Conversations Hours:  Can Professional Education Be A Jesuit Education?

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Preliminary Remarks

Discussion Questions

Set 1

  • Moleski ("The Fatal Blow") seems to suggest that a Catholic university is not worthy of the name unless it clearly and corporately espouses the truths held by the Catholic Church, through word and actions, both inside and outside the classroom. Is this what being a Catholic university requires? Is it even possible to realize with a university community ever more diverse in its credal makeup?
  • How do you implement Xavier's mission and Jesuit identity into your teaching and interaction with students?

Set 2

  • How can we effectively integrate Ignatian values, such as care for the whole person, discernment of spirits, women and men for others, etc., into professional education?
  • General Congregation 34 reminded educators in Jesuit schools that they are training men and women to assume "leadership roles in their own communities" as well as in "many Jesuit works in years to come?"; how can we as faculty, administration and staff devote ourselves to forming graduates who will be leaders in the communities in which they live, work and worship"

Set 3

  • How does each of us, in his or her own way, connect knowledge of ourselves, our students, and our subject?
  • A Jesuit university clearly reflects a sense of justice and maintains a respect for the legitimate rights of others in all its dealings with students, employees, parents, and the local neighborhood. As the Xavier community of educators and learners, what must we do to prepare our students effectively to devote themselves to building a more just world and to understand how to labor for and with others?

Set 4

  • Pavur ("The Curriculum Carries the Mission") believes that the curriculum could become "the primary vehicle for the mission" of the Jesuit university. Is this already the case at Xavier University? If so, describe how you see it made manifest. In particular, do you see the mission come alive through our core curriculum? If not, what then is "the primary vehicle for the mission" here?
  • What differentiates a Jesuit educated professional person from other well educated professionals?



Daniel Otero, Ph.D.

Mathematics & Computer Science

First, let's set the stage. My three colleagues and I are here to begin this afternoon's session with some preliminary remarks to get you thinking. Our goal is to offer you the chance to process the material found in these two issues of Conversations magazine that were released during the previous academic year, 2008-2009. I'm going first because I, alone of the four of us, have been asked to reflect on the content of the Fall 2008 issue, Mission Matters. They will comment on the Spring 2009 issue, entitled Graduate Professional Education: How "Jesuit?"

For me, the most interesting and challenging pieces in the Fall 2008 issue are the two articles by Jesuits Martin Moleski and Claude Pavur. Let me now summarize their points briefly and offer some comments of my own for your consideration.

In his piece The Fatal Blow: the case of the stinking corpse, Moleski employs a withering sarcasm to snipe at Jesuit higher education in this country for clinging to the illusion that they still bear the identifying marks of "Catholic" and "Jesuit". In Moleski's eyes, they sold out 40 years ago when their boards of trustees slid out of the full control of the Society of Jesus. He bemoans that their institutional link with the Roman Catholic Church has altogether disappeared in the intervening four decades, as Jesuit colleges and universities slowly included a more and more diverse population of faculty, staff, administrators, and student body. As a consequence, they no longer provide an arena for Catholic apologetics; instead, he might say that they apologize for being Catholic. They have adopted the label "Catholic" only for advertising purposes, having discarded even the visible signs of its presence, save a few crucifixes or statues here and there across campus. He finds that Jesuit colleges and universities have in fact redefined their Big-C Catholic identity as a small-c catholic one. "In this brave new world order," he writes, "we will demonstrate our true Catholicism by endorsing any and all opinions about divinity and humanity" The more opinions we embrace, the more universal we are, and the more we can please our customers." The bottom line, he asserts, is now the bottom line, and not the good, the holy or the true. "People need and want to be affirmed in the choices that they are making," the rails, "not told that there are objective standards of right and wrong." Besides, "the old way of looking at things killed thought because it was univocal, closed, dogmatic, exclusive and oppressive." Now that the old way is dead, Catholicism can become another "academic specimen", which "can be studied notionally, just like any other mythology."

The label "Jesuit" is just as empty of meaning, according to Moleski. This mark of institutional identity is no longer generally understood as a spiritual charism within the Christian religious tradition, but as a brand name. "Ad majorem Dei gloriam translates nicely into 'Excellence'," he writes, and "cura personalis" is a stunning slogan for the modern world [meaning only that] "We care for you as a person. We don't care about your eternal salvation, of course, because taking any real steps in that direction might cut us off from federal and state funding.?"

