Faculty Convocation 2009
Remarks by Reverend Michael J. Garanzini, S.J.
President, Loyola University Chicago
On the occasion of Faculty Convocation
Sunday, September 13, 2009
Welcome to this academic convocation as we begin the 2009-10 academic year. It is indeed a pleasure to greet all of you and all of our new colleagues, especially those who have joined us here at Loyola for the first time. I want to thank Provost Wiseman and her staff for coordinating this occasion once again. This is a relatively new tradition but one which gives us an opportunity to reflect on what we are about as a university and as educators.
A special and heartfelt welcome and congratulations to our endowed chairs, gratitude to our colleagues who teach here part-time and who have served Loyola and our students for 25 years or more, and a special congratulations to our faculty member of the year, Diane Geraghty of the School of Law. Yours is a much-deserved honor, Professor Geraghty.
I want to briefly share with you a few reflections on our theme this year, "Collaboration in Learning." I especially want to address the importance of that teaching responsibility for our students, and the witness it gives to our commitment as scholars and educators who have a unique vocation, or call, in today's world.
I found an article in the September 6th New York Times Book Review to be quite insightful, and ironically, consoling and affirming of what we are doing here at Loyola. The article was written by Dr. Drew Gilpin Faust, the President of Harvard.
She titles her article "The University's Crisis of Purpose," and in it points to not only the public's disenchantment with higher education but to some of the self-inflicted failures of universities, like her own, to prepare a generation of well-rounded individuals who can think critically and ask hard questions. The crisis is not so much the public's loss of confidence but of clarity of purpose and resolve on the part of institutions that have all but abandoned their interest in the preparation of liberally-educated young men and women. She believes that American universities have given in to pressure to choose between the almost irreconcilable demands-the demand to be practical (like providing knowledge and training for students to get jobs and build careers) and the need to attend to the transcendent- by which she means the pursuit of knowledge for its own sake. The choice has been to provide students with a trade as opposed to an education.
We are all aware that, over the last 15 years, criticism of the modern university and the professorate have continued to mount. The declining ability of graduates to think critically, their waning belief in the values of western civilization, increased specialization in the professorate and a concomitant lack of broader and more liberal thinking and research, the sad and sometimes illiberal battles over political correctness and gender politics, the trend among faculty to profess allegiance to the discipline over the institution in which they work - - these are some of the complaints leveled against us.
President Faust's concern is that, despite its many riches and advantages, a college degree may do little to expand an individual's perspective, challenge or deepen his or her values, and assist the individual in becoming more quizzical and more discerning. And, the deepening impact of the economic crisis these past two years threatens to re-enforce the notion that a degree serves, for the most part, an "instrumental purpose."
Her message? We should ask ourselves what we have become. She writes: "Universities are meant to be producers not just of knowledge but also of (often inconvenient) doubt. They are creative and unruly places, homes to a polyphony of voices. But at this moment in our history, universities might well ask if they have in fact done enough to raise the deep and unsettling questions necessary to any society."
The Harvards of this world may indeed be facing a crisis of purpose, and how that crisis will be addressed is certainly of concern to all of us interested in preserving the good image and the public's faith in our institutions of higher learning. To drift further away from our commitment to a liberal, coherent and formative educational program for undergraduates, or to appear to be indifferent to valid criticisms of the academy, will not advance the interests of our institutions.
How do we at Loyola stack up to her criticism and worry? Are we in the midst of a "crisis of purpose"? I would humbly suggest that we have squarely addressed that question here at Loyola, even if we have not fully implemented our strategies and solutions. We need not wait for other institutions to address their "crisis of purpose" and might recognize that they may not have solutions to the challenge of how best to provide a truly liberal and a truly challenging educational program for the average college student.
At Loyola, we remain committed to a particular kind of educational program. As an institution, a community of scholars, albeit one embedded in a particular tradition, we look to that tradition for guidance, pressing it for its wisdom and continued relevance. Unlike other private or public secular institutions, we can ask what the Judeo-Christian tradition out of we have emerged has to say to today's world with its deficiencies and failures, its glories and accomplishments, and its challenges. We are able to explore in a coherent, coordinated, and tolerant fashion those places where values fundamental to the common good might be applied to social and personal challenges. In short, we are a university that can claim a "center," a ground from which we can collectively explore the margins and the frontiers, and as scholars and as an institution, we can speak to a crisis of values or meaning in our world.
Despite their near unfettered and unequaled access to talent and funds for research and support for intellectual pursuit, most institutions will not likely be able to address this issue.
