By Jeff Gingerich, Ph.D., Acting President & Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs, The University of Scranton
When I think of the value of a Jesuit education, I am reminded of the famous line in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet: “That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”
Beyond competence in one’s field, organizations most value those who can think critically, communicate effectively, and lead ethically. In other words, those with a Jesuit education.
Employer surveys confirm this. According to a 2015 study by Hart Research Associates, 91% of employers agree that for career success, “a candidate’s demonstrated capacity to think critically, communicate clearly, and solve complex problems is more important than his or her undergraduate major.”
The very essence of the education we provide to our students at Jesuit colleges and universities is exactly what employers want, only they don’t necessarily use the same terms. They might not say a “liberal arts education,” or “an education grounded in the humanities,” or “Jesuit-educated,” but that is what they mean.
Helping Students Find Their Calling Through the Humanities
At The University of Scranton and Jesuit schools across the world, we have transformed students to become “people for and with others” by using a rigorous curriculum grounded in the humanities that challenges our students to integrate their faith journey into their worldview, and to use their education to help create a more just and equitable world. The humanities provide insights to the soul and encourage students to reflect on fundamental questions of ethics and faith in their personal and professional development.
Rather than situating the humanities only as required courses that students have to “get out of the way” during their general education curriculum, we have centralized them into the first goal of our Strategic Plan, ensuring its foundation for transformation: “Ensure that the Scranton student experience is transformational, integrated and grounded in the humanities as a pathway to understanding the human experience in its many dimensions.”
We put this ambitious strategic goal into practice in a number of ways:
Through the establishment of the Gail and Francis Slattery Center for the Ignatian Humanities. The Center (dedicated in May 2019) created a Humanities Scholars program for students, which provides scholarship support to a select group of humanities majors, who then participate in a series of special seminars and classes.
Through the work of faculty establishing a Humanities Forum to sponsor lectures from prominent speakers and related events, including Artist-in-Residence and Scholar-in-Residence programs.
Through continued guidance within a vocational discernment process. Scranton recently received a Network for Vocation in Undergraduate Education (NetVUE) program development grant to extend to all four-years of study an already successful First-Year Seminar program. The program encourages student reflection on vocation through a three-credit course taught by full-time faculty members. It is intended, in part, to introduce students to our Jesuit and Catholic mission and to grow student capabilities in critical and discerning thought.
Through the Ellacuría Initiative, founded in response to an address by former Jesuit Superior General, Rev. Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, at Santa Clara University in 2000, in which he advocated for “the service of faith and promotion of justice.” The Initiative was named after Rev. Ignacio Ellacuría, S.J. (martyred at the University of Central America in El Salvador in 1989) in an effort to continue his proyección social. The Ellacuría Initiative encourages reflection on the meaning of justice, raises students’ awareness of injustice in our society and throughout the world, and introduces students to various methods of analysis, so that they may be able to respond to create a more just society.
Employers Respond to the Value We Provide
Scranton graduates have recorded successful outcomes throughout their fields of study. Based on Scranton’s six-month survey of graduates, 99% of the members of our Class of 2019, at both the undergraduate and graduate level, reported being successful in their choice of career path of either employment or pursuing additional education within six months of graduation.
Professional and graduate schools also value the abilities of our graduates. Of Scranton’s 1,207 applicants to doctoral health professions schools over the past 21 years, an average of 80% were accepted to schools of medicine, dentistry, veterinary medicine, pharmacy, podiatry and optometry. Over the last six years, 93% of our graduating seniors have gained acceptance to one or more law schools.
Employers have confirmed time and again that the skills honed by our students are the skills they value. Alumni tell us how the education that they received, grounded in Ignatian humanities, has not only helped their careers, but also provided more fulfillment to their personal lives.
Recognized Excellence in Fields of Study
The core competencies developed in communication, critical thinking and ethics are further developed in programming and curriculum offered through disciplines taught at Jesuit schools.
For example, the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) has recognized Scranton’s Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) program for “Innovations and Best Practices in Canada, Latin America and the United States.” Scranton was recognized for providing a non-traditional research DBA in accounting that “promotes diversity and practice relevance by providing a flexible path for experienced practitioners to gain the knowledge and credentials required to succeed in tenure-track positions at AACSB-accredited institutions.”
Scranton’s Department of Nursing was among two programs in the country presented with a 2020 Assessment and Impact Award for Nursing Education. The award recognizes colleges that have successfully used data to analyze and make changes to better their undergraduate nursing programs.
Scranton’s undergraduate students studying in science disciplines often participate in research projects with faculty mentors, which include the presentation and even publication of research studies. In 2018-19, for instance, 41 of Scranton’s psychology and neuroscience undergraduates presented at research conferences.
A Hallowed Tradition of Education
Those of us who teach and serve at Jesuit colleges and universities feel it to be a profound honor to be a part of such a hallowed tradition of education. Despite the challenges of this past year, I am most proud of the fact that Jesuit schools not only survived the pandemic, but continued to thrive and innovate with relevant strategies for a 21st century education that matters and that takes on important crises.
As white America continues to wake up to the historical legacy of systematic racial exclusion and violence, Scranton and our sister AJCU institutions continue to build new frameworks that seek anti-racist strategies to create campuses that are more welcoming and equitable. Our commitment to the Magis is the foundation for us to strive always toward excellence, even when we encounter worldly barriers and challenges. And throughout every discipline and career, graduates of The University of Scranton and other Jesuit colleges and universities, are valued greatly for the skills gained through their uniquely Jesuit education and experience, even if “Jesuit” is never mentioned.