In our first year working on the strategic plan, it was very clear that our community is invested in our Catholic identity. Yet, for many people the Catholic identity was too often experienced as something that divided us, and not something that brought us together. Echoing the strong theme of One University, we heard a desire that our mission would bring us together with a shared purpose and vision. Our brand reflects that shared purpose.
Seeing no desire to change our mission, we focused on how to leverage that shared identity to create the university we dreamed of. The charge for the task force dedicated to Catholic-Inspired Community Engagement reflects that focus. The task force had three guiding principles:
- A commitment to truth, justice and caritas (or self-giving love);
- A desire to build on our strengths around social justice, global awareness, sustainability, diversity and inclusion;
- And a desire to coordinate community engagement activities in order to foster a culture of service.
Many of the initiatives put forward by this task force are well underway. The Office of Mission has expanded to include not only Campus Ministry, but also an Office for Spirituality and an Office for Service and Social Justice. Within this last office is our new volunteer center that helps students find volunteering opportunities.
Campus Ministry is in the process of hiring part-time staff to support the spiritual needs of our non-Catholic students, staff and faculty. These will include a Protestant minister and a Jewish rabbi, and, hopefully an Imam.
The university will expand its community engagement efforts with a new Center for the Common Good. This center will not only expand opportunities for community engagement, but will also be the mechanism to better coordinate our engagement efforts, especially between curricular and co-curricular work. Look for more details in the coming weeks!
The Sustainable Communities Partnership was a pilot program that launched with strategic planning funds. It began by pairing up local communities seeking to expand their own efforts at sustainability with students receiving course credit. This program has now become a permanent part of our community engagement.
Lastly, we continue our process to earn the designation of an Ashoka Changemaker Campus. This designation will enhance our visibility as an institution that fosters social innovation across the university. The process to get this prestigious designation includes several steps, including a site visit in December.
We are proud of our mission, grounded in Catholic social thought, and we seek daily to enact it in how we treat each other, how we interact with our local communities, and in how we respect our resources. The work of the Catholic-Inspired Community Engagement task force has made that actualization more clear.