To be fair, a higher education has real material, instrumental value for young people and for society at large, and the modern secular university has done a tremendous job to advance the upward mobility of new and struggling groups of citizens. These universities have been impressive homes for innovation and discovery. Loyola, too, has played a significant role in giving immigrant and lower and moderate income families a chance to participate and take advantage of the American dream and has produced its share of new knowledge. A much-bandied statistic says that a college diploma gives one 74% greater earnings over a lifetime than people who possess a high school diploma. Certainly the American research university has been the envy of many throughout the world.
Nevertheless, President Faust's essay raises a worrisome question: Has the modern research university forgotten its essential nature, lost its soul, sold itself to the highest bidder?
I think it important for us here— in this hall— to ask ourselves: What role can a university like ours - a Catholic and Jesuit one - - play in the broader landscape of higher education? Is there a role for a faith-based institution like ours to reclaim a dying or weakened educational compact? For example, given the economic messes we're experiencing, no doubt brought on by excesses of risk-taking and sheer greed, shouldn't a university like ours be even more forthright in challenging the assumptions upon which the present economic and social order exist? Given society's pervasive inequality and entrenched poverty, shouldn't we be pressing our students even more than we do to question the way goods are distributed, from jobs to health care to education and so on?
Shouldn't we, as an institution, explicitly state in our teaching and in our curriculum that loyalty does not trump honesty in business and in management, and that all men and women have a right to adequate health care and education? Are we working hard enough to insure that our curricula are designed to show the relevance of faith traditions to the choices men and women make and the role reason plays in faith development and vice versa, the role of faith in coming to rational choice? Can we be that place of restored purpose Dr. Faust says hardly exists today in the modern research university, where true liberal learning, disinterested scholarship and a laboratory of conscientious citizenship exists? I think we already do these things. And, in that sense, the crisis of purpose need not be our crisis. Can we be better? Of course we can.
The framework for the discussion exists here at Loyola. Our own tradition has a well-worked perspective and a value system that is based on a respect for the sanctity of human life and life's ultimate purpose. Thus, those of us who seek new knowledge do so-not for instrumental purposes, nor for disinterested purposes, that is, for its own sake alone, but for a higher and richer purpose-that is, for building up God's world in order that it might be a more just and more fruitful place for all God's children. That is the purpose of Loyola University and our commitment to educate- to form the whole person follows from that core purpose.
We have a philosophy of education which we can trace and which we can state anew, which we can debate and expand or revise. A group of our own faculty attempted last spring to state that philosophy once again. Their articulation, under the leadership of Fr. Dan Hartnett and others, more than forty in all, has resulted in the document "Transformative Education in the Jesuit Tradition." The document traces this philosophy to its historical roots, and more precisely to its roots in Jesuit education, and its refinement over the last 450 years. It begins with a reflection on what hungers and needs the young person today brings to the academy: a hunger for a moral compass, for example, for an adult spirituality, for civic participation, and so forth. We recognize that young people come with many motives, and some of the most important are not yet articulated by them.
The document explores the themes that have characterized our educational program for centuries and stresses such things as self-appropriation by which we mean the exploration of one's talents and one's limits, one's purpose in life and one's duty to participate in the creation of the social order and social justice. And, it speaks of a pedagogy that is uniquely and appropriately designed, as our Provost often says, to engage the world, reflect on the world and occasionally challenge the world.
This university, and those like us, cannot look to other institutions, no matter how much they are esteemed by the world, for its moorings, or for an example of sound pedagogy. In this sense we have an opportunity to provide something that the city, nation and world hope for in its most educated citizens. We can help shape men and women who know themselves and their great desires, how those desires are impacted, shaped by, but also how they may shape the world and its great wants and deficiencies. We can help young men and women who are grounded in a faith tradition to recognize the strength that this provides them in their personal lives and in their professional and social endeavors.
This academic year, I am asking our Provost and our deans to ask you to discuss the "Transformative Education" document, in order to explore if you can find yourself in it, if it speaks to the way you think about the needs of your students, and how you have articulated in your own ways how you are helping students to become the extraordinary individuals they were created to be.
And, I will be asking that we think more clearly and plan more carefully how we spend our time in the classroom and how we assign to ourselves and our colleagues those courses and teaching responsibilities which have highest value and impact on the lives of our newest students.
Our students come here to Loyola— and they stay here— largely because they encounter you, their professors, inside and outside the classroom. Their satisfaction with their university experience is not increased by less demands, but by more demands and higher standards. What we need then is a renewed commitment to teaching and mentoring based on a clearly articulated philosophy of education, one grounded in a humanistic philosophy of the human person. At Loyola, we need not look far for our starting points. We need only to look to our tradition and our history here at Loyola.
