Cultivation of Character for Ethical Leadership: The Department of Leadership Education at Culver Academies


  • Evan Dutmer Culver Academies



leadership, character education, virtues, values, transformational leadership, competencies


Since 1894, Culver Academies has aimed to develop leaders of character. Rooted in the military academy and boarding school traditions, Culver has centered leadership development around central virtues and values. In 1986, recognizing the need to provide integrated, successive leadership learning experiences for students across 4 years, Culver instituted a standalone academic Department of Leadership Education. The Department of Leadership Education, housed in the Schrage Leadership Center, is unique among secondary boarding schools in offering four successive academic leadership education classroom experiences alongside Student Life curricula. Each year’s curriculum is centered in a transformational leadership framework, utilizing evidence-based tools to guide students’ leadership and character growth at each level. Ultimately, students’ growth is assessed by faculty (and students themselves) according to core leadership and character competencies developed by the Academies. Continual improvement of the department is ensured through a comprehensive triennial review process. The aim of this article is to illustrate a successful, iterative character and leadership education experience in a 4-year secondary school context.


Download data is not yet available.


About Culver Academies. (2023). Culver Academies.

Arthur, J., Fullard, M., & O’Leary, C. (2022). Teaching Character Education: What Works. Jubilee Centre for Character and Virtues, University of Birmingham.

Arthur, J., Kristjánsson, K., Harrison, T., Sanderse, W., & Wright, D. (2017). Teaching character and virtue in schools. Routledge.

Barrett, L. (2020). Seven and a half lessons about the brain. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Bass, B., & Riggio, R. (2006). Transformational leadership. Psychology Press.

Bass, B., & Bass, R. (2008) The Bass Handbook of Leadership: Theory, Research, & Managerial Applications. Simon and Schuster.

Bass, B., & Steidlmeier, P. (1999). Ethics, character, and authentic transformational leadership behavior. The Leadership Quarterly, 10(2), 181–217.

Brackett, M. (2019). Permission to feel. Celadon Books.

Bruner, J. (1960). The process of education. Harvard University Press.

Burns, J. (1978) Leadership. Harper & Row.

Cameron, K. (2021). Positively energizing leadership. Berrett-Koehler Publishers.

Cameron, K., & Winn, B. (2012). Virtuousness in organizations. In G. Spreitzer & K. Cameron (Eds.), The Oxford handbook of positive organizational scholarship (p. 231–244). Oxford University Press.

Ciulla, J. (2012). Ethics and effectiveness: The nature of good leadership. In J. Antonakis & D. Day (Eds.), The nature of leadership (p. 508–540). SAGE.

Ciulla, J. (2014). Ethics, the heart of leadership. Praeger.

Duckworth, A. (2016). Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance. Scribner.

Drucker, P. (2005). Managing oneself. Harvard Business Review Press.

Drucker, P. (2008) Managing Oneself. Harvard Business Review Press.

Dutmer, E. (2022). A model for a practiced, global, liberatory virtue ethics curriculum. Teaching Ethics, 22(1), 39–67.

Dweck, C. (2007). Mindset: The new psychology of success. Random House.

Jones, G. (2023). Deeply responsible business: A global history of values-driven leadership. Harvard University Press.

Kristjánsson, K. (2015). Aristotelian character education. Routledge/Taylor & Francis Group.

Kolb, D. (1984). Experiential learning: Experience as the source of learning and development. Prentice-Hall.

Kotter, J. (1990). A force for change: How leadership differs from management. Free Press.

Kouzes, J., & Posner, B. (2018). The student leadership challenge: Five practices for becoming an exemplary leader. Wiley.

Lamb, M., Brant, J., & Brooks, E. (2022). Seven strategies for cultivating virtue in the university. In J. Brant, E. Brooks, & M. Lamb (Eds.),Cultivating virtue in the university (p. 115–156). Oxford University Press.

Lencioni, P. (2018). The Five Dysfunctions of the Team. Jossey-Bass.

Miglianico, M., Dubreuil, P., Miquelon, P., Bakker, A., & Martin-Krumm, C. (2020). Strength use in the workplace: A literature review. Journal of Happiness Studies, 21(2), 737–764.

Metcalf, E., & Heller, J. (2022). Building a Deliberate and Repeatable Program for Developing Leaders of Character. Journal of Character and Leadership Development, 10(1), 58–64.

Mehta, J., & Fine, S. (2019). In search of deeper learning: The quest to remake the American high school. Harvard University Press.

Northouse, P. (2022). Leadership: Theory and practice. SAGE.

Paulson Gjerde, K., Padgett, M., & Skinner, D. (2017). The Impact of Process vs. Outcome Feedback on Student Performance and Perceptions. Journal of Learning in Higher Education, 13(1), 73–82.

Peterson, C., & Seligman, M. (2004). Character strengths and virtues: A handbook and classification. Oxford University Press, American Psychological Association.

Sosik, J. (2015). Leading with character: Stories of valor and virtue and the principles they teach. Information Age Publishing.

Sosik, J., & Jung, D. (2018). Full range leadership development: Pathways for people, profit, and planet. Routledge.

Walker, D., Thoma, S., Jones, C., & Kristjánsson, K. (2017). Adolescent moral judgement: A study of UK secondary school pupils. British Educational Research Journal, 43(3), 588–607.

Wiggins, G., & McTighe, J. (2005). Understanding by design. ASCD.

Willingham, D. (2022). Outsmart your brain: Why learning is hard and how you can make it easy. Simon & Schuster.

Yeager, J., Fisher, S., & Shearon, D. N. (2011). SMART strengths: Building character, resilience and relationships in youth. Kravis Publishing.

Zanetti, N. (2020). Values and virtues in the military. Peter Lang.



How to Cite

Dutmer, E. (2024). Cultivation of Character for Ethical Leadership: The Department of Leadership Education at Culver Academies. Journal of Character and Leadership Development, 11(1), 53–61.