Ignatian Executive Leadership Academy

Serving in a senior leadership position at a college or university has become increasingly difficult as institutions face enrollment, affordability, and budgetary challenges, public skepticism about the value of higher education and internal conflicts over a wide range of issues. To be an effective leader in this context requires administrative savvy, personal skills, and an ability to build consensus among diverse communities. At a Jesuit institution it also requires spiritual maturity and a nuanced understanding of the mission of Jesuit education and the charism of the Society of Jesus.

The AJCU Ignatian Executive Leadership Academy (IELA) is a six-month program designed to develop the practical skills and habits of mind and heart that will support and sustain the next generation of executive leaders in Jesuit higher education. The program is designed for individuals who are currently serving in supervisory positions (at a level comparable to a dean or higher) in a university or college, most likely but not exclusively at Jesuit institutions, and who are discerning whether they would like to pursue executive level leadership roles in Jesuit higher education. In addition to preparing participants for executive leadership positions, the program seeks to help participants to discern their individual desires and career paths as leaders.

The goals of the program include:

  • Self-Awareness and Personal Development. To assist participants in discerning their leadership strengths and challenges, developing their executive skills, and expanding their spiritual depth and growth.
  • Enhancing Mission. To provide an opportunity for participants to deepen their understanding of the Jesuit, Catholic mission in higher education, to reflect on their strengths as leaders in the context of their institution’s mission, and to develop concrete, effective strategies for leadership that advance the overall mission of Jesuit higher education.
  • Expanding the Awareness and Skills of Tomorrow’s Leaders. To engage with current leaders on the challenges facing today’s Jesuit colleges and universities, along with the skills needed to manage the complexities of a contemporary university.
  • Building the Strength of the AJCU Network. To create cohorts of individuals who can serve as effective leaders of AJCU institutions and support each other as one Ignatian higher education community.

Program Structure
The program will consist of three in-person sessions, always beginning at 4:00PM on a Sunday and concluding at 12:00PM on a Wednesday. The sessions will be held at the Loyola University Retreat and Ecology Campus (LUREC) outside of Chicago. Each session will include opportunities for participants to learn from current leaders, to engage with one another through case studies, and to reflect on their own leadership experiences and challenges.

Programmatic Themes (to be developed in all sessions):

  • Ignatian Discernment. Employing the principles of Ignatian discernment for individual and collective decision making;
  • Prioritizing Mission in Management. Ensuring that the mission of a Jesuit institution is the touchstone for institutional policies, practices, and strategic direction;
  • Jesuit Charism. Highlighting concepts such as Magis, Cura Personalis, Cura Apostolica, building right relationships in the university, and assuming the good intentions of those involved in charting its future (cf., Annotation 22 of the Spiritual Exercises).
  • Discerning Leadership Theory and Practice. Exploring theories of institutional change and team management with application to college and university settings.

Session Topics

Session 1: Cultures of the University: Understanding the University
January 12 – 14, 2025
Faculty will address the chief sectors of the University (e.g., academic, business, student life, etc.) with an emphasis on how the culture of each division impacts the way a university functions, how staff perceive their work and contribution, and what constitutes success. In addition to understanding the basic skills needed to assess success and failure, faculty will offer ideas and strategies for successful institutional oversight. Participants will be encouraged to share their understanding of these cultures and strategies for effective leadership.

Session 2: Cura Apostolica and Cura Personalis: Creating a Culture of Individual and Institutional Growth
March 9 – 12, 2025
The aim of this second session is to examine the theoretical underpinnings of leadership, change management and team building using an Ignatian lens. Faculty will discuss theories of leadership and change management and will offer a reflection on how these can help us better appreciate the Ignatian value of care for the individual person, as well as, care for the institution. Difficulties in managing groups and in promoting change will be explored with participants contributing to our shared knowledge.

Session 3: Imagining the Future: Catholic Higher Education Today and Tomorrow
June 5 – 8, 2025

What are the threats and opportunities facing our institutions over the next decade? How might we position our universities to address these challenges and take advantage of new opportunities, while remaining true to our commitments to mission and the purposes of Jesuit education? This session will be an opportunity to hear from, and speak with, thought leaders on where Catholic higher education is going and what must be done now to prepare for the future. Major challenges and opportunities for better serving students will be addressed, as will opportunities for a distinctly Catholic contribution to American higher education, the Church, and the wider society. Participants will share their own ideas for change and for future directions for higher education.

Application Process
Candidates should have a foundational familiarity with the Jesuit charism in higher education, Ignatian spirituality and discernment (most often by completing the Ignatian Colleagues Program or a similar experience.) We particularly invite applications from women, leaders of color, and Jesuits.
Candidates will be asked in the application form to reflect on their understanding of Ignatian spirituality and Jesuit education, their strengths and challenges as leaders, their future leadership goals and what they hope to gain from their participation in the program. Following an initial screening process, candidates will be invited to interview with a member of the program advisory team.

Application Materials

  • A letter of nomination from the President of the candidate’s current institution indicating the institution’s support for their participation in the program
  • A letter of recommendation from a supervisor or colleague who can comment on the candidate’s talents and leadership potential
  • A current Curriculum Vitae or resume
  • A completed application form
  • The deadline for applications for the 2025 cohort is October 1, 2024.