Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota hosted the inaugural Summer Institute for students in the Education Specialist (Ed.S.) program June 24 and 25 on its Twin Cities Campus. The Summer Institute included a variety of presentations including an introduction to a virtue-based approach to professional ethics for educational leaders.

Building on its strong reputation among educators and educational administrators, Saint Mary’s is enhancing the curriculum of the Ed.S. program, which continues to be one of the largest programs in the state, with a renewed emphasis on character, virtue, and ethics. The Summer Institute featured speakers and formation activities aimed to equip participants to become leaders of character and lead schools of character. Sharing a commitment to character formation, quality education, and dynamic programs that create long-term, systemic impact, Saint Mary’s received a $1.7 million grant from the Kern Family Foundation to support this work.

Featured speakers at the Summer Institute included:

  • A panel discussion on “Educational Leadership: dealing with the unexpected…leading through change, challenge, and chaos” with several of the state’s leading educators and facilitated by Dave Adney, executive director of the Minnesota Association of Secondary School Principals.
  • Julie Sperry, Ed.D., co-designer and lead mentor of the Character Education for Emerging Leaders (CEEL), a program also supported by the Kern Family Foundation, presenting “Leading with Purpose: the what, why, how, and who.”
  • Tony Klemmer, Ph.D., founder and president of Wisdom for Good and the National Academy of Advanced Teacher Education, presenting “Why care about character and virtue? What’s in it for me?”

Students found the Ed.S. Summer Institute to be both professionally and personally rewarding. “Attending the Summer Institute not only provided a wonderful opportunity to connect in-person with my colleagues in the program, it also challenged me as a leader to redefine character education for myself and my school,” said Taylor Rub, a student in the Ed.S. program who currently serves as the director of curriculum and assessment at Hiawatha Academies.

“The Ed.S. program provides students with a strong foundation to become competent principals, superintendents, and directors of special education,” said Michael Hahn, Ph.D., assistant professor and program director in the school of education. “But at Saint Mary’s we also attend to the personal formation of students by asking ‘what type of person becomes an educational leader?’ and ‘what character traits are necessary to lead well?’”

The Summer Institute is a valuable addition to the Ed.S. program, which is already known for its commitment to rigor, relevance, and relationships. “The holistic approach where character education is not something extra or added on but something that becomes ingrained in who we are is a foundation that can transform not only student culture but adult culture as well,” said Rub. “Cultivating character and virtue in ourselves and our students provides for engagement in the world around us in a powerful way as leaders, advocates, and change agents for our communities and society.”


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