Templeton-funded Study Reflects Favorably on Gordon Presidential Fellows

This spring marked the conclusion of a three-year study on the Gordon Presidential Fellows program and its impact on increasing the sense of purpose in college students. The research results were presented on Saturday, September 29, followed by a reunion of Fellows alumni as part of Homecoming and Family Weekend at Gordon College.

The study, funded by the John Templeton Foundation and conducted by sociologist Pat Hastings of Colorado State University, found that over the course of the year-long program, Fellows develop a greater sense of purpose, a deeper understanding of what makes life meaningful, an increased spirit of altruism and heightened social support from friends.

When surveyed at the start and close of the program, Fellows report an increase in levels of optimism about their likelihood of finding personal and professional fulfillment, and about the professional opportunities available to them. They are better able to articulate a clear career trajectory and a plan to achieve their long-term goals in life; more inclined to volunteer, engage in family activities and help others; less likely to describe themselves as rebellious; and more likely to be described as respectful.

The Gordon Presidential Fellows program is the only college-based leadership program modeled on the esteemed White House Fellowship. It harnesses the benefits of the most effective leadership development program for young people and brings them to college-age students in the context of a Christian institution. At Gordon, Fellows are paired with members of the President’s Cabinet for substantive work assignments and regularly gather as a cohort for broader discussion and educational experiences (as well as meetings with external visitors and campus service projects).

Graduates of the Gordon Presidential Fellows program have gone on to study in top graduate programs at institutions such as Harvard, Columbia and Yale. Others have been employed by leading institutions such as The South China Morning Post and the American Enterprise Institute. A full 15 percent of the program’s graduates are currently attending Ivy League graduate programs, with an additional 20 percent attending graduate programs at top institutions such as Duke, Notre Dame, the University of Chicago and Tufts. Other program graduates are rising stars at leading institutions such as GE and KPMG, while others are young entrepreneurs or serve at major nonprofit organizations.

One alum of the program writes that “the Presidential Fellows Program was the highlight of my education. The rigorous work coupled with the caliber of the program provided a terrific advantage when it came to pursuing my passion after Gordon. More importantly, however, the mentoring I received from my principal and other members of the administration shaped my character and taught me the qualities necessary to be a devoted Christian in the marketplace.”

Another adds, “It is likely that I will never fully grasp this program’s impact on my life. But I can say with confidence that whatever good I contribute in my home, in my work, in my community and in this world—it finds its source in the work Christ has done in me through the Gordon College Presidential Fellows program.”