Integritas: Advancing the Mission of Catholic Higher Education
In April, 2012, the Division of University Mission and Ministry at Boston College launched a new initiative titled The Boston College Roundtable: Advancing the Mission of Catholic Higher Education. The Roundtable brings together scholars representing eleven Catholic colleges and universities from a broad range of academic disciplines who will meet four times over two years to engage in discussion about the mission found within Catholic higher education as experienced in the contemporary context. The product of the Roundtable is a new journal titled Integritas, published online in cooperation with University Libraries. There is also a print version, which has been sent to the senior leaders of the 200-plus Catholic colleges and universities in the United States, as well as to the bishops of their respective dioceses.
Each Roundtable focuses on a particular theme and each will generate a volume of Integritas, comprised of three distinct issues. Each of these issues will include a paper, a response, and a summary of the Roundtable conversation. The theme chosen for the first convening, The Role of Charism and Hospitality in Catholic Colleges and Universities, encompassed both the particularity of Catholic institutions founded by religious institutes and the broader notion of charism as animating the search for truth and the pursuit of knowledge through the ages. Participants addressed the question of how, given their distinctive histories, Catholic colleges and universities express distinct iterations of Catholic mission in higher education, and how they maintain a sense of mission while at the same time welcoming people from all walks of life. How, they asked, can a complex institution maintain the balance between participating in the evangelizing mission of the Church and committing itself to rigorous research and excellence in forming young people? Volume I of Integritas included a theological reflection by Aurelie Hagstrom of Providence College; a reflection on Catholic imagination by Boston College's Paul Mariani; and a discussion of Georgetown University's notion of "centered pluralism" by the Dean of Georgetown College, Chester Gillis.
In November, the group gathered again to address "the transcendent value of the liberal arts." In a time when various market forces impact college and university curricula, the group asked why Catholic institutions' historic focus on the liberal arts remains important today. This spring, the next volume of Integritas will include papers by Thomas Plante of Santa Clara University, on why Catholic institutions' focus on student formation is distinctive; Marian Díaz of the University of Dayton, on friendship and contemplation; and David Quigley, Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Boston College, on the history of liberal arts in Catholic colleges and universities in the United States.
Response to Integritas from administrators and scholars around the country has been very positive. The hope of the Division is to help advance the mission of Catholic higher education amidst a changing landscape, and to provide a forum in which some of the neuralgic questions facing these institutions might be addressed.