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From the Quad

Guest Q&A: Character at Cate School

Expanding scientific research about connections between cognitive and noncognitive skills is creating new opportunities to discuss core values. Boarding schools have long recognized the relationship between character and the pursuit of academic and personal excellence. In connection with Audrey Noyes Ludemann’s  article on this topic, this Q&A is part of a series exploring how boarding schools consider the character of candidates and ways in which they value and nurture character development on campus. 

Charlotte Brownlee
Director of Admission and Enrollment
Cate School, California

School Snapshot: Founded in 1910, Cate is a coeducational, college-preparatory boarding school. Its 270 students represent 30 states and 19 countries.

Mission Statement: Through commitment, scholarship, companionship, and service, each member of the Cate community contributes to what our founder called: “the spirit of this place…all compounded of beauty and virtue, quiet study, vigorous play, and hard work.”

Q: How is character integrated into your school culture?

A: Persistence, awareness, responsibility, and kindness are core values of the Cate community.  The essence of Cate is that there is not one singular type of student here. Our students are open to broad possibilities in their lives. Our goal is that by senior year, each student has developed a strong degree of self-awareness and learned what matters to them. This helps them chart their path beyond Cate.

Q: Do you have specific initiatives around character development?

A: We have a Human Development department that is part of our academic structure. All freshmen take a year-long seminar that explores how to be your most effective self in this environment. Course topics include research skills, study habits, brain research, healthy lifestyle habits, and the foundations of service leadership. Sophomores take another year-long seminar, going more deeply into service leadership and learning how to look outward as citizens of the world. By the time Cate students are seniors, they realize the power of these lessons. Some seniors then come full circle and serve as teaching assistants and mentors in presenting these seminars to the incoming students. 

Q: How do you consider character in your admissions process?

A: We want to identify students that we believe will be successful at Cate and we recognize that kids are in varying places on the growth curve. We don’t set the goal as bringing in perfectly formed freshmen because a school is the place for kids to grow and evolve.