FEBRUARY 2012 | VOL. 12 NO. 6  
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  Xavier Mission Academy

Xavier is blessed with a number of mission-oriented programs directed toward new faculty members. One such program, for instance, Manresa is an overnight retreat (also available in an on-campus format) designed to introduce new Xavier employees to Jesuit education and Ignatian Pedagogy.

A second program, the Ignatian Mentoring Program (IMP), provides the “next step” to develop new faculty members. It was developed to further acclimate and educate faculty members in their second year to the mission of Xavier University by providing resources and the encouragement to carry out their teaching and scholarly work in a mission-focused manner.

In addition to becoming knowledgeable about the mission of the University, IMP participants are required to explicitly demonstrate the changes which have been made to one of their courses to integrate the mission into their pedagogy/content. The IMP has proven to be successful in building enthusiasm for Xavier’s mission and has produced a lasting effect on faculty members’ teaching and research. Consequently, the IMP has been recognized nationally as a model mission-integration program for faculty and has been spotlighted at regional and national conferences and periodicals. Their work is included in the book, Teaching to the Mission, and is highlighted at the Jesuit Resource site (www.jesuitresource.org) under “Identity Today.”

Although Manresa and the IMP have been very successful in addressing the needs of new faculty members, a group of faculty which has been overlooked is senior faculty (defined as faculty members who have been at the University for a decade or more). For many senior faculty members, mission has played a negligible role in their activities. Mission did not play a role in the hiring process in most departments at the time of their hire. Instead, issues relating to the mission of the institution were assumed to be addressed by the Jesuits on campus.

Since that time, however, the number of Jesuits teaching on campus has declined significantly, so much so that there are less than five Jesuits presently teaching full-time. Consequently, the integration of the mission has since become increasingly placed in the hands of faculty members. Although many junior faculty members have had opportunities to build these skills, many of the senior faculty members have not.

Relatively few attempts explicitly targeting senior faculty members have been made to provide them with education on the mission or to encourage them to actively integrate mission into their classrooms. The Mission Academy was developed to address this oversight.

Supported by the Conway Center for Jesuit Education and a Lilly Fellows grant, the Xavier Mission Academy (XMA) was developed and implemented with a specific focus on senior faculty members. It was developed as a year-long activity involving nine faculty members led by the Director of Faculty Programs (a tenured faculty member presently spending half of his time in Mission and Identity).

The structure of the XMA is similar to other “academies” at Xavier (diversity, information fluency, and engaged learning), but focusing on building skills for more successful mission integration in the classroom. The focus of the XMA is to provide participants with a realization and appreciation of the importance of the mission, a working knowledge of the mission, and the tools needed to best integrate mission into their classes. Given that participants possess significant teaching experience and are very knowledgeable about their disciplines, the focus of the academy is on building upon this knowledge and providing participants with the tools to integrate mission into their classes in a personally and professionally appropriate way.

Similar to the IMP, each XMA participant is required to develop and implement mission-centric focus in at least one of his/her courses and to aid and encourage other XMA participants in the redevelopment of their courses. The results will also be included in the Xavier Teaching to the Mission publication which will enable dissemination not only across the Xavier campus, but other AJCU campuses and beyond.

The academy is structured as a year-long process comprised of six monthly meetings. Each meeting consists of sharing information, discussing readings, and completing/discussing exercises developed to address the issues discussed.

The topics of the meetings are as follows:

  • Meeting 1: What is the need for mission integration?
  • Meeting 2: Recognizing and overcoming the barriers to mission integration.
  • Meeting 3: What do we want to achieve: How does mission relate to our disciplines?
  • Meeting 4: Fundamental elements of mission integration.
  • Meeting 5: Available approaches to mission integration.
  • Meeting 6: Presentations of proposed personal mission integration.

It is hoped that each of the participants of the XMA will become instrumental in further building the integration of mission into the classrooms of senior faculty members at Xavier University. With a depressed stock market and minimal interest rates, many senior members who may have retired in years past have no plans to do so in today’s environment. Consequently, institutions of higher education must commit increasing attention and resources to faculty development of senior faculty members. An area of faculty development which cannot be overlooked is the area of mission. The XMA is specifically designed to play an explicit role in furthering mission in senior faculty members.

Participants have expressed the value seen thus far in the program:

  • The reality is that between class preparation, grading, research projects, and committee obligations, time for such deliberations rarely exists. One great aspect of the Mission Academy is that it carves out of one's busy schedule the opportunity to sit down with colleagues from across the institution for serious discussion of some of the Big Issues facing Xavier. It is great time that is well spent!
  • Throughout my participation in the Mission Academy, I was able to identify and address not only a range of conceptual aspects relevant to mission integration, but also a great spectrum of practical ways in which mission integration can be made possible.
  • The Mission Academy debunked a range of myths and misconceptions with regard to mission integration.
  • The Mission Academy unveiled ways of integrating the university mission into the classrooms without having to compromise on the format and scope of curricula.
  • Having an opportunity to understand the Ignatian mission at a deeper level has motivated me to reevaluate the courses I teach. In business, quite often we consider meeting the mission is including the teaching of ethical behavior but the academy has helped me focus on other areas of the mission such as critical thinking and men and women for others.
  • As a professor in the physical sciences, I could not on my own find a way to integrate Ignatian principles into my classroom in an explicit way. Fortunately, the Mission Academy has provided me a forum to engage in deep, rich conversations with colleagues from all three colleges at Xavier. Through these conversations, I have been challenged, encouraged, and, most importantly, equipped to accomplish the goal of mission integration.

Authors: David J. Burns, D.B.A., Professor of Marketing and Director of Faculty Programs in Mission and Identity and Debra K. Mooney, Ph.D., Assistant to the President for Mission and Identity