Center Opens Dialogue on Student Formation

By Sean Smith
Staff Writer

Using a year-long seminar as a springboard, the Center for Ignatian Spirituality is considering ways to support and encourage student formation efforts at Boston College.

The seminar comprising more than 50 administrators, faculty and staff met four times during the academic year to discuss improving students' intellectual and spiritual lives outside the classroom. Participants shared their views at two wrap-up sessions this spring that were attended by University President William P. Leahy, SJ.

CIS Director Howard Gray, SJ, said he is working with Vice President for Mission and Ministry Joseph Appleyard, SJ, - who co-chairs Fr. Leahy's council on student formation and took part in the seminar - on a "menu of possibilities" that would help address needs and suggestions voiced in the seminar. Such offerings might include a seminar on spirituality and teaching, a directed Ignatian retreat and a restructured orientation for new faculty and staff emphasizing the importance of student formation, he said.

"We are asking, 'What would you like to do - and what resources do you need to do it effectively?'" said Fr. Gray. "That speaks to one of the most important tasks the center can perform, which is to create and support opportunities for people within the University to exercise leadership in implementing the distinctive mission of Boston College."

"This is a matter of great interest to the Boston College community and a priority for the administration," said Fr. Appleyard."The Center for Ignatian Spirituality's role in promoting formation is a welcome, and highly appropriate, one."

Seminar participants included representatives from the College of Arts and Sciences, Lynch School of Education, the School of Nursing, Housing, University Counseling and AHANA Student Programs.

"Clearly, there is a strong presence of faculty and staff who are very conscious of the University's Catholic and Jesuit character, and how it relates to what they do," Fr. Gray said.

The seminar produced three "areas of focus," according to Fr. Gray. One was the importance of advising and mentoring in formation, and the need for faculty to better integrate it with their teaching and research responsibilities.

Another key area was the University's residence hall arrangements and the feasibility of introducing a "house" system in which faculty and staff and their families would form with students a more community-like setting.

Given the success of, and growing demand for, programs like PULSE that emphasize academic and service education and faculty-student interaction, seminar participants also talked about cultivating more opportunities to suit a greater variety of needs and situations, Fr. Gray added.

"It was a valuable experience, coming together with others in the University to talk about improving the whole community's intellectual life," said Assoc. Prof. Amy Boesky (English). "We found that people had some different perspectives on what formation means and how it can be accomplished. I think most faculty members would relish the chance to share their thoughts in this way."

"I felt honored to have been invited to take part in this," said Assistant Director for Residential Life Burton Howell. "Hopefully, there'll be more times in the future where we can sit down and take a good look at what we do, not just as professionals but members of a community."

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