Creighton University is capping off the Ignatian Year by undergoing a university-wide self-study of its efforts to develop leaders in the tradition inspired by St. Ignatius Loyola.

At its root, Ignatian-inspired leadership development provides a structure and context for people to learn more about themselves and those they serve. Fostering Ignatian-inspired leadership is at the core of Creighton’s mission in myriad ways, particularly in the development of students – both inside and outside of the classroom.

“Ignatian leadership does not begin from anything other than our relationship to God,” says Tom Kelly, Ph.D., professor of theology in the College of Arts and Sciences. “It is not based on outcomes or money gained. One can be immensely successful according to the dictates of the ‘world,’ but if we lack love, what does it benefit us? This is our driving question in Ignatian leadership.”

Creighton recently completed the successful pilot application process for a new elective classification in Leadership for Public Purpose through the Carnegie Foundation. Now, the University is embarking upon the rigorous self-study as the next step in the classification process. Creighton was among just thirteen universities invited to participate in the pilot application process.

The new Carnegie elective classification will recognize colleges and universities for leadership for “public purpose,” meaning how well they prepare educated, engaged graduates who contribute to the public good in their careers, communities and broader society.

Jennifer Moss Breen, Ph.D., associate professor in the Interdisciplinary Leadership doctoral program, is leading Creighton’s self-assessment in the year-long application process.

“Students who choose to attend a Jesuit institution may be familiar with the Jesuit mission, but it is just as likely that the Ignatian tradition or Ignatian leadership style are completely unfamiliar to them,” she says. “Some students may be surprised with discussions that, on the surface, seem to not contribute toward advancing in their chosen field. They might even present a sort of ‘push back’ when discussions of faith, St. Ignatius or spirituality are meshed with concrete knowledge and the application of field-based topics.”

But when lessons are created and delivered in a manner akin to that of St. Ignatius, which asks faculty to adapt to the needs of students, she says that students see Jesuit education in “a new light.” Students have many opportunities to engage with, and be curious about, leading in a manner like St. Ignatius. “It only requires one short step toward this curiosity and, suddenly, the desire to grow in Ignatian spirituality and Ignatian leadership is fostered,” says Moss Breen.

A primary component in Creighton’s Ignatian-inspired programs – including those in the undergraduate, graduate and professional schools, student advising, and programs through the divisions of Mission and Ministry and Student Life – is reflection, just as it was for St. Ignatius and his followers.

Photo courtesy of Creighton University  

Before, during and after experiences that promote Ignatian-inspired student leadership development, students are asked to reflect: to look within themselves for the movements of God. Faculty and staff who work with the students also engage in the same type of reflection. For example, Nicole Piemonte, Ph.D., assistant dean of student affairs for the medical school on Creighton’s health sciences campus in Phoenix, and assistant professor of medical humanities, says that written personal reflections are embedded throughout the medical school curriculum.

“I spend time discussing with students the idea that being a future Creighton doctor means being an advocate for the marginalized, underserved and disenfranchised, in addition to being a competent and compassionate clinician,” Piemonte explains.

In the Heider College of Business, the mission statement and entire undergraduate curriculum, called the Heider Mindset, are shaped by Ignatian values. The mission statement reads: “Guided by our Jesuit heritage, we form leaders who promote justice and use their business knowledge to improve the world.”

“We want our graduates to see business as an opportunity to be for and with others, and to seek justice, especially for the poor and marginalized,” says Matt Seevers, Ph.D., professor of marketing and associate dean for undergraduate programs. “We want our students to see leadership in business as an opportunity not just for personal gain, but to be an instrument to positively transform society.”

“Who our students are becoming as people matters just as much as who they are becoming as physicians,” says Piemonte of the medical school. “We are committed to their character formation and virtue development so that our students can continue to grow into people who advocate for and care well for patients when they need it the most.”

She explains that Creighton medical students are being prepared to be leaders who expect more from the health care system: “Leaders who believe that actions should be aligned with values and that patients should always be at the center of every decision.”

One graduate thoroughly steeped in Ignatian leadership principles is Charles Thomas Jr., Ed.D., who holds two degrees from Creighton: a Master’s in Negotiation and Dispute Resolution and a doctorate in Interdisciplinary Leadership. Thomas is CEO and co-founder of Clear Cloud, a cloud engineering company that offers specialized cloud services to intelligence community customers.  He says that he finds Ignatian-based leadership training has served him well, largely because of “three salient components” or Ignatian principles:

Thomas adds, “Leading is not about telling people what to do. It is about creating a vision, being thoughtful, leading by example, and pursuing excellence as a demonstration of human potential.”

By Cindy Murphy McMahon, Associate Director of Communications, Creighton University

All photos courtesy of Creighton University.