In closing, my wish for you is a successful academic year, and more importantly, peace and a strong sense of purpose and fulfillment in your teaching and mentoring. Recently, I came across that wonderful opening dialogue in Robert Bolt's play, "A Man for All Seasons." You will recall the dialogue between Richard Rich and Tomas More where Sir Thomas is hoping to warn Richard of the dangers of the streak of ambition he detects in the young scholar. He has just explained the dangers of office and points to a silver cup he (Thomas) has been sent-an obvious bribe from someone whose case is about to come before Thomas's court. Thomas More gives Richard the cup. "Sell it for some new clothes," he tells him, and forget about higher office. "Be a teacher... You'd be a very good teacher, I suspect," Thomas tells him. "And, if I was (a good teacher), who would know it? responds Richard. To which More replies: You, your pupils, your friends, God. Not a bad audience that...oh, and a quiet life."
Regardless of whether or not your dean and chair give you the opportunity for a quiet life this year, I wish you the personal satisfaction and the admiration of your students, your colleagues, and your God...not a bad group of admirers that.
Christine Wiseman, J.D.
Faculty Convocation - September 13, 2009
Notable Librarian John Cotton Dana, who pioneered a patron's right to browse the stacks, organized the first children's library, and worked to make libraries vibrant community centers, is probably better known for his quote: "who dares to teach must never cease to learn."
These days, however, learning has assumed a different dynamic than the traditional faculty lectures that dominated the classrooms of John Dana's era - where instructors were the conduits of information transfer and the sole source of student information. If you attended the Sixth Biannual Focus on Teaching Workshop at Loyola this past August, you heard Anthropologist Dr. Robert Rotenberg — author of, "The Art and Craft of College Teaching. . . ,"1 — suggest to all of us that learning today is really about collaborative education - the kind of education that views the classroom as laboratory, where students work with students to achieve a common goal and the instructor becomes a facilitator of inquiry; where seminars gather students with other students in sustained conversation. Because when students are given the opportunity to act like professionals, to use the tools and communication appropriate to professionals, they learn the skills they will need to serve competently as professionals in a world many of us will only imagine.
But just as collaboration is the paradigm which marks the learning process for our students, so it is with all of us for whom teaching is both vocation and profession. We collaborate:
with each other and with our students
across our three campuses and across our community
within our classrooms and within our research labs
across the different cultures of our students and across the different cultures of our disciplines.
Last year and this we have spent hours at department and unit meetings and at school and college meetings - plumbing the data on teaching loads, and parsing the number of Core, undergraduate and graduate sections taught by tenure-stream, contract, and part-time faculty. All in an effort to manage the variables of student success and student retention.
But as we plumb that data to learn the promise of our future, we must not lose sight of the strength of our past: who we are as faculty - and the reasons we gather in all our diversity each year to teach another generation of students. And so this summer, a number of us came together - from the Provost's Office, the Center for Faculty Professional Development, the Office of Learning Technologies and Assessment, and the School of Education - to develop a year-long program of celebration and collaboration that will bind us together as an academic community of teacher/learners who share their successes and their expertise with each other — so that we can meet our aspirations to deliver the premier undergraduate educational experience in Chicago - and an innovative and high-quality professional and graduate education as well.
The result of these gatherings is Collaboration in Learning: a celebration and enhancement of Loyola's way of teaching - facilitating improvement while honoring and celebrating the excellence that is our past.
Through a series of conversations and resourcing events, this year-long program seeks to encourage dialogue about the impact of pedagogy on content; to focus on new and concrete resources that might energize our work; and to inspire each of us anew with the stories of excellence that already permeate our ranks. It's a plan to build on what we have and who we are - as resources to each other. From best practices in building new courses, to best use of classroom time and assignments, to gathering formative and summative feedback. It is designed to serve all populations of faculty and to include all populations as presenters: the part-time, the full-time, the tenure-track, the tenured, and the emeriti — who still teach, mentor faculty, and serve on our advisory boards.
Materials also are planned for particular use in departments and professional schools. And already, faculty have begun to share "teaching tips" that are collected on a resource website and spotlighted in Inside Loyola Weekly. In fact, if you read Friday's issue of Inside Loyola, you found Tip #3 on STUDENT FEEDBACK AND ASSESSMENT, suggesting that it is better to solicit regular feedback from students on how a course is going than wait until the end of the semester.
One faculty member in particular suggested sending students emails periodically to ask how they think things are going, and to let them know what's been planned for the upcoming class.
Another distributes a weekly "Critical Incident Inventory" in which students are asked to identify their most engaged moment; their most distanced moment; the most affirming or helpful action; the most puzzling action; and the most surprising action. Student responses are read over the weekend and a faculty response is posted on Monday. Most effective.
