Thoughts on the 2017 revised
University Mission Statement
Xavier is a Jesuit Catholic university rooted in the liberal arts tradition. Our mission is to educate each student intellectually, morally, and spiritually. We create learning opportunities through rigorous academic and professional programs integrated with co-curricular engagement. In an inclusive environment of open and free inquiry, we prepare students for a world that is increasingly diverse, complex and interdependent. Driven by our commitment to educating the whole person, promoting the common good, and serving others, the Xavier community challenges and supports all our members as we cultivate lives of reflection, compassion and informed action.
Xavier’s mission statement serves two functions: the statement must be memorable and succinct, and it must encompass the breadth and complexity of all we are and do. Invariably, such a statement may strike some as leaving much unsaid, or requiring further clarification. We, the Mission Statement Task Force, offer these thoughts as an invitation to the entire Xavier community to deepen their understanding of our mission statement by considering the concepts and word choices that have informed it.
Fruitful reflections began in 2011-2012 when the mission statement was substantially rewritten. A reconstituted Task Force carefully reviewed it in 2016-2017. We hope this iterative reflective process will remain a permanent feature of our pedagogical, scholarly, and administrative activities.
"Xavier is a Jesuit Catholic university rooted in the liberal arts tradition."
Xavier is, first and foremost, a Jesuit Catholic institution, embodying the values and commitments articulated especially by the most recent Jesuit Superiors General. From Fr. Pedro Arrupe, S.J. (1965-83) comes the conviction that Jesuit Catholic institutions must be committed to forming "men and women for others." From Fr. Peter Hans Kohlvenbach, S.J. (1983-2008) comes a special emphasis on "the service of faith and the promotion of social justice." Finally, from Fr. Adolpho Nicolas, S.J. (2008-2016), comes an acknowledgement of the global reach of Jesuit Catholic education, to "address important issues touching faith, justice, and ecology that challenge us across countries and continents." Together, these central commitments invite us to explore our Jesuit Catholic identity and practice.
Xavier is, of course, a special type of Jesuit Catholic institution: it is a university, an institution of higher education and research offering both undergraduate and graduate degrees. At the heart of this enterprise lives a community of teacher-scholars, dedicated to excellence in the classroom as well as to the advancement of their chosen disciplines. As a Jesuit Catholic university we recognize that excellence in teaching is inseparable from a life of scholarship, into which we invite all our students.
Finally, our education is "rooted in the liberal arts tradition." From the first century of Jesuit Catholic education to our own, the liberal arts have been the center of Jesuit Catholic institutions. At Xavier, this tradition lives in our core curriculum. The liberal arts tradition ensures that students possess a broad knowledge of the world even while pursuing the most specialized subjects that we teach. It requires a continuing reflection on the way any single region of human inquiry connects with other dimensions of inquiry and knowledge. It insists upon thoughtful discourse and openness about all that we hold dear in the pursuit of truth and understanding of the world and our place within it. The liberal arts are so named, in short, because they liberate us to pursue the highest aspirations of our shared humanity.
"Our mission is to educate each student intellectually, morally, and spiritually."
The heart of our mission was, is now, and will always be to educate, a goal to which we dedicate all the talents and resources at our disposal. The effort to educate is guided by Ignatian cura personalis-care of the entire person. It is therefore addressed, first and foremost, to each student whom we regard as a unique individual and therefore with the respect demanded by our shared enterprise. Cura personalis demands of us as well that we strive to educate each student "intellectually, morally, and spiritually." In this manner our mission directs us comprehensively to the humanity of each student, not merely to the training of one small part. Having articulated the central values of our mission, the remainder of the new mission statement addresses the special way in which we at Xavier intend to practice it:
"We create learning opportunities through rigorous academic and professional programs
integrated with co-curricular engagement. In an inclusive environment of open and free inquiry,
we prepare students for a world that is diverse, complex, and increasingly interdependent."
