The Mission and History of AJCU
The Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities (AJCU) is a national organization that represents Jesuit higher education among its various constituencies, provides a forum for the exchange of information and experiences in Jesuit higher education, and encourages and facilitates collaborative initiatives among its member institutions. Those initiatives include: fostering Jesuit, Catholic identity and mission, educating for a faith that does justice, supporting national and international collaboration between campuses, sponsoring professional and leadership development programs, and offering online educational opportunities through the distance education network, JesuitNET.
The AJCU is the successor to the Commission on Colleges and Universities of the Jesuit Educational Association (JEA), which since 1936 had served as the umbrella organization for both Jesuit secondary and postsecondary education. Rev. Edward Rooney, S.J. served as Executive Director of JEA from 1937-1966. Rev. Paul Reinert, S.J. succeeded Fr. Rooney as JEA president from 1966-1970.
In 1970, AJCU became its own national organization with the following purposes: 1) Continued study of new educational problems in the light of Jesuit policy and practice, 2) Continued effort to improve educational effectiveness of Jesuit colleges and universities, 3) Effective promotion of inter-institutional cooperation, especially among Jesuit institutions, 4) A unified influence in national organizations, programs and developments, 5) Effective assistance in participating in Federal and other national programs supporting research and educational projects, 6) Effective dissemination to member institutions of important information, and 7) To be a forum for exchange of experiences and information.
The first president of AJCU was Rev. A. William Crandell, S.J., (1970-71), who was followed by Rev. John Fitterer, S.J. (1971-77); Rev. William McInnes, S.J. (1977-89); Rev. Paul Tipton, S.J. (1989-1995); Rev. James Carter, S.J. (Interim,1995-1996) Rev. James Sauve, S.J. (1996 – died in office), Rev. Donald Monan, S.J. (Interim, 1996-97); Rev. Charles L. Currie, S.J. (1997-2011); Rev. Gregory F. Lucey, S.J. (2011-2013); and Rev. Michael J. Sheeran, S.J. (2013-present).
For the first 20 years of its existence, the AJCU staff was small, comprised of a president, associate director and a secretary. Much of the work focused on providing the presidents with information to support them in their leadership, sponsoring AJCU Conferences, building relationships with other higher education associations, federal relations, collecting data for the AJCU Fact Files, and planning the AJCU Board Meetings. Over time, the number of staff members was increased in order to serve the expanded needs of its membership.
For the last 40 years, AJCU has supported and served Jesuit education in various ways. From the beginning, the Association has played a leadership role in advocating for public support for private education and was part of the development of the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities (NAICU).
AJCU has sponsored, encouraged, and facilitated the work of various AJCU conferences that have increasingly become the locus for collaboration among our 28 institutions. The Conferences have also served as forums for exchange of ideas and information, and have supported the professional development of administrators, faculty and staff. In 1972, there were 20 conferences; today, there are 33.
AJCU also played a key role in the development of Pope John Paul II’s Apostolic Constitution, Ex corde Ecclesiae, that laid out his vision for what a Catholic university should be. Rev. James Sauve, S.J. developed the final draft, and AJCU later worked closely with Monika Hellwig, former president of the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities, on the implementation of the document, including the mandatum for theologians. AJCU was consulted on many occasions to provide guidance on how the document should be lived out at Jesuit institutions. There were particular parts of Ex corde that raised concerns, specifically the mandatum, and AJCU provided wise counsel to its membership on these issues.
In 1999, AJCU launched the Jesuit Distance Education Network (JesuitNET). JesuitNET is a collaborative effort to develop high quality online educational programs within the perspective of Ignatian pedagogy. To help faculty incorporate Ignatian pedagogy into their online courses, JesuitNET staff created the Competency Assessment in Distributed Education (CADE) model. Today, JesuitNET has expanded its outreach to international institutions and programs, including Jesuit Commons: Higher Education at the Margins (JC:HEM).
Over the last decade, AJCU has taken the lead on many new and collaborative initiatives. Some highlights include the establishment of the AJCU Seminar on Higher Education Leadership; the creation of a consortium for study abroad programs; the development of a study and publication on the internationalization of Jesuit campuses; the development of a set of white papers on Church-related issues; and the coordination (with the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities and the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges) of a workshop and handbook on Mission and Identity at Catholic colleges and universities.
In keeping with the Jesuit credo of the magis, there will always be more to do and ways to do it better. In the years to come, AJCU will continue to be a dynamic organization that will take every opportunity to support its membership with new ideas, programs and services, and provide the leadership to make collaboration happen.
Jesuit higher education: Integrating a commitment to scholarship, faith, and social justice
The Society of Jesus, founded by Saint Ignatius of Loyola, was one of the first orders of educators within the Catholic Church. A Jesuit education is grounded in the liberal arts tradition with a focus on quality teaching, critical thinking, and rigorous academic standards and scholarship. Today, U.S. Jesuit colleges and universities employ nearly 22,000 faculty members who continue to teach in the tradition of St. Ignatius.
Jesuit higher education is guided by a spirituality that seeks justice. Inspired by the tenets of Catholic social teaching and its intellectual and social justice traditions, a Jesuit education places great emphasis on forming "women and men for others." Students are engaged in a process of exploring the distinctive and constructive ways in which their knowledge and talents will best serve society.
Jesuit institutions provide students with more than $1.5 billion in institutional aid -- eight times what the Federal government provides in grant aid. On average, 22 percent of our students receive Federal aid in the form of Pell Grants. Last year, more than 215,000 students were enrolled at the 28 Jesuit colleges and universities.
Reflective of their rich academic experience, students at Jesuit colleges and universities have received Rhodes, Truman and Fulbright Scholarships. Many distinguished graduates of Jesuit institutions have reached the highest levels in their fields, including former President Bill Clinton, scientist Anthony Fauci, journalist Maria Shriver, actor Denzel Washington and NBA Coach Glenn "Doc" Rivers. Descartes, Moliere and James Joyce were likewise shaped by their Jesuit education.
While some Jesuit alumni might be more recognizable than others, many share the distinction of using their education to serve and to lead. Of the roughly 2.1 million living alumni of the 28 U.S. Jesuit colleges and universities, 56 (10 percent) are members of the U.S. Congress and one serves on the U.S. Supreme Court. Countless more have assumed leadership positions as governors, mayors and appointed officials in the current presidential administration.
Jesuit higher education provides students with the opportunity to become thoughtful, competent and compassionate men and women for others, with a commitment to the greater good and a passion for justice, preparing them for lives of leadership and service. It is through this distinctive mode of education that Jesuit colleges and universities are changing the world, one student at a time.