Imagery of Regent people and campus

Dissertation Abstract

Christian Character at Union University:
A Comparison Between First and Fourth-Year Students

Kimberly Carmichael Thornbury
Regent University

Historically, the two goals of higher education have been the development of student intellect and the shaping of student character. Most Christian colleges emphasize character development as a key institutional distinctive. However, despite institutional claims of character development, few studies empirically assess character differences between first and fourth-year students. The purpose of this research was to determine whether there was a statistically significant difference in character development between first-year and fourth-year students at one Christian college. The subject population included 416 freshman and 264 seniors at Union University, Jackson, Tennessee. The study sought to use a research methodology that might be implemented by Christian colleges toward measuring and validating their claim of positively improving the character of their students. The Christian Character Index (CCI) was the test instrument used to measure ten Christian character virtues: joy, inner peace, patience and gentleness, kindness and generosity, faithfulness, self-control, forgiveness, gratitude, compassion, and love, the sum of these virtues. Data analysis included MANOVA, Chi Squared, and regression statistical analysis. First-year students showed higher levels of inner peace than fourth-year students (p < .05). All women showed higher levels to all men in the areas of kindness and generosity (p < .01), self-control (p < .001), and compassion (p < .01). First-year men showed higher levels of inner peace than fourth-year men (p < .05). Fourth-year women showed a higher level of patience and gentleness than first-year women (p < .001). Linear regression revealed a significant positive correlation between love and the disciplines practiced, such that 40% of the variance in the love measure was explained by the sum of the disciplines (p < .001). Women were higher in the practice of spiritual disciplines than men (p < .05). Men were higher in self-report of confession of sin (p < .05), while women reported higher in attempting to submit to God's will (p < .01). Recommendations for future research include curricular and co-curricular initiatives that will assist institutions in assessing their character development goals.