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Conference Participants: Concept of Purpose 2003

"Exploring the Nature and Development of Purpose in Youth"

Conference Participants


Twelve researchers attended the conference as presenters. These scholars were invited because each had conducted research that provides insights into purpose, and which could inform future research on the topic. These attendees are featured below.

Dr. Peter Benson is president of Search Institute, in Minneapolis, Minnesota, a non-profit research organization dedicated to promoting the well-being of children and adolescents. Dr. Benson's research on developmental assets for children and youth identifies a sense of purpose as an important part of young peoples' positive identity development, which along with other assets, helps them thrive. Benson's research also explores the role of communities in helping youth develop purpose and other assets.

Dr. William Damon is Professor of Education at Stanford University and Director of the Center on Adolescence. Dr. Damon's current research explores how young people develop character and a sense of moral purpose in work, family, and community relationships. He also examines how young people can approach careers with an emphasis on creative innovation, excellence, and social responsibility.

Dr. Robert Emmons is Professor of Psychology at the University of California-Davis. Dr. Emmons' research is at the interface of personality psychology and religion. His research on personal strivings is relevant to the investigation of the kinds of purposes young people and adults may choose, and what types of concerns are most important to them. Dr Emmons' research illuminates religion and spirituality as a source of purpose.

Dr. Jonathan Haidt is Associate Professor of Psychology at the University of Virginia. His research interests lie in the area of morality and emotions, and how both vary across cultures. Haidt looks at moral emotions, such as elevation and awe. These positive emotions may accompany, initiate, or support the development of purpose, while negative emotions, such as disgust, may turn people away from unworthy purposes.

Dr. Lene Jensen is Assistant Professor of Psychology at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. and is a faculty member at the Life Cycle Institute. Dr. Jensen's research focuses on the relationship between morality and worldviews among children, adolescents, and adults and looks at how people's moral evaluations, reasoning, and emotions are both diverse and common across cultures. Dr. Jensen's work describes possible sources of youth purpose across different societies.

Dr. Richard M. Lerner holds the Bergstrom Chair in Applied Developmental Science at Tufts University in Boston, MA. Dr. Lerner investigates the fused relations between individuals and contexts and how these relationships affect human development. His approach is useful for investigating how relationships between youth and their environments can have a reciprocal affect: some environments may help youth develop positive purposes, and these youth may in turn create purpose-enhancing environments.

Dr. Dan P. McAdams is Professor of Human Development and Social Policy, Professor of Psychology, and Charles Deering McCormick Professor of Teaching Excellence at Northwestern University in Evanston, IL. He is also the Director of the Foley Center for the Study of Lives. Dr. McAdams has conducted a research program on generative adults- people who are creative and productive in their middle age. The concept of generativity is very close to the notion of purpose and sheds light on how purpose might develop in adolescence.

Dr. Daniel Perlstein is Assistant Professor of Education at the University of California-Berkeley. Dr. Perlstein is an educational historian who has written about the relationship between democratic ideals and the governance, political organization, and pedagogy of public schools, and has a specific interest in racial equality and social justice within the American school system. His work focuses on historical social movements as sources of purpose for youth during the 1960's.

Dr. Robert Roeser is Assistant Professor of Education at Stanford University. His research focuses on how school impacts young people's psychological and academic adjustment. He has a particular interest in how academic achievement motivation and psychological adjustment are related in the school context and across development. This research provides insight into how schools and classrooms might be structured in order to help youth develop positive purposes. Dr. Roeser's understanding of Eastern philosophy and religion also sheds light on how these philosophies view purpose and its development across the lifespan.

Dr. Richard A. Shweder is a cultural anthropologist and Professor of Human Development at the University of Chicago. He has conducted research on moral reasoning, emotional functioning, gender roles and the moral foundations of family life practices in the Hindu temple town of Bhubaneswar on the East Coast of India. Dr. Shweder's work illuminates what purpose may look like across cultures, and the different forms it can take in different societies.

Dr. Margaret Beale Spencer is Professor of Education and Professor of Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania. She is also the Director of the Center for Health, Achievement, Neighborhood Growth, and Ethnic Studies (CHANGES) and Director of the Interdisciplinary Studies in Human Development (ISHD) Program and the W.E.B. DuBois Collective Research Institute at the University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Spencer's research addresses resiliency, identity, and competence formation processes in youth of all ethnicities, but particularly among youth of color and those from low-resource families. Dr. Spencer's scholarship sheds light on how minority adolescents, and those from low-income areas, develop purpose.

Dr. Linda M. Wagener is Associate Dean of the School of Psychology and Professor of Psychology at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, CA, and Co-Director of its Center for Research in Child and Adolescent Development. Dr. Wagener's interest is in exploring the relationship between moral and spiritual development and adolescent well-being. Her work is helpful in demonstrating how moral values and spirituality can serve as sources of youth purpose.

Participant Observers

In addition to the 12 presenters, 20 participant observers (teachers, religious scholars, doctoral students, John Templeton Board of Advisor members, and other professionals working in youth related fields) also attended the conference and contributed to the discussion. Participant observers included:

  • Judy Anderson, Guest of the John Templeton Foundation
  • Kendall Cotton Bronk, Doctoral student at the Stanford University School of Education
  • Kathy Davis, Administrator at the Stanford University Center on Adolescence
  • Dr. Charles Harper, Executive Director at the John Templeton Foundation
  • Mary Hurlbut, Student at Stanford University
  • Patricia Karlin-Neumann, Associate Dean for Religious Life at Stanford University
  • Dr. Pamela King, Assistant Professor at Fuller Theological Seminary
  • Dr. Barnaby Marsh, Director of Venture Philanthropy Strategy and New Programs Development at the John Templeton Foundation
  • Jenni Menon, Doctoral student at the Stanford University School of Education
  • Michael Reagan, Member of the Board of Advisors at the John Templeton Foundation
  • Kim Roots, Editor at Research News and Opportunities in Science and Theology
  • Dr. Kimon Sargeant, Director of Research & Programs in the Human Sciences, Metanexus Institute on Religion and Science
  • Dr. Arthur J. Schwartz, Vice President of Human Sciences at the John Templeton Foundation
  • Dr. John M. Templeton Jr., President at the John Templeton Foundation
  • Dr. Josephina Templeton, Spouse of Dr. John Templeton, Jr.
  • Heather Wax, Features Editor at Research News and Opportunities in Science and Theology
  • Mary Worlton, Director of Character Education and 6th Grade Teacher at Loyola Elementary School in Los Altos, CA
  • Dr. Everett Worthington, Professor of Psychology at Virginia Commonwealth University