At Fairfield, we recognize that explicit attention to mission is necessary to ensure that the Jesuit Catholic identity of our University continues to be received as lively and relevant. We thus welcomed the call, from the AJCU, to undertake a process of self-study, using the guidelines found in “Some Characteristics of Jesuit Colleges and Universities: A Self-Evaluation Instrument.” Our self-study text, “Jesuit. By Design.” is available here. We will welcome an external visiting team from the AJCU on November 28-30, 2016.
This team, using our own self-study text, will interview a wide variety of campus members, and write a report that will help us to think about the opportunities and challenges for mission here at Fairfield. That report will be received by the AJCU, and eventually make its way to the desk of the Superior General of the Society of Jesus, who will — we expect! — affirm our identity as a Jesuit and Catholic institution of higher education.
This process is very characteristic of the Ignatian “way of proceeding,” which has always had an experimental, outward-facing and even entrepreneurial cast. Jesuits were sent into the unknown from the first days of the society, a society marked by significant change during its 450-year history. This reinvention process, ignited by the foregrounding of the poor by Superior General Pedro Arrupe, S.J. and continued by Superior General Hans Peter Kolvenbach, S.J., is an imperative for Jesuit higher education moving forward, with Superior General Adolfo Nicolas, S.J., having called for Jesuit schools to vigorously counter the “fundamentalism,” “fanaticism” and “self-absorption” that signal the “globalized superficiality of thought” that threatens cultures and peoples. To do this effectively, we must change to address a changing world.
As Jesuit schools, our search for justice is fed by the world-affirming vision of Catholic Christianity, in Ignatius’ language, the call to “find God in all things.” As Catholic, our schools are intentionally open to those of all faiths (and no faith in particular) as we find that justice requires recognition of the absolute dignity of the other.
As a university, we do all this the smart way — we seek to develop habits of rigorous thought, careful and objective approaches to data, historical perspective, insightful engagement with cultural forms and a practice of reflection that gives rise to real change. We will bring this same pro-active approach to the vigorous engagement of our mission as we live the future of Jesuit education. Continuing the energetic policies, activities and programs outlined above, we offer the following mission priorities as specific initiatives that further speak to this commitment.
We will strengthen our process of hiring for mission and diversity. Hiring for mission was the strongest directive we heard during the self-study process. Along with this directive was the affirmation that hiring for mission must now include the commitment to attract, hire and retain a more diverse community of faculty, staff and students.
We will design initiatives to make mission visible in academics. The Academics self-study team called for Fairfield to ensure that the Catholic Jesuit tradition remains an integral part of our academic mission and identity. This “integral part,” the self-study team suggested, would be best introduced through the following objective: Identify and prioritize a common intellectual experience that articulates our Catholic Jesuit mission to our undergraduate students.
We will create a stronger institutional structure for service. As a Jesuit school, we are committed to investing in the infrastructure to support a sustained, integrated approach to service, bringing service learning and community service together for coordination.
4. Mission Leadership:
We will form a Mission Leadership Council. Chaired by the Vice President for Mission, this Council will be formed to bring mission activities into closer integration.
5. Jesuit Presence:
We will seek a more intentional engagement between the University and the Fairfield Jesuit Community. We will seek a more distinctive role for Jesuits on campus, including a more thoughtful dialogue among all parties about this role.