Academic Affairs

Office of Academic Affairs

Message from the Provost
wachterhauser

The Magis - to live greater! What are the implications of “living greater” in the academic realm, the realm of intellect, our special concern in Academic Affairs? Developing and using one's intellect is not something one does primarily in the classroom for a few short years, only to result in one or more academic degrees, which then open the doors to "real life." Rather, what goes on in the classroom is meant to lay the foundation for a lifetime of learning, thoughtful reflection and applying our talents toward the betterment of a world that cries out for our help. Respect for accurate information, the ability to analyze it critically from multiple points of view and disciplines, a reflective attitude that enables one to learn from one's mistakes, the capacity to engage others with thoughtful civility, especially in those situations fraught with disagreement -- all these traits are characteristic of an educated person, characteristics we seek to cultivate in our students at Saint Joseph's. At both the undergraduate and graduate levels, we seek to instill in all of our students both a love of learning for its own sake and a respect for the indispensability of reliable knowledge in making careful judgments and decisions.

Central to our educational goals is the overarching relevance of ethics to all spheres of life. While we seek to cultivate an emotional and compassionate response to all who suffer from any form of injustice or unnecessary pain, we also cultivate a well-trained intellect to short-circuit responses to social and individual problems that are in any way uninformed, shortsighted, or otherwise incapable of getting at the root causes. To this end, we not only foster intellectual rigor in all our classes, but also insist that every student take a course in ethics that deals with key moral concepts and distinctions.

Excellent faculty are key to teaching the intellectual and moral skills our students need both to succeed in their careers and to make a difference in the world, and we have recently committed to recruiting a significant number of new faculty. These new faculty positions will be distributed across both the College of Arts and Sciences and the Haub School of Business.

A faculty dedicated to students, however, also calls for a relevant, up-to-date curriculum. The faculty have recently completed a five-year process of redesigning the curriculum that promises to continue a strong liberal arts foundation, rigorous and relevant pre-professional programs, and a serious intellectual engagement with the best of the Roman Catholic and Jesuit traditions of learning. We seek to educate our students broadly that they might realize both their career and personal objectives. Our curriculum addresses the whole person that they might imagine freely, feel with insight, judge with discernment, and act with compassion.

We have now implemented the new curriculum but continue to encourage faculty to create new courses to allow our students to reap the benefits of their research and their skill in pedagogy. The curriculum can best be described in the words the faculty wrote in their final report after designing the new curriculum.

Innovative thinking, creative problem solving, and entrepreneurial leadership begin with an habitual curiosity that asks how things function and why. However, curiosity without direction is mere enthusiasm, a passing mood. A Saint Joseph's University education, therefore, must nurture students’ natural curiosity about the world while teaching them to be thoughtful in their responses to it. Regardless of their concentration, all our students should be challenged to be keen observers, who are analytic in their approach to problem solving, and reflective about the near and long-term consequences of any solutions they propose. General education especially must provide students opportunities to think critically, to question assumptions, and to formulate reasoned and articulate responses to a wide range of natural and cultural phenomena within a rich historical context. Such opportunities will foster the sort of self-directed inquiry that enables students to excel in their chosen concentrations, careers and lives. Excellence depends on the acquisition of broad knowledge coupled with the development of disciplined methods of inquiry, the result of sustained diligent effort. In the spirit of magis, students must be encouraged throughout their education to aspire to the highest academic standards. (Saint Joseph’s University Faculty, “Preface: Goals of a Saint Joseph’s Education” from the Comprehensive Curriculum Review Final Report: A Proposal for Curricular Change.)

Learning opportunities outside the traditional classroom also abound. Let me mention just two of them. Study Abroad and Service-Learning are wonderful ways for students to see larger horizons. Whether studying languages, fine arts, or business abroad, or working in a homeless shelter here at home, students learn more about who they are, even as they learn more about who others are. Students may study in Rome, Strasburg, London, China, Dublin, Chile, and El Salvador, to name just a few sites.

Service Learning also offers a way to enrich the traditional classroom experience. Such courses offer “real world” experience for students and allow them to address the needs of people who are less fortunate. Courses in Sociology, Art Education, Medical Ethics, Psychology, English, and Biology (among many others) bring students to sites in Philadelphia where the need is great. Faculty tell us that students learn so much from these encounters that they bring more back to the classroom and become more mature learners as a result.

Our graduate school offerings continue to expand in both colleges. Not only do we have a nationally recognized part-time MBA program, we also have an Executive MBA program and concentrations in Human Resource Management, Financial Services, among many others. Our graduate Arts and Sciences program offers degrees in Writing Studies, Educational Leadership and many other offerings such as psychology, education and the sciences.

Speaking for all of us in Academic Affairs, we are proud to be a part of the more than 450-year tradition of Jesuit education. It is a tradition that combines intellectual, moral, and spiritual development of young men and women from diverse backgrounds. It is a tradition that emphasizes rigorous intellectual training, a strong imagination, and a thoughtful, faith-filled response to the search for justice. In other words, Jesuit education calls us to action, but never action for its own sake -- rather, action that combines spiritual and intellectual growth for "the greater glory of God."