Where Knowledge and Character Matter ®

Hiram Rhodes Revels Center for Ethical Leadership

The Revels Institute is dedicated to developing ethical leaders and ethical decision making skills grounded in spiritual, religious, and philosophical traditions advancing the common good. This approach will be infused in academic and student life on the campus, as well as inform research and advocacy that would impact state and national policies that impact human flourishing.

The Institute emulates the leadership of Alcorn’s first president and embodies the “knowledge and character” ethos of the university.

For more information, call 601-877-6412.


Statement of Purpose

Founded in 1871, Alcorn’s history and future are a confluence of different traditions that makes it a leading HBCU in the cultivation of ethically minded education. Our Lorman campus was once home to Oakland College, a Presbyterian school predating the Civil War, and our first university president was Hiram Rhodes Revels, the first African American US Senator from Mississippi. In addition to his political career, Revels was a minister and even taught Philosophy courses while serving as president. This legacy still pervades Alcorn’s tradition of “knowledge and character” education and is instructive in in the kind of leaders we ought to develop and celebrate.

According to Walter Earl Fluker, author of Ethical Leadership: The Quest for Character, Civility, and Community, much of what we popularly understand about leadership approaches does not provide ample “attention to the relationship between spirituality and ethics and how it informs and shapes human consciousness so that leaders are predisposed to make fitting decisions and are enabled to carry out appropriate ethical actions among competing claims and a cacophony of voices and visions.”1

Revels exemplified this kind of ethical leadership, however, and one of the greatest gifts of an Alcorn education is the infusion of it in the lives of emerging leaders. Thus, our tradition of character-based learning and leadership makes the university most fit to help this generation’s faith, political, academic, and business leaders do their best work with vision, virtues, and values correspondent to moral excellence and social transformation.

In order to preserve this tradition and transfer it to younger generations of Alcornites, the Hiram Rhodes Revels Institute for Ethical Leadership seeks to be its steward and innovator. We intend to do this in the following three ways:

1. Reflection: Though Alcorn is known for its impressive agriculture programs, it should be noted that our university is enriched by liberal arts learning in the School of Arts and Sciences. The Revels Institute will be housed in the Department of Social Sciences, with an interdisciplinary scope embracing other programs beyond the department. We envision integrating the “knowledge and character” philosophy throughout the curriculum so that students from their Freshman year to their commencement are enriched by critical thinking and responsible social action. We believe that student success is improved when soft skills—such as interpersonal communication, active listening, and humanitarian sensibilities—are introduced or reinforced throughout the college experience. Helping students to become more introspective and other-centered through classroom and programmatic opportunities develops the moral dimensions of transformative education that assists them in becoming stand out leaders of high character beyond the walls of Alcorn.

2. Research: Because the intersection of philosophical, spiritual, and moral dimensions of leadership has been seldom articulated in recent HBCU culture, Alcorn through the Revels Institute will fill that void by encouraging faculty to research and publish groundbreaking work that stimulates the moral, civic, and intellectual imaginations of members of the Alcorn family and the broader community. Additionally, the hope is that this work can serve as both affordable textbooks and e-books for Alcorn students, as well as foundational resources for decision makers in Mississippi. Critical to this function will be the establishment of a new degree program titled African American Religious Studies, which will help undergraduate and graduate students and faculty explore these topics and offer new insights in the fields of liberal arts and leadership theory. This original work—spanning from Senior projects to Masters theses to peer reviewed faculty research—can be a revolutionary force in forming the minds and habits of 21st century leaders.

3. Recommendations: The Revels Institute intends to connect the life of the mind to both the immaterial and real worlds. The reflection and research discussed in the two previous points will not be of any societal good if it is sequestered to the Ebony Tower. The Institute’s work will offer solutions to enduring sociopolitical dilemmas that impact families, local communities, and anchor institutions. In this way, the Institute advocates for a better world where conflicts are peacefully resolved and communities are allowed to flourish due in large measure to ethical servant leadership.

Thus, based on the religious, political, and educational leadership of our first president, the Revels Institute will provide reflection, research, and recommendations for bringing spirituality, ethics, and leadership together in order to address critical issues confronting rural and urban communities throughout our state and region.

1. Fluker, Ethical Leadership: The Quest for Character, Civility, and Community, vii.