John Templeton Foundation awards $1.45M to Clark University

July 23, 2014
Seana Moran, Clark University research assistant professor of psychology

Seana Moran,
Clark University
research assistant
professor of

Clark University has been awarded a $1.45 million grant from the John Templeton Foundation to study how universities around the world can help students find a strong sense of purpose.

Seana Moran, Clark research assistant professor of psychology, is the principal investigator of the three-year grant. She will work with collaborators at two other U.S. universities and universities in five other countries. Jennifer Menon Mariano of the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee is the co-principal investigator.

The research will survey hundreds of students to learn how college courses can be made meaningful and relevant to them in a way that also helps students make an intentional, positive difference in their communities. The work will start an international conversation on devising educational experiences that support purpose development by engaging scholars in the U.S. and abroad in research and field-building activities over a three year period.

"Education—especially college—should be both a support and an opportunity for young people to explore and commit to a life purpose," said Moran. "Yet, little research on this education—purpose connection has been done, and studies that do exist suggest improvement is needed. A life purpose provides direction and momentum for a person's life and serves as a beacon for how the person can contribute positively to his or her community."

"In addition, given that the world is becoming more interconnected, a study of international scope is both timely and important," Moran said. "We are fortunate that we have the opportunity to work with a growing cadre of scholars in other countries who are also examining youth purpose."

"Clark is an ideal university to launch this research initiative, with our historical and contemporary leadership in developmental psychology—both the concepts of adolescence and emerging adulthood started here—as well as our strengths in cultural psychology and cultural-developmental psychology," Moran explained. "Clark is also well known for community engagement both locally and internationally. And our Liberal Education and Effective Practice (LEEP) undergraduate curriculum emphasizes research, service, and cultural understanding for all students."

"Education—especially college—should be both a support and an opportunity for young people to explore and commit to a life purpose." ~ Prof. Moran

Moran's work addresses how individuals contribute to their various communities and how they become more aware and intentional of the effects of those contributions on others. She researches and teaches courses at Clark University on purpose development, creativity and collaboration, and wise decision-making. She holds master and doctorate degrees in human development and psychology from Harvard University in addition to an MBA from the University of New Mexico and postdoctoral training at Stanford University. She earned a BA, summa cum laude, from the University of Southern California. She has written numerous articles and chapters as well as co-edited five books: "Creativity and Development" (Oxford), "Multiple Intelligences Around the World" (Jossey-Bass), two volumes of "Creative Classrooms" (Disney Learning Partnership), and "The Ethics of Creativity" (Palgrave Macmillan).

Founded in 1887 in Worcester, Massachusetts, Clark University is a liberal arts-based research university addressing social and human imperatives on a global scale. Nationally renowned as a college that changes lives, Clark is emerging as a transformative force in higher education today. LEEP (Liberal Education and Effective Practice) is Clark's pioneering model of education that combines a robust liberal arts curriculum with life-changing world and workplace experiences. Clark's faculty and students work across boundaries to develop solutions to complex challenges in the natural sciences, psychology, geography, management, urban education, Holocaust and genocide studies, environmental studies, and international development and social change. The Clark educational experience embodies the University's motto: Challenge convention. Change our world.

About the John Templeton Foundation

The John Templeton Foundation funds independent research and public engagement, pursuing breakthrough discoveries to expand our current knowledge about the universe, the full potentials of humanity, and life's ultimate purpose. The Foundation's motto, "How little we know, how eager to learn," exemplifies its support for open-minded inquiry, commitment to rigorous scientific research and related scholarship, and encouraging civil, informed dialogue among scientists, scholars, theologians, and the public at large.

Related links: