Where Does Character Formation Happen in the University Today?: Thinking About the "Parallel Curriculum"

J. A. Appleyard, S.J.
Boston College

Date: November 18, 2003

Event Recap

On November 18th, the Boisi Center hosted Father Joseph A. Appleyard S.J., Vice President of Mission and Ministry at Boston College, who lead a discussion on “Where does Character Formation Happen in the University Today?: Thinking about the Parallel Curriculum.” Fr. Appleyard began with the observation that it appears as if programs related to Catholic formation such as First-Year Orientation, 48 Hours, the international service programs, 4 Boston, Appalachia, Kairos retreats, Intersections, and Halftime have become a parallel track within the university, rather than remaining a central part of the academic curriculum. He invited the diverse audience, which included representatives from undergraduate admissions, student affairs, development, housing, and a number of departments, to comment on this, and to either agree or disagree with his observation.

Some people felt that Boston College provided a unique Catholic perspective for students, citing the required theology and philosophy courses, programs like Pulse, Perspectives, Cornerstone, Capstone, and the emphasis on social justice shared by a number of departments and centers. Others agreed with Father Appleyard’s sense that priori- ties of Catholic formation had been pushed onto a parallel track by pressures to compete as a major research university. Professor Wolfe suggested that, as it proceeds with its strategic planning, the University might do well to subject itself to a “Jesuit Capstone experience,” similar to ones that some students take, to reflect intensively about where the University has come from, where it seeks to go, and how its Catholic identity shapes those decisions.

Staff members from the Admissions Office pointed out that only a minority of students at Boston College are able to get into the various programs like Pulse, or the immersion experiences that provide some of the most important formative spiritual experiences of student’s lives. They claimed that one of the biggest complaints they hear is that so many students are unable to get into these highly competitive programs. While the discussion possibly raised more questions than it answered, it gave many in the room further food for thought for reflecting upon the role of Catholic mission in the University’s future.