Life Compass

LifeCompass Institute

The LifeCompass Institute for Character & Leadership at Montrose School

Montrose School is a National School of Character (1999 & 2017) and has served as a resource to educators and school leaders internationally. The LifeCompass Institute (LCI), founded by Dr. Karen Bohlin in 2017, is a lab school community of practice.  Our LifeCompass Faculty Fellows draw from ancient wisdom and current research to connect theory and practice within and beyond the classroom. They coach Montrose parents, faculty and students in the strengths and habits they need to flourish under any circumstances. LCI Fellows engage in action research that keeps the school community engaged in what girls need to thrive and make a contribution in the world. LCI Fellows also share their work in their blog posts and resources for educators including: 
Courageous Dialogue Toolkit: Practical Wisdom for School Leaders by Barbara Whitlock & Karen Bohlin with Deborah Farmer Kris & Gabrielle Landry and Stress Tests of Character: Using Story to Build Motivation & Resilience by Deborah Farmer Kris & Karen Bohlin.

Meet the LifeCompass Parent Educator

As our LifeCompass Parent Educator, Deborah Farmer Kris consults with Montrose on our parent education program. Drawing on her decades of experience as a school administrator, speaker and child development expert, she provides practical wisdom and support for parents at school and parent events and workshops. Founder of Parenthood365, Deborah is a columnist and consultant for PBS Kids for Parents and writes about education for MindShift, an NPR learning blog.

Meet the LifeCompass Fellows

The LifeCompass Faculty Fellows are Kern Family Foundation Scholars in the Master of Arts in Character Education program at the Jubilee Centre for Character and Virtue, University of Birmingham (UK).  Master teachers at Montrose School, these practitioners pursue action research on topics such as the power of courageous dialogue in building trust and community; how art can teach empathy; and how schools can forge formative relationships with parents. The LifeCompass Fellows lead professional development for faculty and parents aimed at helping young women develop the habits of mind, heart and character they need to flourish. 

Jennifer Bowman

Art, Theology, Art & Science Faculty, Montrose School

Research interests include: the power of art to foster students’ power to see and develop moral perception and empathy. 

Becky Roberts

Middle School Director and English Faculty, Montrose School

Research includes a year-long mixed-methods study at middle school level to determine whether there is any link between Montrose school mentoring program and resilience development.

Barbara Whitlock

Coordinator of Humanities; Director of Student Learning & Leadership; English and History Faculty, Montrose School 

Research interests include: the role that key relationships play in forming adolescents in phronesis. 

Barbara's latest research has been published on
Preparing Adolescents for Civic Virtue through Courageous Conversations.

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  • More information on Barbara's research

    Mrs. Whitlock has focused her research on the role of relationships in forming adolescents for the practical wisdom essential to character development. She has studied the role of stories and literary characters in helping expand student experiences for empathy as well as for assessing choices characters make before moral dilemmas. Much of her work has focused on civic virtue, such as the history of Republican womanhood and the transition for women to teaching in early 19th century, and especially how to build a more civic culture through trust-building and dialogue strategies that encourage people to articulate the courage of their convictions while remaining open- and fair-minded in facilitating diverse voices. She is a principal writer for the Courageous Dialogue Toolkit, and you can hear her webinar on Courageous Dialogue as well. Mrs. Whitlock has used her research to support the mission-driven work in her roles as English and history teacher, Humanities Coordinator, and Director of Student Learning & Leadership at Montrose.

Karen E. Bohlin

Dr. Karen E. Bohlin, founder and director emerita of LCI, is a recognized thought leader in applied virtue ethics and character education. With over three decades of leadership at the secondary and university level, Dr. Bohlin's current work focuses on educating leaders in the practical wisdom and agility they need to shape institutions committed to flourishing. She is director of the Practical Wisdom Project at the Abigail Adams Institute (AAI) in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Senior scholar at Boston University's Center for Character and Social Responsibility and director emerita of BU's Center for the Advancement of Ethics and Character, she served as assistant professor of education at BU and then for 18 years as head of Montrose School, where she founded the LifeCompass Institute for Character & Leadership, a lab school community of practice.

A writer, speaker and consultant, Dr. Bohlin is the author and contributing author of several publications including "The Practical Wisdom Framework: A Compass for School Leaders” (Sage 2021); The Courageous Dialogue Toolkit: Practical Wisdom for School Leaders (LCI, 2021); Stress Tests of Character (LCI, 2020); Educando el carácter a través de la literatura" (Didaskalos, 2020)/Teaching Character Education Through Literature: Awakening the Moral Imagination (Routledge 2005); Happiness and Virtue: Beyond East and West: Toward a New Global Responsibility (Tuttle 2012); Citizenship and Higher Education (Routledge, 2005); Great Lives, Vital Lessons (Character Development Group, 2005); Building Character in Schools (Jossey-Bass 1999); and the Building Character in Schools Resource Guide (Jossey-Bass 2001).

Dr. Bohlin continues to engage the public with her work in leadership and practical wisdom. If you would like to be in touch with her directly, please email her at