So Moleski paints a truly grim picture of the state of Jesuit and Catholic identity at our colleges and universities. His is a view born of nostalgia for a simpler and nobler, but at the same time a more exclusionary and tribal Catholicism, one that not only no longer exists, but can no longer exist in the 21st century. The future of American Catholicism in general, and Jesuit higher education in particular, can no longer isolate itself from the pluralistic and diverse society in which it is immersed. We've already left the ghetto behind. On the contrary, as I see it, the Jesuit university lives out the Gospel mission by engaging with the world, not by turning in on itself. Nonetheless, one can read deeper into Moleski's lacerating broadside the following trenchant question, one that has been asked again and again for decades: if Jesuit universities are sectarian institutions, welcoming the label "Roman Catholic", what is the appropriate manifestation of that sectarian identity? In other words, if we are a Catholic institution, how do we remain true to that mark of our identity without alienating those among us who do not share our traditions? How do we honor our big-C Catholic identity while remaining a small-c catholic community?

In the other article we're considering this afternoon, Claude Pavur offers a much more hopeful and productive thesis. If some find it difficult to find ways that make meaningful connections between the mission of the Jesuit university and its day-to-day concerns of teaching students and forming "men and women for others," Pavur does not. Indeed, he proposes a solution to this problem directly in the title of his article: The Curriculum Carries the Mission.

If the chief activity of the Jesuit university is the education of students, if in Pavur's words, "the curriculum is where all the students must go and spend much of their time," then what better way to embody its mission can there be than directly through the education of its students? Moreover, Pavur recognizes that there is no need to formulate from scratch a strategy for working out this mission through education, because it has been already done, and done spectacularly, albeit at the dawn of the seventeenth century.

Specifically, Pavur recommends a serious and thoughtful re-examination of the 400-year-old document known as the Ratio Studiorum, prepared by the Society of Jesus in its earliest days as a systematic plan to guide the Society's initial forays into running colleges in Reformation-era Europe. The long tradition of Jesuit higher education that comes to us today was built on the Ratio; it spelled out in detail how to organize a school, how to design the educational calendar, how to administer examinations, and the like, but most importantly, how to order the curriculum, "what to teach and what to learn, when and how." The Ratio established a curriculum for higher education that centered on the liberal arts as a support for the study of theology and philosophy, with preparation in the classical languages, Latin and Greek, and leading to a significant examination of literature, history, the fine arts and the other humanities, with attention paid to mathematics and the sciences as well.

As Pavur elaborates, "the fragmentary jumble that any curricular program seems to be forced to be" in today's frenetically expanding knowledge-based world is the simple result of not developing a habit of thinking about how the parts [of the curriculum] relate within a larger reality? One of the greatest things the Ratio Studiorum can give us (and all schooling) is simply the very idea of ratio, or plan.? This plan "puts a special responsibility on the faculty to work out, manage, oversee, and constantly improve the curriculum" it also obliges the administration to oversee the project and keep it moving forward. But the main burden is on the faculty, which shares as a group a corporate responsibility for educating the next generation." This is a vision that resonates strongly for me, especially in the light of recent events on this campus, in which talk of revising the university's strategic plan has led the president to charge the faculty assembly to revisit the 2001 Academic Vision Statement and reevaluate where Xavier should be marshalling its resources for the coming 5 years or longer.

Pavur realizes that the mission work of curriculum may seem to be about technical details like requirements and credits and the narrow concerns of career preparation, but it really speaks to a grander vision. "It's not just about self-cultivation for some kind of possibly narcissistic personal security," he writes, "nor is it about leaping to just any kind of other-oriented action in some kind of naïve activism. Rather it looks to a certain type of energized wisdom that involves a self-cultivation, a broadened and deepened consciousness that has undergone conversion and that can act for a universal and transcendent end." Ultimately, I understand Pavur as calling the faculty of Jesuit universities to step up to the plate and use their unique expertise as scholars to embody the mission. In particular, the mission of the university is not the responsibility of the Center for Mission and Identity, it is primarily the faculty's. The role of Mission and Identity should be to support and educate the faculty (and the rest of the university community, of course) to assume this responsibility with integrity, so that the university can move into a future that honors its tradition and carries its mission firmly forward.

