Loyola University Chicago

Transformative Education

What Are the Marks of a True Education?

An Education that Empowers and Transforms

As ENGLISH WRITER G.K. Chesterton once said, "Every education teaches a philosophy of life, if not explicitly, then by suggestion, by implication, by atmosphere. If the different parts of that education do not cohere or connect with each other; if the educational process as a whole does not combine to convey a coherent view of life; if, in the end, it does not empower and transform, then, it is not education at all." A transformative education is one in which the student is incrementally invited to engage life, to reflect upon it and, then, to be of service to our world.


Expanding Horizons and Deepening Knowledge: The University is the steward of a long and deep tradition of learning and knowledge. It has a responsibility to this living tradition of which it is a part and whose continuing significance it fosters in ever-new ways. Students who come to Loyola can expect to be enriched and broadened by that tradition and, at the same time, be challenged by it to lead extraordinary lives that are relevant in new and different circumstances.

Self-Appropriation: Beginning with an appreciation of one's gifts and the progressive discerning of how best to use them in practical ways and diverse settings are both the starting place and the trajectory of an educational process that we call self-appropriation. When students arrive at the University, they often have not yet fully identified their gifts and vocation. It often happens that their thoughts, actions, and choices are being dictated by convention or by mimetic group pressure. A transformative pedagogy is one that helps students name their gifts, formulate their convictions, and ultimately take full ownership of their own lives. A transformative education, then, is one that transforms students in order that they might transform the world.

  • Dialogue: Students who come to Loyola can expect to be challenged to a kind of dialogue and diversity that is authentically transformative. At Loyola, diversity does not simply mean that all are welcome and can have a seat at the table. More than that, it means that those who have a seat at the table should be prepared to be changed and transformed by their encounter with each other and by the values that pervade Loyola's educational experience. A transformative pedagogy trains students for dialogue and conversation, providing a way to tackle the root of so many crises that face humanity today. It is also a way of bridging the divides of gender, race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic class.

  • Moral Responsibility: There are clear moral dimensions to the economic, political, social, and environmental crises our world is currently facing. Many professionals—lawyers, bankers, accountants, politicians, academics, and the entire chain of intermediaries, including Church leaders—have failed to detect or deter the wrongdoing of our institutions; instead of exercising their moral duty, many chose the path of silence, convenience, and complicity. It is more important than ever that our students receive a strong foundation in moral discernment in order that they can act responsibly in all their relationships and pursue the common good.

  • Care for the Planet: One of the main goals of a transformative education is learning to live in right relationship: right relationship with oneself, right relationship with others, right relationship with God, and right relationship with our environment. Each of these fundamental relationships requires sensitivity, understanding, and care. Since the ecological problems we are facing are related to the problem of consumerism, which devours the resources of the earth in an excessive and disordered manner, our aim must not only be theoretical clarity but also a more responsible lifestyle. The University has a decisive role to play in fostering new attitudes and new practices of good stewardship and peacemaking within the context of a global paradigm.

  • Faith and Justice: The overriding purpose of the Society of Jesus, namely "the service of faith," or its communication and deepening, must also include the promotion of justice, a goal shared with many religious traditions. So central to the mission of the Society was this union of faith and justice that it has become the integrating factor of all that Jesuits and their institutions undertake. But it is not enough simply to juxtapose these two terms; it is essential to hold the two together. Because, in the end, injustice is rooted in a spiritual problem and its solution requires a change of heart. More than ever, we face a world that has an even greater need for the faith that does justice.