Who have we become? Ignatian Colleagues Program offers response to understanding the mission of Jesuit higher education

By Dr. Joseph DeFeo, Executive Director, Ignatian Colleagues Program

Aaron Van Dyke of Fairfield University on a 2016 ICP immersion trip to Haiti and the Dominican Republic (Photo by Joseph DeFeo)

Aaron Van Dyke of Fairfield University on a 2016 ICP immersion trip to Haiti and the Dominican Republic (Photo by Joseph DeFeo)

My experiences are still with me. I continue to sift what it all means, and what I will do with all I’ve seen and heard. I left Nicaragua having a deeper appreciation of the Jesuit commitment to a faith that does justice.
— M.L. “Cissy” Petty, Ph.D., ICP Cohort 5

For the past eight years, AJCU’s Ignatian Colleagues Program (ICP) has been providing an intensive educational and experiential learning program for college and university leaders to deepen their intellectual understanding and engagement of the Jesuit and Catholic mission on their campuses. In an effort to learn how the program has influenced them, the ICP Alumni Narrative Project was launched.

The ICP Alumni Narrative Project was created out of a series of discussions with ICP alumni who were preparing for the upcoming Cohort 8 & Alumni Summer Workshop (August 1-2, 2016) in Chicago. The workshop will center on a question offered by former Jesuit Superior General, Rev. Peter Hans Kolvenbach, S.J.: “Who do our students become?” Committee members raised the idea of having ICP alumni reflect on who they had become as a result of their ICP experience. Beyond the summer workshop and future ICP assessments, the real gift of this project could serve as a powerful response to what Jesuit higher education offers its students, colleagues and academia.

Jesuit education calls us to walk with people who are very different than we are, to be in solidarity with those who live on the margins. As we seek such opportunities ourselves, and provide such opportunities for our students, we are more likely to grow in our creative capacities to work together to solve the pressing questions facing our cities, country, and our world.
— Gretchen J. Van Dyke, Ph.D., University of Scranton, ICP Cohort 3
Education with a mission. A heightened education focused on making a difference for others, particularly the most disadvantaged.
— Aldo Billingslea, Santa Clara University, ICP Cohort 7

ICP is an approximately eighteen-month program that includes a series of online learning workshops, each with 10-12 hours of preparation material. Participants also engage in teleconferences; international immersion trips; a silent Ignatian retreat; capstone projects and more. Nearly 400 administrators and faculty members have participated in ICP. Given these rich opportunities for learning and the many meaningful relationships that are formed among cohort members across our Jesuit institutions, the insights can be transformative.

ICP opened me to an understanding of Jesuit higher education as a vehicle primarily for affecting that kind of change in both my students and myself. I came to appreciate the difference between information and formation/transformation. Whereas designing a syllabus used to be an exercise in figuring [out] how to shoehorn as much content into a 14-week semester as possible, I came to gradually realize that any subject matter can furnish an opportunity for engaging students in dialogue that leads them to interrogate their own attitudes and values and that that was ultimately vastly more important than their mastery of my content area. I now understand my role as a teacher to be that of a facilitator of an encounter between the material and the student in a way that prompts reflection on the values that give meaning to life and prompts a student to action. This is entirely the result of my study of Ignatian pedagogy through ICP.
— John Sebastian, Ph.D., Loyola University New Orleans, ICP Cohort 1
2016 ICP Immersion Trip (Photo by Joseph DeFeo)

2016 ICP Immersion Trip (Photo by Joseph DeFeo)

These responses are providing windows for understanding key aspects that make up the Jesuit charism. Some reflect on the experience as a whole, while others share how one particular experience or moment has remained with them.  

The Spiritual Exercises have continued to be the way into the Ignatian experience for me. They mirror in ways that are uncanny the psychoanalytic process that Sigmund Freud articulated 400 years after Ignatius described them...they serve as a model for our pedagogy in ways that I don’t think we are generally conscious of. So, in a certain sense, I got what I signed on for, and in another sense, I experienced something that was utterly surprising; I found a home in what felt initially like foreign territory.
— Karl Stukenberg, Ph.D., Xavier University, ICP Cohort 4
In studying Ignatian discernment, I struggled with the concept initially [but] then, in a small breakout session, had a discussion with a colleague in my cohort. He explained that it seemed to him that part of my job was to assist others with their discernment process. It was a watershed moment in my ability to fully grasp the concept, and recognize what I had been doing in my work all along.
— Aldo Billingslea, Santa Clara University, ICP Cohort 7

Since their participation in the program, many ICP alumni have taken leadership roles in areas related to mission at their institutions. These include leading new faculty at orientation, participating in conversations related to hiring for mission, and developing seminars and programs for students, faculty and staff. Combined with their particular area of expertise and/or discipline, ICP alumni are well poised to model and teach the Jesuit mission to the next generation of administrators, faculty, and students.

Nuevo Amanecer (New Dawn)

In the eyes of the children
The future of hope and promise lives.
Laughter rings in an unfinished school yard.
It echoes in my mind, as I think of our state-of-the-art gym.
No cares as one small girl twirls across a barren field,
And a young boy chases a barely inflated ball.
Teachers beam with pride and passion.
All eyes bright, while envisioning the new dawn.”
— M.L. “Cissy” Petty, Ph.D., ICP Cohort 5

ICP invites all past participants to complete the ICP Alumni Narrative Project survey: click here to fill it out online. All alumni and members of Cohort 8 are also invited to the ICP Cohort 8 & Alumni Summer Workshop on August 1-2, 2016 in Chicago. For more information, please click here.