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Cecile Walsh, RN, BSN, Clinical Nurse Specialist


Can a professional education be a Jesuit education? My answer is "yes" and I hope by the time you leave here today your answer will also be "yes". In 2004, I was a mentee in the Ignatian Mentoring program here at Xavier. It gave me a chance to contemplate integration of Ignatian principles into courses I taught. I was teaching a clinical course in Community Health Nursing. The students in the course were registered nurses returning to Xavier for a Master's in the Science of Nursing. The aggregate consisted of adult learners with many years of nursing experience. What the group lacked was exposure to the Xavier mission and Ignatian identity. It seemed, to me, to be a critical time in their lives to obtain this education. Had they ever heard of the terms "Cura Personalis" or "Magis?" Was this a portion of their education at Xavier that was lacking? Sharon Korth, in the article that some of you may have read for today's program, states that an "Ignatian education strives to develop men and women of competence, conscience, and compassion. It is a collaborative process between and among faculty and students that fosters personal and cooperative study, discovery, creativity and reflection to promote lifelong learning and action in service to others." I chose "Cura What: A Graduate Student's Guide To Understanding and Living the Jesuit Mission" by Patricia Marik and Debra Mooney as a conduit to convey this concept of Ignatian learning. Before the first day of class the students were asked to read and reflect on the material and be prepared for discussion. On the first day of class for the past 5 years this assignment has become a meaningful interactive dialogue. With each cohort of students I find that Ignatian principles are part of their lives but never thought of in the same terms as we know it. The students understand and live the concept of caring for others and striving for the greater good but they do not think of it as Cura Personalis and Magis. My hope is that this discussion remains with the students throughout their lives.
I just gave one simple example of how a small piece of a Jesuit education can be integrated into a nursing classroom. In the article "Jesuit Graduate Professional Schools: Anything Distinctive?" Currie mentions a student-centered education. If we are employed at a university shouldn't our work hours be student-centered? Contacts with students go far beyond the classroom. We meet the students in the registrar's office, in the dorms, in the athletic center, in the hallway and on the sidewalks. A question that merits reflection by all of us is this one: "How do you live the Ignatian Jesuit Mission in your daily interactions with students and colleagues?" Do you care for YOURSELF and those with whom you interact each day? The environment of a Jesuit campus goes far beyond the classroom.

Sharon Korth mentions that "faculty (and I would certainly include all Xavier staff ) accompany students in their intellectual, spiritual, and emotional development." The college campus creates an opportunity or atmosphere in which students gather and recollect their own experiences in order to distill what they already understand. We who touch their lives give them an opportunity for reflection, discernment, and growth. In preparation for this presentation I surveyed my colleagues in the School of Nursing. I asked faculty and staff how they integrate Ignatian spirituality into their interactions with students. In closing, I will paraphrase the comments made by a former graduate student and present faculty member. Cheryl states : "I have tried to respect students and value them as individuals, recognizing all students have strengths and weaknesses and something to contribute. I have approached all of my clinical groups with the philosophy that we are a team that assists each other in learning and provides team support to the group. I pray before each clinical day seeking God's protection, wisdom and strength. I tell students that it is not enough to just know the science and the skills but also that patients, because they are human, can sense when someone really cares about them versus just doing their job. I impart the spiritual aspect of caring about patients into my clinical teaching."

Can a Professional education be a Jesuit education? I give a resounding YES.

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Leslie Prosak-Beres, Ph.D.

Childhood Education and Literacy

Growing into the "plan" of God

Our question : Can Professional Education be a Jesuit Education?

In a response to our question of the day, I have looked more specifically at graduate students and why professional education at Jesuit institutions is not only important, but necessary, beyond numbers, beyond financial concerns, beyond tradition.

Why graduate professional education at Jesuit universities? Why graduate professional education at Xavier? I would love to put my hands on my hips and say, as a Mom..."because I said so!" and leave it at that.  However, in the spirit of Jesuit tradition, I do not think that would fly!!

