As you consider a career at Xavier University, you are invited to reflect on the following themes and how they might influence your work with us.
Who could have imagined when St. Ignatius and the early Jesuits opened their first school in 1548 that today there would be hundreds of Jesuit educational institutions throughout the world and nearly 70 schools in the then recently discovered "new world."
It was not Ignatius' initial purpose to open schools. Yet, he took the opportunity to help students and educate them as "men and women for others." For more than 500 years, with reflection as a core aspect of their learning, students have benefited from the Jesuit model, which encourages engagement in the world in order to make it a better place. This tradition lives on strongly at Xavier.
Since I began working at Xavier, it has become clear to me that this mission is not just the responsibility of a single office or department. Rather, the Xavier community as a whole recognizes its role of instilling Ignatian values in students both in and out of the classroom. Through their studies and their lived experience, students come to know themselves better, recognize their own gifts and begin to apply all of this to the problems of the world.
I am struck by how faculty and staff from a variety of faith traditions have found value in this rich heritage. Whether helping students make decisions through discernment, fostering compassion and real world solutions through solidarity, or encouraging students to better know themselves through reflection, we all are working to help students develop knowledge, skills and wisdom not just for a job after college, but for the rest of their lives.
The word community has many different meanings. For some, it signifies a physical place. For others it denotes a group of individuals with a shared identity or ideals. No matter how you define community, everyone belongs to one. So the question is not whether you belong to community but to which kind of community do you belong.
I am proud to say that I am a part of the Xavier community. Indeed it is a physical place that is expanding and growing with beautiful campus green space and new academic and administrative buildings. But it is also a community of shared identity and ideals.
"Men and Women for Others" is imbedded within my community. It is demonstrated every time I work alongside a student, faculty or staff member to serve others within our community and within the communities that surround us.
Cura personalis, which is Latin for "Care for the whole person," is imbedded with my community. I see it every time I receive support and encouragement from my fellow coworkers.
'Solidarity, Service and Success' is imbedded in my community. I see it in the faces of the faculty and staff who choose to work here, and I see it in the faces of the students who every year decide to make Xavier University their community.
Yes, my community is a physical place full of people. But my community is also one with a shared identity and ideals.
As I stand in my college classroom today, I often reflect back upon my experience of entering a Jesuit school for the first time as a high school student in 1966. In those first weeks of transition, what struck me most about the changes I was experiencing was the content of my classes. All of a sudden, I was reading Homer, Sophocles, Plato and St. Augustine. Questions of value, morality and questions of ultimate meaning were woven into my daily routine. The Jesuits who stood at the front of my classroom were posing questions to me that no one had ever asked me to confront before.
As a philosophy professor at a Jesuit University, I am acutely mindful of my role in transmitting a specific kind of education to my students. Few of them have chosen to major in philosophy; yet, all of them need philosophy, as well as all of the humanities, in order to function well in their chosen careers; to function, that is, in a manner that distinguishes them as graduates of Xavier University.
I have come to realize that my own modest successes have their roots in those educational ideals that were modeled for me so many years ago. Xavier is small enough that full professors like myself teach first semester freshmen. Each one of them is a beginner in a discipline that had been nurtured in me in classrooms far away. The gift I received from my Jesuit teachers is the debt that I attempt to repay daily by passing those ideals along to the students with whom I share the classroom here at Xavier University.
As a person of the African American Episcopal faith, I was attracted to Xavier because of its commitment to inclusion of all faiths as well as its strong academic reputation. In several ways, Xavier's mission to educate is similar to many universities. There is a strong emphasis on developing the intellectual skills of students, and faculty are encouraged to engage in research. However, since coming to Xavier, traditional concepts of learning, when seen through the Jesuit, Catholic lens, take on a new and refreshing meaning. The concept of integrated learning is an example.
For me, the integration of learning is not just a form of pedagogy that allows students to learn outside of the classroom or across the curriculum. Rather, integrated learning is a practical manner of developing the "mind, body and spirit" of students. It is a way to ensure that students understand that the Jesuit mission of serving those on the fringes of society applies not only to helping those who are poor, for example, but also to helping those men and women within the justice system. This approach to learning is important for students in the field of criminal justice because they seek jobs that either help rehabilitate or control those on the fringe. I strive to make certain that students know both practical and ethical ways of behaving, and the department offers courses that allow students and prisoners to share their personal experiences.
