New Character Focus Initiative at NACAC broadens the education, advocacy, and research of the Character Collaborative

Arlington, VA (July 27, 2023) – As part of NACAC’s suite of programs to advance equity in college admission, the association will begin a new Character Focus Initiative made possible through the acquisition of the volunteer organization known as the Character Collaborative.

As part of NACAC’s education and training programs, NACAC will host the Character Collaborative’s three learning modules and seek opportunities to expand offerings. Through content in NACAC publications and virtual learning options, the Character Focus Initiative will support college admission counseling professionals as they advance their practice of elevating non-academic factors and character-related attributes in the admission process.

“Admission officers are looking for the intangibles that are so often integral to student success,” said David Hawkins, chief education and policy officer at NACAC. “As we explore new strategies to assess student potential more fairly and equitably, positive character attributes could play an important role in a redesigned admission process. By taking on the work of the Character Collaborative we hope to expand the reach of their efforts and further integrate this concept into professional practice.”

The Character Collaborative was co-founded in 2016 by the late David Holmes, a former University of Vermont professor and former head of Suffield Academy (CT), and Robert J. Massa, vice president emeritus of enrollment and college relations at Dickinson College. The Character Collaborative most recently included 74 member organizations and 300 active participants. The vision of the group at its founding was to promote the use of character attributes in the evaluation of candidates for admission to colleges and independent schools. Members of the group presented on character in admission at various conferences and built three virtual courses designed to help admission offices recognize and assess student character attributes in their process. The Character Collaborative also held an annual meeting in tandem with the annual NACAC Conference.

While formerly a separate membership group, involvement in the new Character Focus Initiative is open to all NACAC members. A community on NACAC Engage, the association’s member-to-member communications platform, will be available for any member interested in staying informed and being involved with the initiative.

An advisory group made up of former Character Collaborative board members and other NACAC members interested in this work will meet regularly to discuss the initiative and continue advancing these efforts.

“Our present day shows a future in college admissions and counseling that is unclear, with challenges shaping the future of our institutions for years to come,” said Tom Bear, the most recent chair of the Character Collaborative’s board of directors and vice president of enrollment management at the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology. “During this period, it is essential that we remain committed to student opportunity, growth, and success. Promoting student character traits that align to our institutional values displays dedication to student achievement. As the Character Collaborative becomes NACAC’s Character Focus Initiative, this effort will advance the role that character plays in a holistic admission process to the benefit of students and universities.”

For college admission professionals interested in the next in-person opportunity to learn about this topic, a preconference seminar at NACAC Conference 2023 will cover research, theory, challenges, and opportunities associated with applicant character review in admission. Participants will gain an understanding of why this work matters and steps required to do it well, and tools to support them as they continue this work upon returning to their institutions.

Updates on education, advocacy, and research opportunities will be featured on the Character Focus Initiative webpage.