Campus & Culture

Mission Priority Examen Reveals Strength of SJU’s Jesuit Character

by Jeffrey Martin ’04, ’05 (M.A.)

Saint Joseph's was praised, among other qualities, for its wide-ranging embrace of service to the community.

Jesuit Superior General officially reaffirms University’s Catholic and Jesuit mission.

Saint Joseph’s University is defined by its Catholic, Jesuit character. Every aspect of life on Hawk Hill — from the rigorous, student-centered education to the focus on community and seeking ethical, just solutions to the world’s problems — is informed by the mission set forth by the University’s Jesuit founders.

For the past year, the students, faculty and staff of Saint Joseph’s have engaged in the Mission Priority Examen, a series of self-study exercises designed to reflect on how well, as individuals and as a community, we live out our core values. Led by the Mission Priority Examen Steering Committee, the exercises included surveys, open forums and roundtables with more than a dozen key constituent groups on campus.

“What we discovered during the Examen was that our community has a deep and personal connection to our Jesuit values,” says Sarah Quinn, assistant vice president, chief of staff and co-chair of the steering committee. “Over and over again, we heard the passion that people had for our mission and a desire to find more ways to fully engage in it.”

The Examen is an exercise undertaken by all Jesuit colleges and universities, at the request of the Superior General of the Society of Jesus and with the support of the Jesuit Provincials in the United States. As a result of Saint Joseph’s process, a peer review team of staff from other Jesuit institutions recommended unanimously that the Father General Arturo Sosa, S.J., officially reaffirm the University’s Jesuit and Catholic character.

In their report, the review team lauded University leadership’s knowledge of and commitment to the mission. A significant percentage of the University Leadership Council have completed the Ignatian Colleagues Program, a national program designed by the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities to educate and form administrators and faculty more deeply in the Jesuit and Catholic tradition of higher education.

Also praised was the incorporation of Jesuit values into academic pursuits. The Institute for Jewish-Catholic Relations (IJCR) and the Kinney Center for Autism Education and Support were noted as two areas where academics integrated deeply with mission.

The IJCR “has led to significant opportunities for students to confront complex questions with guidance from international leaders in the field,” according to the review team’s report, while the Kinney Center “provides unique and profound academic services with those on the autism spectrum and is actively engaged in finding a pathway towards greater diversity and inclusion on campus.”

The review team also found strength in the prominent part that Campus Ministry plays in life on Hawk Hill; the talent, dedication and influence of the Jesuit community; and the University’s role in the Catholic Church at large in the area. Of note, it is estimated that more than 2,000 SJU alumni serve as teachers, administrators and leaders in local Catholic schools.

“It is apparent that Saint Joseph’s has been and continues to be a vital contributor in the preparation of the next generation of Catholic intellectual and pastoral leaders,” the report states.

As part of the Examen process and with the input of dozens of participants from across campus, the steering committee identified a series of emerging priorities — areas where the University can engage more fully in the mission. Those priorities include:

  • Expanding educational opportunities for students that provide for greater exploration of more disciplines and interdisciplinary opportunities.
  • Fostering community engagement opportunities with the local community/adjacent neighborhoods.
  • Seeking new pathways and partnerships, in line with our Jesuit principles and guided by voices on all levels of campus, to empower underrepresented voices and further our desire to be an inclusive and diverse community where all members feel welcome, respected and safe.
  • Expanding the awareness of Ignatian spirituality for the benefit of Catholic and non-Catholic people of faith.

“We had many candid and open discussions during this process,” says Tim Swift, Ph.D., associate professor of management and co-chair of the steering committee. “We received valuable feedback about the ways in which the community would like to live our mission more deeply, and these priorities are actionable ways to bring us closer to that goal.”

In recommending the reaffirmation of Saint Joseph’s mission and identity, the peer review team summarized the value of the Examen exercise.

“We are tremendously impressed with the broadly shared commitment to mission that this process revealed,” the review team wrote. “And we are confident that SJU is prepared to address both the challenges and the opportunities that lie ahead in pursuing these priorities…and advancing its distinctive mission in powerful ways in the coming years.”