But von Arx pointedly asks this question in his article Professional Education: Where we Come From, What Lies Ahead, So we ask ourselves this question:  "Is competent and ethical practice the most we can expect from the graduates of our professional schools, and, if it is, why according to the principle of the magis, are we engaged in professional education when state and secular institutions can do it equally or even better?"

Quite simply, we want to capture the energy and nurturing of the undergraduate experience at our Jesuit institutions, bottle it, (market it) and energize our graduate professionals to be leaders in their community, to understand cura personalis, to work to the Magis?in other words, we want to give them as Currie refers to as the "Jesuit dimension."  From his article Jesuit Graduate Professional Schools: Anything Distinctive?,
Charles Currie, S.J. also very strategically delineates five elements of what might be considered specifically Jesuit, about graduate professional education. 

Currie also suggests that we need to think about the following things as we discuss graduate professional education

- 'seeking God in all things' not just in the traditionally religious and sacred, but in the generous and holistic quest for the truth in many forms;

- Having a restless curiosity for research is another compass point which in turn leads to good teaching thus allowing us (faculty and graduate students alike), to develop and serve as models for the best of the Catholic intellectual tradition;

- Understanding MAGIS that argues educating for leadership, for making a difference and asking, "Where is God in all of this?"?to want to know more in the pursuit of truth and the excitement of ideas that characterize a vibrant intellectual life;

- Integrating the Ignatian ideal of cura personalis that looks more at student-centered education beyond the undergraduate experience and more towards the professional element that focuses on the wholeness of the person and the development of his/her leadership potential ? the pursuit between academic excellence and social commitment; and,

- Being engaged in a range of initiatives that bring what Kolvenbach shared in his presentation at Santa Clara:  that Jesuit education needs to educate for "solidarity with the real world."  Real world being the operative term. In other words, our test of time in graduate professional education rests with the success of "who our students become."

For me, the heart of Graduate Education and Professional Education is the element of teaching-teaching, but not just for the relay of the facts, but more importantly for the understanding of the concepts by and through examples of the Jesuit tradition-namely, the "identity" and "integrity" of who we are. This, Parker Palmer relates, has as much to do with not only our shadows and limits, but our wounds and fears, as well as our strengths and potentials. Jesuit institutions teach with a level of instruction that forces us in a good sense, to make connections for our students at that professional level,a somewhat "subtle dimension of the complex, demanding, and life-long process of self discovery."

In The Heart of a Teacher, Palmer very explicitly talks about teaching and true self ,a "coming to know" of sorts of witnessing self in so many dimensions or "different colored chalk," as I like to say, from spiritual to personal to social and back again. Two paragraphs from his paper struck me profoundly as he explained identity and integrity. His words, simple and stark, harkened back to what my Jesuit identity means to me and how that meaning is translated into the importance and development of Graduate Professional Education at Xavier.

Let me share Palmer's reflections of identity and integrity.  He discusses Identity, and I love his presentation because it bites of a truth we are often afraid to accept,

"By identity [he says], I mean [an evolving nexus where] all the forces that constitute my life converge in the mystery of self: my genetic makeup, the nature of the man and woman who gave me life, the culture in which I was raised, the people who have sustained me and the people who have done me harm, the good and ill I have done to others, and to myself, the experience of love and suffering, and much, much more. In the midst of that complex field, identity is a moving intersection of the inner and outer forces that make me who I am [converging in the irreducible] the mystery of being human."

That, to me, is very powerful and very Jesuit and very much in line with Jesuit, professional/ graduate education.

Next, he references integrity and is equally direct:

By integrity I mean whatever wholeness I am able to find within patterns of my life that nexus as its vectors form and re-form the pattern of my life. Integrity requires that I discern what is integral to my selfhood, what fits and what does not, and that I choose life-giving ways of relating to the forces that converge within me: do I welcome them or fear them, [do I] embrace them or reject them, [do I] move with them or against them? By choosing integrity, I become more whole, but wholeness does not mean perfection. It means becoming more real by acknowledging the whole of who I am.

