A Baylor University associate professor of psychology is part of a duo that won a $2.6 million grant to research “character strength interventions,” and to help youth organizations put them into practice.

Sarah Schnitker of Baylor will work with a University of Southern California colleague on a project to advance virtue development for adolescents involved with athletic teams, religious organizations, youth community centers and online contexts, according to the university.

Her co-principal investigator is Benjamin Houltberg, the director of research at the USC Performance Science Institute. Nearly half the grant will be used to help youth organizations and developers of technology to incorporate the concept of character strength, which is an essential part of positive psychology, a field devoted to the study of human well-being.

“In a time where crises of character are becoming apparent at a national and international scale, we are so excited to see how various teams of scholars, youth practitioners and technology or media developers that we assemble can work together to create scientifically vetted interventions that build character strengths in adolescents,” Schnitker said in a statement.

The grant was awarded by the John Templeton Foundation, a Pennsylvania-based organization that funds research based on science and spirituality.

Under the award, $1.27 million will be designated for multiple sub-grant opportunities aimed at character strengths. One category of funding will support teams of scholars and practitioners who work with youth. The teams will include one person with a doctorate and one who works with children or adolescents at a nonprofit or within the field of psychology.

The other category is technology innovation grants, which will fund new media product development based on positive developmental science. This includes smartphone apps, video games and content viewed by adolescents, according to the university.

Anyone may apply for these technology grants. Three to five grants ranging from $150,000 to $300,000 will be awarded.

Lizzy Davis, the grant manager and project coordinator, said the projects have been advertised internationally. They have already received interest from as far away as Pakistan.

“Word is spreading, which we’re really grateful for,” she said.

The award also aligns with a signature academic initiative — human flourishing, leadership and ethics — of “Illuminate,” Baylor’s academic strategic plan that focuses on an increase in research.

“This prominent grant awarded to Dr. Schnitker highlights the importance of her research and her ability to acquire resources from foundations contributing to the grand challenges of society,” said Lee Nordt, dean of the Baylor College of Arts and Sciences. “Such resources bring prestige to our faculty, our students and to the reputation of our institution.”

For more information on applying for the sub-grants, visit https://www.baylor.edu/research/index.php?id=957449.

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