Foundation's role in providing a multitude of volunteer, activist and religious life programming, including the College Chaplaincy.

In the Ivy League, only Princeton and Yale were also listed. Other colleges on the Honor Roll included Brigham Young, Notre Dame, the United States Military, Naval, and Air Force Academies as well as many small and religiously affiliated schools.

"I do think we concentrate on character here," said Tarjan. Dartmouth has "created something truly unique, bringing together civic participation, activism, and spirituality. [It is] very rare for such an organization to be created."

"I think it was the strength of the Tucker Foundation programs, together with many others" that led to the College's honor, said Tarjan.

She said it is not unusual for students to say the Tucker Foundation changed their lives and for Tucker Foundation students to be active in their communities after graduation.

"All of a sudden, I found a place that allowed me to grow and learn fundamental lessons of living in our world....[It] provides a wealth of knowledge and opportunities to help Dartmouth students fully realize and appreciate their lives while channeling their special skills through appropriate activity to help others," said Angela Poppe '00, who has volunteered at the Good Neighbor Health Clinic, participated in the Jamaica Volunteer Immersion Program, and is a Tucker Fellow, through the Tucker Foundation. "The Tucker Foundation serves as a spring-board from which Dartmouth students can grow in civic responsibility, humanity, and compassion."

According to Christine Percheski, '01, who is a Book Buddy, Prison Project volunteer, Jacksonville Alternative Spring Break participant, and a Dartmouth Partners in Community Service intern, "Character is difficult to define, evaluate and quantify, so it's hard to evaluate Tucker's influence on my 'character development,' but in that Tucker has facilitated my attainment of greater consciousness and experience of social justice issues and community service, involvement in Tucker has definitely positively affected my character."

A fall 1998 survey by the Tucker Foundation confirmed that "Dartmouth students ... generally believe that the College is helping them develop positive civic, moral, and spiritual values," according to the Spring/Summer 1999 edition of Tucker Points.

Seventy percent of students agreed that the College helped them develop positive values. Only 6 percent said the College had a negative effect.

Dartmouth was also recognized by the Templeton Foundation for its excellence in Spiritual Growth programs, Volunteer Service programs, and Civic Education programs.

Over 350 colleges have been listed on its various honor rolls, such as the Honor Roll for Character Building Colleges, for Civic Education Programs and for Volunteer Service Programs, since 1989.