STILLPOINT Archive: last updated 05/09/2016

Gordon Presidential Fellows Program Turns Five

The 2016–17 Gordon Presidential Fellows. First photo, from left: Kristiina Boettiger ’18, Joshua Cochran ’18, Jack Ricci ’17, Zachary Daly ’17, President Michael Lindsay. Second photo, from left: Andrew Kang ’17,  Sohenga Depestre ’17, Rosanna Drinkhouse ’17, Dorothy Chung ’18. (Not pictured: Farnel Maxime ’17)

Drawn from the largest applicant pool in the program’s history, the fifth cohort of Gordon Presidential Fellows was recently selected for the 2016–17 academic year. The Fellows are each assigned to a member of the President’s Cabinet for substantive work assignments; they also frequently gather for broader discussions and educational experiences.

An early initiative of Michael Lindsay’s presidency, the Gordon Presidential Fellows Program is modeled after key aspects of the well-regarded White House Fellowship, one of America’s most prestigious programs for leadership and public service. Lindsay became familiar with the WHF during the research for his first book, Faith in the Halls of Power. Gordon seemed a promising setting for launching a similar program for college-age students. Substantial recent research, Lindsay notes, “suggests that purposeful young people are more productive, resilient and moral far into adulthood than their peers without a sense of noble purpose.”

Since the launch of the program in 2012, 33 students have completed the program; the coming year’s cohort will bring the total number of Fellows to 42. The program aims to nurture a sense of purposeful leadership across the disciplines; participants do, in fact, represent a range of majors. The highest percentage of Fellows (30%) major in various social sciences, followed by English and communication arts (23%), business and economics (19%), humanities (15%) and the sciences (13%).  

Of the program’s first three graduated cohorts, the largest percentage (28%) are working in business or business consulting; 20% have found positions in education and other human services, 19% in media and marketing, 14% in the nonprofit sector, and 5% in science and technology. Fourteen percent are currently pursuing graduate degrees. 

In 2015 the program received a grant of $210,000 from the John Templeton Foundation to run and assess the Gordon Presidential Fellows program for three years, with initial research focused on the virtue of purpose. “With the assistance of the Templeton Foundation,” says President Lindsay, “this program can provide a model for character education at colleges worldwide.”