The Gordon Presidential Fellows program is modeled after key aspects of the White House Fellowship(WHF): pairing Fellows with members of the President’s Cabinet for substantive work assignments, gathering as a cohort for broader discussion and educational experiences, meetings with external visitors and campus service projects. These programmatic elements help to elicit virtues of particular importance to Sir John Templeton, especially those of purpose, future-mindedness, and diligence.

Research demonstrates that the WHF is unrivaled in producing top leaders. Thirty-two percent of Fellows eventually assume very senior leadership positions during their careers, compared with only 12 percent of the program finalists who are not selected as Fellows. The design of the program has proven uniquely successful in sharpening the angle of Fellows’ trajectories as they pursue leadership positions across their vocational callings. Thus we ask, can such a program be translated for the college-aged student?

We request 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. Research methods similar to those in the White House Fellows Project, including two-year follow-up interviews, exit interviews and pre- and post-testing of purpose using the Stanford Center on Adolescence’s Youth Purpose Survey, with other means of evaluation of both program finalists and participants, will be used. Survey questions reflect a respondent’s sense of purpose and a broader scan of their environment (including social-structural support, activity and involvement) and help frame our hypothesis that this program grows a student’s sense of purpose and sense of progress towards their life-goals. We aim to gather enough data to draw preliminary conclusions about the effectiveness of this model for cultivating leadership and purpose in young adults.