Teaching at a Jesuit Institution: Thoughts for Those New to SLU

CTTL_ignationbannerby Debie Lohe, Director, Reinert Center

Four years ago this week, I came to SLU from what some might call a highly secular institution.  At that time, I had no personal experience with Jesuit institutions, no real sense of what the educational mission of the Jesuits entailed.  I did not know the long tradition of academic excellence, how many Jesuits had contributed over the centuries to an expansion of our collective sense of history and possibility and humanity.  Heck, I wasn’t even Catholic!  (I’m still not.)

What I found, though, as I read and talked with people here at SLU, was that I felt an almost instant kinship with the core values and principles of Jesuit education.  This has led to what I can only think of as a kind of “values alignment” for me.  The values that speak most to me — values of individualism and inclusivity and personal growth — are ones that many educators privilege in their work with students.

For those who are new to the context of a Jesuit institution, there are so many things to learn.  As I posted on this blog last year, there are core values and charisms that all of us should be familiar with: cura personalis, magis, and the Ignatian Pedagogical Paradigm.  Key to Jesuit education is a set of core assumptions and beliefs about what makes for an educated person, and the general expectations of the Ratio Studiorum (Latin for “plan of studies”) will sound familiar to those from a liberal arts background.

If you are a new faculty member or graduate student at SLU, seeking to deepen your understanding of what it means to teach at a Jesuit institution, you might find a few key resources useful:

A Jesuit Education Reader, G. Traub, S.J.

Ignatian Pedagogy: A Practical Approach

The Jesuit Guide to Almost Everything, J. Martin, S.J.

Resources on the Jesuit Tradition and Mission of Saint Louis University

Whatever else you take from readings like these, I hope you’ll begin to find your own foothold, to experience your own “values alignment” at SLU.  So many of us arrive here from places that value teaching only nominally.  At a Jesuit institution, you have permission to care for your students and to care about your teaching.

If you’re interested in learning more about Ignatian approaches to teaching, the Reinert Center is hosting a short Introduction to Ignatian Pedagogy on Thursday, September 19, noon-1:00 p.m. in Verhaegen 219. Click here to register.

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