I take pride in knowing that by teaching students to "get it" holistically I have contributed to the Xavier mission of "forming students intellectually, morally and spiritually, with rigor and compassion, toward solidarity, service and success."
The year was 1982, when I came across a position for a groundskeeper at Xavier. I applied and was offered the job. Today, 28 years later, I have worked my way through the different positions and now I am grounds foreman.
At Xavier, spiritual reflection takes place not only in chapel, but also inside and outside of the classroom. As grounds foreman, my crew and I strive to create outdoor spaces for reflection through the "park-like" landscaping that is one of Xavier's hallmarks. When a student comes up to me and tells me how nice the campus is, that means something.
Few people might know that I am Jewish. Yet, I have found this Jesuit, Catholic university to be one of personal care and spiritual reflection. During my time, I have reflected with some of the Jesuits and staff from the McGrath Health and Wellness Center on issues concerning my life. I remember when my son and his wife were going to be deployed to Iraq, we met with Fr. Graham and he talked with them and blessed them for their safe homecoming.
Xavier is more than just a place to work. It's almost like an extended family. I have grow personally through my relationships with the Jesuits, coworkers, local community residents, staff members and students, all of whom will probably be my best memories of Xavier.
Xavier has also given me the opportunity to grow professionally through organizations like the Professional Grounds Management Society and to travel around the country to conferences and regional meetings.
It's almost hard to imagine working somewhere else.
Working at Xavier has been an enriching experience. Being surrounded by highly caring, positive colleagues and students help me when I am faced with making challenging decisions, and their examples guide me when I help others in the discerning process. After almost three decades at Xavier, I have learned to follow a simple plan of discernment in times of decision-making. I do a simple mental exercise where I reflect on a list of words that might describe what a "positive spirit" would do in my situation, and then a list describing what a more "off-putting spirit" might suggest. When needed, I can find colleagues and even students to help me reflect on these choices. I appreciate when I can return the favor to others who also find themselves at challenging crossroads. It is particularly rewarding when this discernment process can guide students confused about career or life choices.
Every day our students, faculty and staff choose to return goodness to Xavier and the world community. I work and teach with people of courage, humility and charity. Being surrounded by daily examples supports my efforts to be a positive and fulfilled person. I find it easy to smile working at Xavier, and my decades here have passed quickly. A life of discernment can lead to an inner peace and ultimately to a better world. Xavier is a place where one can find this peace along with great colleagues and students.
Xavier inspires and challenges me to serve the community within and beyond Xavier in my own unique way. Whether through participating in our campus community garden or participating in Community Action Day, Xavier provides an inviting and encouraging space for deep consideration of different perspectives and compassionate action.
Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, S.J., the former Superior General of the Jesuits, spoke in 2000 about how we "must let the gritty reality of this world into our lives so we can learn to feel it, think about it critically, respond to its suffering and engage it constructively." Daily, I witness Xavier students, faculty and staff chipping away at understanding this reality through both academic and experiential pursuits.
One such way Xavier has encouraged me to participate in the constructive engagement of our world's challenges is through serving as a learning partner on Alternative Breaks. These one-week experiences, open to all faculty and staff, allowed me the privilege of learning and traveling with Xavier students, exploring social concerns and taking tangible actions on themes such as mountaintop-removal coal mining in West Virginia and immigration on the Arizona/Mexico border. These trips, and the yearlong education and group building that leads up to the experience, serve as a key example of the University's commitment to building a culture that is both sensitive to the suffering in our world and proactive in terms of transforming the structures that perpetuate such injustice.
I am a grateful and more grounded human being for the opportunities that Xavier presents to its employees.
I was born in Sierra Leone, West Africa, and raised as a Methodist. Before joining the faculty at Xavier, I had never had any close encounters with Catholicism. My early concerns about how someone with my background would fit into the culture of a Catholic institution were allayed once I realized that, through such vehicles as Xavier's service learning programs, I could explore opportunities to reach out in solidarity to others while both they and I learned from each other.
As a trip leader on an Academic Service Learning Semester in Ghana, I was able to reconnect with my roots, introduce students to an insider's perspective of a small part of Africa, help them see beyond the stereotypes, teach courses in my discipline, learn more about how Africans solve their problems and develop new friendships. Being able to bridge the gap between Africa and the U.S. in the minds of my students and in other tangible ways has made my time at Xavier rewarding in more ways than I could ever have imagined.