First, we state our special approach to learning: we guide our students to educate themselves by challenging them both within and outside the classroom to excel in scholarship, wrestle with new ideas, address problems both great and small, think deeply about the world in all its complexity, and communicate clearly the fruits of their studies. We recognize too that a genuinely effective education must be "integrated with co-curricular engagement." Athletic competition, theatrical and musical performance, participation in student government or professional organizations, opportunities for volunteer work, travel both foreign and domestic; these activities, to name a few, combined with their studies, present to students the chance for significant reflection on their lives and on whom they hope to become, preparing them especially for a life of learning, professional development, and involvement long after they depart Xavier. Learning at Xavier is a transformative process, which, again in keeping with most deeply held Ignatian traditions, seeks to affect the entire person and to promote the integration of the person's intellectual, emotional, spiritual, and moral development.
Commitment to this idea of the university requires "an inclusive environment of open and free inquiry." With this statement, we intend two important points. First, we recognize that our faculty, staff, students, and administrators include a diversity of ethnicities, genders, sexual orientations, religious beliefs, and ages. Second, we extend this notion of diversity to the exploration and expression of ideas. The idea of diversity, in short, means nothing without "open and free inquiry." Indeed, diversity both of population and of ideas is inevitable, if we wish to "prepare students for a world that is diverse, complex, and increasingly interdependent," that is, the world they will confront upon graduation. Diversity and inclusiveness so understood is central to the freedom a liberal education ought to bring.
Our statement concludes by recalling the core values that engine our mission:
"Driven by our commitment to educating the whole person, promoting the common good, and
serving others, the Xavier community challenges and supports all our members as we cultivate lives of reflection, compassion and informed action."
A pair of special commitments compels us: to the common good, and to the education of the whole person. The common good at issue is the human good, a good that embraces individuals, communities, and nations. It therefore sustains our efforts to educate the whole person and develop lifelong learners. Concern for the whole person commits us first of all to "cultivate lives of reflection." In keeping with the spirit of Ignatius's Spiritual Exercises, reflection seeks a path "to find God in all things" and therewith to discern ways to live and act fruitfully. Compassion cultivates solidarity with humanity, a central principle of Christian virtue and of Catholic social thought. Together, reflection and compassion compel informed action, a thoughtful engagement with the world that seeks to improve the world.
While education is at the heart of our mission, we aspire to transcend the education of the intellect alone-the simple conveyance of facts or even the production of competent graduates. Even a more broadly construed intellectual education within the liberal arts tradition, one that teaches students how to think critically, is insufficient by itself. Being a Jesuit Catholic university gives us the freedom as well as the duty to attend to the moral and spiritual education of our students. Being a Jesuit Catholic university in the liberal arts tradition commits us to wrestle with what morality and spirituality mean-indeed, with what moral code each of our students may adopt and how they will explore their own spiritual lives within their own traditions, as well as with the expansion of their faith within their respective traditions. This sort of education empowers us to challenge students not only intellectually, but also morally and spiritually. In this way, it sustains Xavier's commitment to guiding students as they form-not merely inform-themselves.
2016-17 XU Mission Statement Revision Taskforce
Dr. Daniel Otero, Mathematics - Task Force Chair
Ms. Tarisai Chinoda, Student '19
Dr. Cynthia Geer, Professional Sciences
Mr. David Johnson, Student Affairs
Ms. Cassandra Jones, Disability Services
Ms. Deborah Kostoff, Biology
Dr. Michele Matherly, Williams College of Business
Ms. Lea Minniti, International Education
Dr. Debra Mooney, Mission and Identity
Ms. Kelly Pokrywka, Enrollment Management & Student Success
Dr. Timothy Quinn, Philosophy
Mr. Doug Ruschman, University Marketing & Communications
Dr. Karl Stukenberg, Psychology
Statement originally accepted: September 2012
Revised: Summer 2017 (pending acceptance by the Board in December 2017)