About Our Team

Project Director

Speaker Dr. William Fleeson

Dr. William Fleeson is Professor of Psychology at Wake Forest University. His work focuses on the morally exceptional and on examining actual behavior, behavior patterns, and behavior contingencies in order to obtain new insights about personality constructs and to explain the mechanisms and operation of personality constructs, especially moral character and borderline personality disorder. His work on this line of research has resulted in several publications in leading journals such as the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Journal of Personality, and Journal of Research in Personality, and in the 2002 Society for Personality and Social Psychology Theoretical Innovation Prize and the 2016 SPSP Carol and Ed Diener Award in Personality Psychology.
Faculty Website

Project Leaders

Dr. Christian B. Miller

Dr. Christian B. Miller is the A.C. Reid Professor of Philosophy at Wake Forest University and Past Director of the Character Project (www.thecharacterproject.com), which was funded by $5.6 million in grants from the John Templeton Foundation and Templeton World Charity Foundation. He is the author of over 75 papers as well as two books with Oxford University Press, Moral Character: An Empirical Theory (2013) and Character and Moral Psychology (2014). His first trade book, The Character Gap: How Good Are We?, appeared with Oxford in 2017. He is also the editor or co-editor of Essays in the Philosophy of Religion (Oxford), Character: New Directions from Philosophy, Psychology, and Theology (Oxford), Moral Psychology, Volume V: Virtue and Character (MIT Press), Integrity, Honesty, and Truth-Seeking (Oxford), and The Continuum Companion to Ethics (Continuum Press). He was awarded the 2009 Wake Forest University Reid-Doyle Prize for Excellence in Teaching, the 2009 Wake Forest University Award for Excellence in Research, and the 2014 Kulynych Family Omicron Delta Kappa Award.

Dr. R. Michael Furr

Dr. R. Michael Furr is Professor of Psychology at Wake Forest University. His substantive research includes person-situation interactions, peoples’ perceptions of themselves and their social worlds (particularly with regard to morality), and personality pathology. His methodological interests include psychometrics and the statistical analysis of profile similarity. His research has appeared in journals such as Psychological Science, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, and Psychological Methods. In addition, he has authored two books on psychological measurement, including Psychometrics: An Introduction (Sage Publications), which has been translated into Russian. He is a fellow of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology, a fellow of the Association for Psychological Science, a fellow of Division 5 (Quantitative and Qualitative Methods) of the American Psychological Association, and a recipient of WFU’s Award for Excellence in Research. He earned a BA from the College of William and Mary, a MS from Villanova University, and a PhD from the University of California at Riverside.
Faculty Website

Dr. Angela Knobel

Dr. Angela Knobel is an Associate Professor of Philosophy at The Catholic University of America. Her main areas of research are Thomas Aquinas’s virtue theory, ethics, and bioethics. Her papers have appeared or are forthcoming in such journals as The Thomist, American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly, Nova et Vetera, International Philosophical Quarterly, Christian Bioethics, Studies in Christian Ethics, and Théologie Morale Fondamentale, and her book, Aquinas and the Infused Moral Virtues, is under contract with University of Notre Dame Press.

Faculty Investigator

Dr. Eranda Jayawickreme is an assistant professor of psychology at Wake Forest University. He received his Ph.D. in positive and social/personality psychology from the University of Pennsylvania in 2010. He is currently the Project Co-Leader of the Pathways to Character Project, a $3.4 million initiative funded by the John Templeton Foundation examining the possibilities for the strengthening of character following adversity, challenge or failure. His research focuses on well-being, moral psychology, psychological growth following adversity, wisdom, and integrative theories of personality, and has worked with populations in Rwanda, Sri Lanka and various populations in the USA. His awards include the 2015 Rising Star award from the Association for Psychological Science (which recognizes outstanding psychological scientists in the earliest stages of their research career post-PhD whose innovative work has already advanced the field), a Mellon Refugee Initiative Fund Fellowship, and grants from the John Templeton Foundation, the Templeton Religion Trust, and the Asia Foundation/ USAID.

Visit the Pathways to Character project here: http://pathwaystocharacter.org

Post-Doctoral Scholars

Dr. Alan T. Wilson completed his doctoral studies in philosophy at the University of Edinburgh in 2015, having previously completed an MA (first class honours) and MLitt (distinction) at the University of Glasgow. His work mainly focuses on virtue theory within ethics, with a particular interest in the nature and identity of the moral virtues. In future research he aims to investigate the potential of educating for moral virtue, focusing on the emotional and motivational aspects of the virtues. Additional research interests fall within applied ethics and political philosophy. Alan is now a lecturer in Philosophy at the University of Bristol. For more, visit: http://alantwilson.weebly.com

Dr. Mike Prentice is a postdoctoral researcher in psychology on the Beacon Project. He received his PhD from the University of Missouri in 2015. His research interests lead him to approach classic questions in personality and social psychology about person-situation transactions, motivation and values, and well-being, and many of those questions have even deeper roots in Western philosophico-religious traditions. Before joining the Beacon Project, he worked as a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Salzburg, completed an MA at York University in Toronto and received a BA with a double major in psychology and philosophy at Knox College in Illinois. His dissertation was recognized as the Distinguished Dissertation in the Social Sciences at the University of Missouri. His basic research work has appeared in field-related journals such as Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Journal of Personality, and Journal of Social Psychology, and he also collaborates with public policy organizations (such as the Common Cause Foundation) toward applying empirical psychological insights to pressing social problems. He is now a Postdoctoral Fellow in Psychology for the Beacon Project at Wake Forest University. For more visit https://sites.google.com/view/mikeprentice

Dr. Anselma (Anna) Hartley

Dr. Anselma (Anna) Hartley received her Ph.D. from Brown University in 2013. Her research interests include social perception, social-cognitive approaches to personality, and moral psychology. At Wake Forest, she has conducted studies on the consistency of moral behavior across situations, how morality plays a role in our evaluations of others, and whether people differ from each other in how they perceive morality. She has also conducted and published field and experimental studies of child and adult personality change that have explored individual differences in behavior change, cross-informant agreement, assessment methodologies, and expert-novice differences in social perception. Before attending Brown’s doctoral program, she received her M.A. in psychology from Connecticut College, where she received the Otello Desirato Award for the graduate student with most promise in doctoral studies. She is now a Research Scientist at Amazon in Seattle, Washington.

