Psychologists Lori and Tom Plante co-author book to help college students graduate with honor
Menlo Park residents Lori and Tom Plante have enjoyed separate careers in the field of psychology, she as a clinician with a practice downtown and he as a member of the faculty at the Santa Clara University. Now they’ve come together to co-author a book that may prove helpful to parents of college-age or college-bound kids as well as college administrators and faculty.
Graduating with Honor: Best Practices to Promote Ethics Development in College Students presents “an effective and practical model for personal ethical decision-making that encourages individuals of any age to be thoughtful, intentional, and more likely to maintain one’s moral integrity, best interests, and personal sense of honor.” There is a dedicated chapter just for parents.
During an interview at their office in Menlo Park, they explained the need. Examples: Binge drinking is getting worse with an average of three binge drinking episodes a week; 20% of college students are victims of some kind of inappropriate sexual contact; 20% are taking an SSRI (anti-depressant drug); 50% of college students report that they’ve cheated. On the latter, Lori commented: “The pressure is such that there is such desperation.”
The chance to work together came about when Tom decided to take his sabbatical at the Dartmouth Ethics Center where their son is currently an undergraduate. “Lori and I had done a lot of research together but then went on our own career paths,” said Tom. “She loves to write and I’m super organized, so those skills came into play when writing the book.”
According to the co-authors, there are four imperatives of adolescence — identity, intimacy, independence, and impulse control. “Who are these people we are nurturing?” asked Tom. “Do they have the ethical tools to navigate the waters once they are in college many miles away? Character development matters and might actually save lives.”
They urge that conversations about ethics and responsibility need to start before the kids head off to college and continue once they’re on campus.
“It comes down to respect and compassion,” said Tom. “In everything you do, that organizes and centers you. It helps people make the right decisions.”
Photo by Irene Searles