I believe we should continue to support Graduate /Professional Education at Xavier because we do it well. Is it perfect? Of course not. Is identity and integrity its strength? Decidedly so. What it does mean for me is that this "crafting" of professional graduate education is something that will be carried on in our graduates.  It is all about "passing it down."  It is all about the intersecting of lives in the pursuit of the truth. Let me take a moment to share this folktale of the man who sought Truth, told to me by Jane Yolen, an American folk tale icon.  It goes something like this:

There was once a man who was successful in all things. He had a fine wife, a loving family, and a craft for which he was justly famous. But still
he was not happy. "I want to know Truth," he said to his wife.  "Then you should seek her," she replied.  So the man put his house and all his worldly goods in his wife's name (she being adamant on that point) and went out on the road as a beggar after Truth.

He searched up the hills and down in the valleys for her. He went into small villages and large towns; into the forests and along the coasts of the
great wide sea; into dark, grim wastes and lush meadows pied with flowers.  He looked for days and for weeks and for months.

And then one day, atop a high mountain, in a small cave, he found her.

Truth was a wizened old woman with but a single tooth left in her head.  Her hair hung down onto her shoulders in lank, greasy strands. The skin on her face was the brown of old parchment and as dry, stretched over prominent bones. But when she signaled to him with a hand crabbed with
age, her voice was low and lyrical and pure and it was then that he knew he had found Truth.

He stayed a year and a day with her and he learned all that she had to teach. And when the year and a day was up, he stood at the mouth of the
cave ready to leave for home.

"My Lady Truth," he said, "you have taught me so much and I would like to do something for you before I leave. Is there anything you wish?"
Truth put her head to one side and considered. Then she raised an ancient finger. "When you speak of me," she said, "tell them I am young
and beautiful!"

Graduate Professional Education at Jesuit institutions is young and beautiful and carries with it the requirement of making a difference in the world because of finding God in the study of service and being "Men and Women for others." It is truly the beauty of knowing where God is in the professional world and being able to do something in the greater community to share that God in a meaningful, productive and loving way.

I was watching a PBS program very, very early one morning entitled "Crafting in America." An African American blacksmith was talking about his craft of making iron gates, his apprenticeship as a young man, and his teaching other new protégés in later life about the craft.

I was intrigued by the way he explained his life's work:  it was both his integrity and identity at play. He said that "'you can make things that are wonderful and that in itself is a great joy-the makings of a true artisan; however, if there is no one there to receive it [the techniques and the beauty of the art], then we have lost those techniques and the art."  Would that not be the same for Jesuit Graduate Education at Xavier? Whether it is a Masters degree or doctorate in Education, a clinical degree in psychology or nursing, an MBA or a content degree in the liberal arts, to savor the "arts," we have two options here to pursue so that we do not lose our techniques and our art.

One, how can we do this and be successful? We can recapture those who have experienced Jesuit education as an undergraduate, and grant them an extension to continue to bask in the light of Jesuit teachings and replay the learning paradigm so that they can refine what they believe in through the pursuit of their professional degree.

Or, two, we can work towards finding a new set of "pilgrims" and use their experience in the world, by building upon the added dimension of their professional knowledge, to become Jesuit-minded.

You see, I love the fact that Ignatian education, at the graduate professional level, defines my self-worth, my piece of art that I offer to the world. More importantly, I love the idea of making my daily labor my prayer for the world and that this prayer may, for some or most whose lives I touch, give pause for reflection as professional graduate students and content professionals, promoting life-long learning and action in service to others within, and as part of, the Jesuit tradition.

My hope for Graduate Professional Education is that we meet as fellow travelers, "pilgrims" and offer encouragement to each other in this demanding but deeply rewarding journey across the inner landscape of graduate, Jesuit education by calling each other back to the identity and integrity that animate all good work, not least the work called teaching.

I believe that through this process of refining our position, promotion, and presentation of graduate professional education, we will, as Sharon Korth states, "find ways to accompany our students on their journeys of becoming fully human persons" with a knowledge and a love of God.

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Timothy Kloppenborg, Ph.D.

Management and Entrepreneurship

Correlation between Palmer and Korth and Strengthsfinder*

Palmer - Knowing our subject, our students, and ourselves

StrengthsFinder is one way for a person to learn more about herself. As such, first I attempt to understand myself better and share this understanding in a vulnerable way. Then I get to know my students better early in the semester and in a more personal way. I also ask them to reflect on how to use their own unique combination of talents in performance of the subject at hand.

Korth - Ignatian Pedagogy

See the chart below for correlation between Ignatian values and the strengths supported.


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