The Forces Shaping Catholic Universities Today

For those of us who live life according to the cycles of the academic calendar, May is a reflective month. The (post-secondary) school year is coming to a close and commencement, while technically a new beginning, seems to be experienced by most of our students as a visceral reminder that, as Seneca/Semisonic put it, “every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.” Despite all the prospects of the summer ahead, May always seems to prompt a bit of a backward turn. In my teaching, I actually encourage this glance in the review mirror as the semester comes to a close. In part, I do this because I believe in the value of Ignatian pedagogy, which places a premium on reflection. More importantly, though, I do this because I believe part of the rationale for studying theology at a Catholic university is to equip our graduates to evaluate their alma mater in a new, more critical light. After all, Catholic higher education is a theological project; consequently, it takes a degree of theological acumen to hold a Catholic university accountable to itself. Unsurprisingly, then, I find myself here, in the middle of May, caught up with a version of the question I encourage my students to ask: how well do our Catholic colleges and universities live up to the theological tradition that informs their work? There are a variety...

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