Loyola University Chicago

Office of the Provost

Update on Transdisciplinary Work at Loyola: SSW and IPS

January 8, 2021

Dear Loyolans,

We would like to update our community on an initiative exemplifying ongoing conversations about transdisciplinary Loyola University Chicago units devoted to complex and urgent social problems. These conversations are part of the efforts across the University to strengthen our mission. They will help deepen our service to others, translate knowledge to action for social justice, and inspire hope and health in the world.

The Institute of Pastoral Studies (IPS) opened at Loyola in 1964 as the first in the United States offering graduate-level ministerial formation for lay Catholics. The spirits of innovation, embrace of progress, and expansive interdisciplinary perspective fueled the founding of IPS. It has evolved significantly since 1964 and is now approaching an inflection point in its history.

Over this spring semester, IPS will engage in a dialogue and discernment process with the School of Social Work (SSW). This process will lead to the formation of a new academic unit. This unit will be a single college dedicated to human excellence and social transformation under the leadership of Dean Goutham Menon of SSW but with strong synergy with IPS. As dedicated professional academic units with an established relationship (including two dual-degrees), this effort will strengthen ties to serve the greater good of our communities. The effort will also catalyze innovation in each field.

Leaders at SSW and IPS have identified promising possibilities that require careful study and communal discernment. A goal for these academic units is to establish a new administrative and governance structure. This will strengthen existing programs, better enable the development of new programs, and maintain the institutional and curricular integrity required of our specialized accreditations. The new structure should reflect the commitment of Loyola to the unique formation provided by SSW and IPS.

The final structure of the new college is not predetermined. We believe that it has the potential to be an innovative and constructive academic unit that holds at its heart the Ignatian charism to form graduates who attend in their professions to the whole person. Such a structure would also reflect our desire to deepen interdisciplinary collaborations. This structure offers rich possibilities to explore and strengthen the intersections of social and spiritual care to enhance human well-being.

A bit of history provides a sense of the confluences and potential synergies between SSW and IPS. Founded within the School of Education, the initial focus of IPS was religious education. IPS evolved as the needs of the local Church evolved, especially as the role of professional lay ministers expanded. New degree and certificate programs were added, and the MA in Pastoral Studies pushed the mission beyond education. In 1979, IPS moved from the School of Education to the Graduate School. IPS then launched the Master of Divinity and MA in Pastoral Counseling degrees in the 1980s and, in the 2000s, the MA in Christian Spirituality and MA in Social Justice. In 2007, IPS became an autonomous academic unit at Loyola. Today, it is nurturing new partnerships and expanding Spanish-language offerings, including a Spanish iteration of the foundational MAPS degree in Summer 2021.

SSW was established in 1914 and was also among the first of its kind in the United States. The Master of Social Work (MSW) degree program has been continuously accredited since 1921. In turn, the Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) degree program has been continuously accredited since 1976. Finally, the PhD in Social Work program, established in 1986, extends the tradition of educating students skilled in research, practice, and teaching. This PhD training comes with the Jesuit ideals of service to others and commitment to social justice as its foundation. In 2018, SSW launched the online bi-lingual (Spanish) MSW program to prepare culturally relevant and linguistically competent social workers for our communities. In 2021, SSW will launch an online MA in Public Service Leadership degree.

This study and discernment process between these academic units is reflective of the deep commitment of IPS and SSW to read the signs of the times and take bold steps. Both units work to provide transformative education for practice-informed professionals. Each unit, through its own unique approaches, is committed to innovative solutions. They meet the needs of communities and mitigate complex, vexing problems faced by individuals, families, and society. Serving the students of the future in such professional fields of social work, counseling, ministry, social justice, and spirituality requires that we be proactive in our formation as a college. This is the spirit with which we enter into this process in 2021.


Together in Loyola,

Norberto Grzywacz, PhD
Provost and Chief Academic Officer

Peter Jones, PhD
Interim Dean, Institute of Pastoral Studies

Goutham Menon, PhD
Dean, School of Social Work