Jesuit Education:

Developing People of Competence and Compassion

By Debra Mooney, Ph.D. and George Traub, SJ

Ignatius of Loyola and his first companions did not originally intend to establish schools. But before long they were led to start colleges for the education of the young men who flocked to join their religious order. In 1547 Ignatius was asked to open a school for any and all boys in the southern Italian town of Messina. By the time of his death, nine years later, thirty-five such colleges had been founded. Jesuit education today has grown to a world-wide network of schools, colleges, and universities – spanning six continents and more than one hundred twenty five countries.

In the United States, there have been significant periods of founding and of growth and transformation in Jesuit education. Seventy-five percent of American Jesuit colleges and universities were founded during the 19th century. They served the needs of an immigrant people. After World War II, Jesuit higher education experienced enormous growth under the G.I. Bill -- as did American higher education generally. This growth entailed a shift from a largely Jesuit faculty to one made up increasingly of non-Jesuit educators. In the mid 60’s, Vatican Council II released a great burst of energy in the Catholic church and Jesuit order for engagement with the modern world - including its intellectual life. In the 1970’s and 80’s, Jesuit schools moved to professionalize by hiring faculty with highly specialized training and degrees from the best graduate schools. Starting in the later 80s, Mission and Identity professionals were appointed to ensure that Jesuit educational practices and pedagogy – the spirit of the institutions – continued to permeate campuses.

Today’s faculty accompany students in their intellectual, spiritual and emotional development by way of the Ignatian Pedagogical Paradigm - a model that seeks to develop people of competence and compassion. Through the context of students' lives, faculty create an environment where students recollect their past experience and assimilate information from newly-provided experiences. They help students learn the skills and techniques of reflection and challenge them to action in service to others. The evaluation process includes academic mastery and the ongoing assessments of students' well-rounded growth as persons for others.

The sweeping changes of the last 50 years have brought Jesuit schools to the present situation where we, as trustees, face important questions. For instance, while taking the best from American education and culture, how can we assist the administration and faculty to:

-maintain the distinctiveness of our Jesuit university,
- foster the integration of knowledge,
- develop a global, cross-cultural imagination,
- relate learning to the Transcendent,
- recognize and work for the common good, such as bettering the lot of the poor, the voiceless, and those suffering discrimination, protecting the earth and our environment, serving all faiths in a religiously and culturally pluralistic world,

... and to do all of these in the spirit of our Ignatian heritage?