Fostering Wisdom through Civic Engagement

by Jean Matelski Boulware, Center for Practical Wisdom

This year, the Self, Virtue and Public Life Initiative, a project of the Institute for the Study of Human Flourishing, will award just under $2 million dollars in 10 grants to innovative, interdisciplinary research teams to investigate concepts of civic virtue.

Two wisdom researchers from the University of Chicago Center for Practical Wisdom are co-investigators on a team that will receive one of these awards this fall. Anne Henly, Senior Lecturer in Psychology and Director of the Undergraduate Research Initiative in Psychology, and Howard Nusbaum, Professor in Psychology and Director of the Center for Practical Wisdom, will lead a research team in the "Increasing public engagement by strengthening civic virtues" research project. The project will examine how educational experiences that incorporate active community engagement as part of the curriculum can enhance the development of civic virtues such as civility, compassion, and fairness, as well as improve wise reasoning.

Henly is especially interested in understanding how education in the humanities influences basic cognitive and affective processes within the individual and this project provides

"an exciting opportunity for a new collaboration between the University of Chicago and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago that will explore the impact of art on society through its effects on how we engage with others."

Over the course of the grant Henly and Nusbaum along with a team of researchers at the University of Chicago including Leila Brammer, Senior Lecturer and Director for the Parrhesia Program for Public Discourse, Berthold Hoeckner, Professor and Chair of the Music department, and Candace Vogler, Professor of Philosophy, will work closely with Jason Boulware, Lecturer in the Film, Video, and New Media Department at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) to investigate effects of the 'Social Practices' film course on SAIC students' notions of civility, compassion, fairness, and wisdom. The course explores concepts of social justice and examines the prison industrial complex through text, film, and a collaboration with incarcerated youth at the Illinois Youth Center in a series of short film production workshops.

As a film maker and arts educator, Boulware is interested in understanding the lasting impact his class has not only on his students, but on others through his students.

"I think it comes down to measurable differences. It's easy to talk with students about how the class has changed their lives on a personal level, but I'm hoping through the research we will have measurable effects of the class experience and how their work might move others towards societal change"

Over the next two years, Henly and Nusbaum will focus their research on the outcomes of academic training and experiential learning to understand how practical wisdom and civic virtues of civility, fairness, and compassion might be more fully developed through active community engagement and public discourse.

To find out more about this project and other awardees, follow the Self, Virtue and Public Life on twitter @civicvirtue_ou

Photo by Luis Quintero from Pexels


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