The Mission of AJCU
Founded in 1970, the AJCU is a national organization that represents Jesuit higher education among its various constituencies, provides a forum for the exchange of information and experiences in Jesuit higher education, and encourages and facilitates collaborative initiatives among its member institutions. Those initiatives include: fostering Jesuit, Catholic identity and mission, educating for a faith that does justice, supporting national and international collaboration between campuses, sponsoring professional and leadership development programs, and offering online educational opportunities through the distance education network, JesuitNET.
The AJCU is the successor to the Commission on Colleges and Universities of the Jesuit Educational Association (JEA), which since 1936 had served as the umbrella organization for both Jesuit secondary and postsecondary education. Rev. Edward Rooney, SJ served as Executive Director of JEA from 1937-1966. Rev. Paul Reinert, SJ, succeeded Fr. Rooney as JEA president from 1966-1970.
In the 1970 restructuring, AJCU became its own national organization with the following purposes: 1) Continued study of new educational problems in the light of Jesuit policy and practice, 2) Continued effort to improve educational effectiveness of Jesuit colleges and universities, 3) Effective promotion of inter-institutional cooperation, especially among Jesuit institutions, 4) A unified influence in national organizations, programs and developments, 5) Effective assistance in participating in Federal and other national programs supporting research and educational projects, 6) Effective dissemination to member institutions of important information, and 7) To be a forum for exchange of experiences and information.
The first president of AJCU was Rev. A. William Crandell, SJ, (1970-71) who was followed by Rev. John Fitterer, SJ (1971-77); Rev. William McInnes, SJ (1977-89); Rev. Paul Tipton, SJ (1989-1995); Rev. James Carter, SJ (Interim,1995-1996) Rev. James Sauve, SJ (1996 – died in office), Rev. Donald Monan, SJ (Interim, 1996-97); Rev. Charles L. Currie, SJ (1997-2011); Rev. Gregory F. Lucey, SJ (2011-2013); and Rev. Michael J. Sheeran, SJ (2013-present).
For the first 20 years of its existence, the AJCU staff was small, comprised of a president, associate director and a secretary. Much of the work focused on providing the presidents with information to support them in their leadership, sponsoring AJCU Conferences, building relationships with other higher education associations, federal relations, collecting data for the AJCU fact files, and planning the AJCU Board Meetings. Over time, the number of staff members was increased in order to serve the expanded needs of the membership.
For the last 40 years, AJCU has supported and served Jesuit education in various ways. From the beginning, the Association has played a leadership role in advocating for public support for private education and was part of the development of the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities (NAICU).
AJCU has sponsored, encouraged, and facilitated the work of various AJCU conferences that have increasingly become the locus for collaboration among our 28 institutions. The Conferences have also served as forums for exchange of ideas and information, and have supported the professional development of administrators, faculty and staff. In 1972, there were 20 conferences; today, there are more than 35.
AJCU also played a key role in the development of Pope John Paul II’s Apostolic Constitution, Ex corde Ecclesiae, that laid out his vision for what a Catholic university should be. Rev. James Sauve, SJ developed the final draft, and AJCU later worked closely with Monika Hellwig, former president of the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities, on the implementation of the document, including the mandatum for theologians. AJCU was consulted on many occasions to provide guidance on how the document should be lived out at Jesuit institutions. There were particular parts of Ex corde that raised concerns, specifically the mandatum, and AJCU provided wise counsel to its membership on these issues.
In 1999, the Jesuit Distance Education Network (JesuitNET) was launched. JesuitNET is a collaborative effort to develop high quality online education within the perspective of Ignatian pedagogy. To help faculty incorporate Ignatian pedagogy into their online courses, the Competency Assessment in Distributed Education (CADE) model was developed. Today, the JesuitNET online catalogue hosts hundreds of courses that include courses from our Latin American sister institutions, reflecting the international partnerships possible for Jesuit higher education.
Over the last decade, AJCU has taken the lead on many new and collaborative initiatives. Some highlights include: the establishment of the AJCU Seminar on Higher Education Leadership; the creation of a consortium for study abroad programs; the development of a study and publication on the internationalization of Jesuit campuses; the development of a set of white papers on Church-related issues; and the coordination (with the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities and the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges) of a workshop and handbook on Mission and Identity at Catholic colleges and universities.