A Vision for Saint Mary's College
How can Saint Mary's College be an excellent Liberal Arts, Catholic and Lasallian institution of higher education? A simple answer is to be grounded authentically in the Liberal Arts, Catholic and Lasallian traditions. To me this means that we should explore, renew and deepen each of these traditions at every level of the institution. There are numerous challenges imbedded in this process, as there is a multiplicity of ways in which Saint Mary's College is currently achieving this authenticity.
The Catholic, Lasallian and Liberal Arts traditions are intimately intertwined in the values they share in promoting the full human and spiritual development of the students whom we serve. Jean Baptiste De La Salle might find it puzzling, and rightly so, that one would speak of Catholic and Lasallian as different sets of values. It is both Catholic and Lasallian to promote social justice in teaching and in action. It is both Catholic and Lasallian to identify and respond to the needs of the marginalized and poor in our society and in the world. It is both Catholic and Lasallian to understand that all who work at this institution are ministers of Jesus Christ to each other and to our students, and to understand that the full educational and human development of our students is a means to their salvation. It is both Catholic and Lasallian to extend an inclusive invitation to students and partners of whatever faith or race to be active members of our educational community. And it is both Catholic and Lasallian to invite all to participate in an educational community which gives a practical demonstration of its faith in its daily activity.
(1) The Liberal Arts are also an integral part of the tradition of the Christian Brothers and Saint Mary's College. More than 50 years ago philosopher Jacques Maritain, in praising the work of the Christian Brothers in higher education, acknowledged the importance of the Great Books Tradition. In calling the Brothers "Christian educators in the most concrete and realistic sense of the expression", he adds that "They know that man does not live on bread alone, but on the word of God, and they know that man also lives on bread and must earn his bread. It is not surprising that they have obtained outstanding success in their technical schools, and are prepared to adopt or initiate the newest and most progressive methods even the Great Books program while remaining intent on helping souls to become more and more explicitly what they basically are the images of God"
(2) Now as we enter a new millennium, the Great Books tradition has been incorporated into Liberal Arts tradition of Saint Mary's College through programs like the Collegiate Seminar, the Integral Liberal Arts, Critical Perspectives and the MA in Liberal Studies. Indeed, the tradition of shared inquiry has become one of the great strengths of this institution in its undergraduate, graduate and extended education programs. The arrival of the ACTC (Association for Core Texts and Courses) will assist in both strengthening this tradition internally as well as developing our national leadership in Liberal Arts education.
An authentic Catholic and Lasallian institution of higher learning should strive to act in accordance with its core values and create and sustain policies, programs and procedures which embody these values. The promotion of Catholic, Lasallian, and Liberal Arts values should be a goal and a challenge not just for the President, but for all who are associated with Saint Mary's College: students, faculty, staff, alumni, friends and Brothers. The vision guiding the institution should come not just from the President but also from the collaboration of all who are associated with the College. I look forward to the opportunity to engage all associated with Saint Mary's College in renewing and fulfilling this vision.
Much is happening now to address and live our traditions. Groups such as CILSA, the Cummins Institute, the Henning Institute, the Massa Institute, and the recently arrived ACTC, are committed to educating the community about Catholic, Lasallian, and Liberal Arts values and promoting action in response to the needs which we identify. Many academic departments and other campus groups and organizations, such as Campus Ministry, Residence Life, the Women's Resource Center, to name only a few, have been invited to collaborate with these Institutes and are doing so. The promotion of shared governance and the efforts to improve communication and collaboration between student life, external programs and academic administration are also positive steps. The recent
WASC report has identified many very positive ways in which the institution in its core academic programs is assessing and achieving its educational goals in a laudable manner.
Faculty and Staff have been encouraged to participate in conferences and organizations such as the Buttimer Institute, the Lasallian Leadership Institute, the Colloquia on Catholic Higher Education, and the Massa Institute, to name only a few. All of these efforts assist in deepening and enriching the understanding of our central traditions. These ongoing activities to promote and understand the core institutional values are positive achievements in living authentically our traditions. But there are also challenges.
In the past several decades the number of Brothers active in the apostolate of education has declined severely. In response to this trend, the Brothers have promoted a Shared Mission in which our colleagues and partners have been invited to cooperate fully in taking responsibility for ensuring the vitality and continuation of our works. Many lay partners have responded willingly to this invitation in a variety of positions. If Saint Mary's College is to remain faithful to its traditions, many more faculty, staff, students, alumni and friends should become partners in the mission. The institution should not only invite the participation of these groups and individuals, but also provide the means to educate and train all in the fundamental traditions.
If the College and the Brothers are inviting partners at all levels to share in achieving the mission, then the College also has a responsibility to mirror the values of the traditions in its policies and practices. The College should expect all employees, students, faculty and friends to actively support and promote the values of the traditions. Conversely, the College, through its policies and practices, should treat all who share in the mission with dignity, respect and reverence, as equal partners. The communication, dialogue and collaboration campuswide should reflect and mirror the respect for persons which arise from our core values.
Maintaining financial stability and increasing donor and endowment support for academic areas, student tuition and facilities are immediate challenges to the College. Recent setbacks in the College's fundraising efforts underline the need to renew and increase our contact with friends, alumni and organizations who understand and support the values of the College's traditions. Given the decrease in alumni giving and the concurrent decrease in annual giving, the renewal of contact with these groups should be a priority for the next President and his administration.
These are just a few immediate and long range challenges. I hope that the interview process for the next President will provide a forum for discussion of a wider range of challenges and opportunities for the entire Saint Mary's Community.
1. Ex Corde Ecclesiae, paragraph 39. Copyright Â© Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1990.
2. From Jacques Maritain's Manhattan College Address, 30 April 1951. Courtesy of the Jacques Maritain Center, Notre Dame University.