Ryan West

Ryan West completed his doctoral studies in philosophy at Baylor University in 2015. His research interests include ethics, philosophical psychology (moral and epistemic character, emotions), and philosophy of religion, and his work has appeared in such journals as Synthese, Faith and Philosophy, Journal of Religious Ethics, and Res Philosophica. While at Baylor, he was awarded a Presidential Fellowship, and was selected to participate in the Conyers Graduate Scholars Program, a year-long, intensive program organized around questions regarding faith, learning, vocation, and the university. Prior to his doctoral work, he earned both an M.A. (highest honors) in philosophy of religion and ethics, and a B.A. (summa cum laude) in biblical and theological studies from Biola University. Ryan has recently accepted a new position for Fall 2016 as Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Grove City College in Grove City, Pennsylvania. For more about Ryan and his work, please visit www.ryanwest.net.

Graduate Students

Ryan Smout is a first year graduate student in the Wake Forest University Psychology Department. He earned his B.S. from the University of Richmond, double majoring in Psychology and Latin. As an undergraduate, he researched eye movements and cognitive strategies to read Latin as well as how brains process algebraic equations. Currently, in addition to Beacon studies, he is also investigating differences between decision-making for oneself versus for others.

Dillon Luke is a second year student in the psychology graduate program at Wake Forest University. He earned his B.A. from Baylor University where he majored in Psychology and minored in Philosophy. He is interested in Moral Psychology generally, but specifically moral reasoning and judgment. Additionally, he is interested in the components of moral personality and character and how they affect moral behavior. Currently, he is researching how the perception of moral exemplars affects moral reasoning and judgment.

Lauren Collier

Lauren Collier is now at the Psychology Ph.D. program at Michigan State, working in industrial/organizational psychology. She earned her B.S. from the College of William and Mary where she double-majored in English and Psychology. During her undergraduate career, she conducted research as a research assistant and senior lab coordinator for three years in the William and Mary Addiction Lab and completed an honors thesis. Currently, she is researching perceptions of morality through self-other agreement in order to determine whether the way people view their own morality aligns with the way their morality is viewed by others.

Ayat Hamza

Ayat Hamza was previously a graduate student in the psychology department at Wake Forest University. She earned her B.A from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where she double-majored in psychology & anthropology and minored in Asian Studies. Throughout the course of her academic career, she has researched a diverse range of topics including cultural barriers to development, adolescent sexuality, social comparison theory, body image perception, and eating disorders. Ayat is broadly interested in morality and how it intersects with individual judgement and decision making, culture, stereotypes and prejudice, and sexuality.

Cassidy Velasquez

Kassidy Velasquez was a previous graduate student in the Wake Forest University Psychology Department. She graduated from Baylor University in May 2014 with a double major in psychology and philosophy. Her primary research interests include the cognitive and social mechanisms that affect the development of people’s moral constructs, as well as the role personality plays in their predilection towards different moral values and behaviors. Kassidy is now at the Psychology Ph.D. program at Florida State, working with Dr. Paul Conway, an expert in moral reasoning.

Kathryn Howard

Kathryn Howard was a former graduate student in the psychology program at Wake Forest University. In May 2015 she graduated from James Madison University where she majored in psychology and minored in both theatre and anthropology. Kathryn has many research interests, but is currently focused on intergroup relations, outgroup directed aggression and the mechanisms that perpetuate stereotypes and prejudice. Additionally, she is interested in the individual and situational factors that influence peoples’ moral and immoral behaviors.


Kathleen (McKee) Stimely was a program manager for the Character Project at Wake Forest University from 2010 – 2015. She has a combination of experience and education in the fields of psychology, human resources, and higher education administration. She received her Master’s Degree in Human Resource Management from the Moore School of Business at the University of South Carolina and her Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology from Francis Marion University.

Ashley Hawkins

Ashley Hawkins was a graduate student with the Character Project from 2010-2012. Her research focused on agreement between the self and others regarding one’s moral character traits and general moral character. She received her M.A. in Psychology from Wake Forest University and her B.S. in Psychology from the College of Charleston. Most recently, Ashley was the Research Coordinator of the Interdisciplinary Behavioral Research Center (IBRC) at Duke University, where she managed a variety of resources and support to social science researchers and continues to explore her own research interests.

Crystal Reid has over 20 years of experience in research and financial management. She has pre- and postaward expertise and extensive experience in presenting statistical data reports and research projections. Crystal has been trained & certified in many areas which include but not limited to, Financial Administration for research & financial institutions, Clinical Trials Research Administration, Grant Writing, Animal Research Administration and Housing Counseling. She completed her degree and minor education coursework at Midlands Technical College and Lander University. Her primary responsibilities include physical & fiscal management of grant awards and assisting with preparing funding applications.