Best Practices

The Art of Building Character Through Education

It has been two years now since the Seattle, Washington-based company Payscale.com published results from their survey that ranked Loma Linda University graduates number 1 in the nation when asked: “Does your job make the world a better place?” The question was intended to assess meaning in life, and 91 percent of our grads said they believed they did make the world better. I have puzzled over that survey, and about what caused us to do so well.

Photo: Loma Linda University’s website

David Brooks, a New York Times columnist on the faculty at Yale, recently wrote a book about “moral and spiritual humility.” In the book, The Road to Character, Brooks shares his journey of trying to understand our current culture, looking for its keys, its foundational characteristics, that explain who we are and why we behave the way we do.

In a recent talk, Brooks referenced the millennials — those born after 1980, who are now starting to take their place in society. He says “they assume that the culture of expressive individualism is the eternal order of the universe and that meaning comes from being authentic to self. They have a combination of academic and career competitiveness and a lack of a moral and romantic vocabulary that has created a culture that is professional and not poetic, pragmatic and not romantic. The head is large, and the heart and soul are backstage. … To ask about the meaning of life is unprofessional.”

As Brooks has searched for an antidote to this situation, he has increasingly embraced Christian educational institutions as having a unique offering for today’s world. He says:

A lot of schools I go to do a great job at many things, but integrating faith, the spirit, the heart and the soul with the mind is not one of them. … That is the gift [Christian] institutions offer the wider culture. That gift is a gateway drug to the gift of the Almighty.”

A powerful endorsement, to be sure, of Christian institutions like Loma Linda University that believe their duty is exactly that — to encourage character development that resonates with these higher values. As I meet alumni across this country and around the world, they confirm this impact on their lives from this place, and are deeply grateful.

I am sure the secret ingredient that makes this happen varies between students, but somewhere at the foundation is the concept of service to others. You cannot reach out in caring and compassion for another and not be changed yourself.

So that is why we continue to do what we do — encouraging involvement by our students and faculty to confront human need in its many forms. We place our many service efforts at the heart of our curricula, designed to call out the best in each of us. They provide “teachable moments” to prepare our students to find meaning in all they do. May this “Loma Linda experience” live on for generations to come!


Note: Article written and posted in English

Richard Hart

Richard Hart, MD, DrPH, is currently serving as the president of Loma Linda University Health in California.

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