Our programming will culminate with the annual Academic Forum on April 30, which will ask panelists to demonstrate how classroom teaching can generate scholarship and how ongoing scholarship can enhance classroom teaching.
At the apex of all these efforts, under the direction of Peter Gilmour and Tim O'Connell, we have produced a host of short narratives from faculty across our University describing transformational moments that changed the way they thought about their lives as teachers - the calling to which they've devoted their lives. Our hope is that we learn from each other's transformational moments how to re-surface the passion that makes us the Loyola narrative that our students remember. To quote one international award winner for teaching excellence: "Good teaching is as much about passion as it is about reason. It's about not only motivating students to learn, but teaching them how to learn, and doing so in a manner that is relevant, meaningful, and memorable. It's about caring for your craft, having a passion for it, and conveying that passion to everyone, most importantly to your students."2 You, the faculty, are paramount in the lives of our students. To paraphrase Fr. Howard Grey, Special Assistant to the President at Georgetown University who spoke here at Loyola last May, your presence to them in University is critical because it is here in University that you form their memories of who they want to be.
As I close this address, I'd like us to take a few moments to hear some of those transformational narratives (video plays):
(Note: Video is available at https://webapps.luc.edu/ignation/video_detail.cfm?id=1846043830).3
To these I hope you will indulge me the addition of one more transformational moment:
The first woman lawyer in the State of Wisconsin to represent a death row inmate, she is also a Marquette University law professor who accepts an appointment in Texas and takes two bright directed research students on a seven-year odyssey through the hazards of death row representation, convinced that a man who stood 5 feet, 11 inches in height with coal black hair and piercing black eyes could not be executed for the murder of a cafeteria worker committed five years earlier by an assailant who stood over 6 feet in height with medium-length reddish-blond hair and a two-inch red goatee. She braves initial disdain from an unsympathetic administration and returns to her class of 150 Criminal Procedure students the morning after the execution to talk about the personal and professional failure of her best legal efforts.
She explains that as she stood in the black rainy mist across from the Walls Unit in Huntsville, Texas, joined still by one of those law students turned Quarles & Brady lawyer, she wondered what purpose had been served by the execution of this fifty-one year old man. And when there was nothing more they could do as lawyers, they stayed on to do what they could as human beings, lending a quiet dignity to the end of a life and joining a family in their grief.
But she also explains that on that dark rainy morning of February 16, 1995, there was no God standing there holding her hand or sense of justice calming her soul. She was alone with her failure — as she had never been alone before. But she shares those personal, private moments of failure with her students, hoping that they will take away from her "raw presence" at that moment the essence of what it means to be a Jesuit-educated lawyer.
Transformational moments that become their memories of who they want to be.
Thank you for all that you do to make transformational learning a reality for our students.
1 Full title of the work is, THE ART AND CRAFT OF COLLEGE TEACHING: A GUIDE FOR NEW PROFESSORS AND GRADUATE STUDENTS.
2 Dr. Richard LeBlanc, a Professor of Corporate Governance and Ethics at York University in Ontario - and a graduate of the University of Detroit Mercy -- wrote on article on the top ten requirements for good teaching after he won a Seymous Schulich Award for Teaching Excellence in their School of Business.
3 All of the individual videos, each about four minutes in length, will continue to be posted, one a week, and announced in Inside Loyola Weekly. And the videos are being archived and available at: http://ignation.luc.edu/storiesoftransformation/.
LOYOLA FACULTY MEMBER OF THE YEAR
Diane Geraghty, J.D.
Faculty Convocation - September 13, 2009
On the occasion of my favorite law professor's retirement he told the following story.
Upon his death he was delighted to find himself transported back into his favorite classroom filled to the brim with students. In his pleasure, he exclaimed aloud - "I must be in heaven and you are my eternal reward!" To which a student in the back row replied - "No, Professor, you misunderstand. This is not heaven and we are not your reward. This is hell and you are our eternal punishment."
Well, none of us knows for certain what eternity holds for us, but as for now, I can think of no greater reward for a teacher than to be named Loyola's Faculty Member of the Year. Of all the awards I have received none, none, means more to me than this because it goes to the very core of what I have aspired to in my professional life and because, as President Garanzini observed, it is a precious gift from my colleagues.
This award has given me an opportunity to reflect on how fortunate we are to be faculty members in this University. We have been given a sacred trust, in the word's of Loyola's new strategic plan, "to prepare young men and women with those habits of mind and heart that will enable them to meet the great challenges of their day and assist them in their quest for truth, for faith, and in their struggle to create a more just society for and with their fellow citizens."
One of the great pleasures of teaching at Loyola over the last three decades has been the opportunity to work in concert with faculty not only in the law school but throughout the university in our collective pursuit of a more just society for children and families, the essential building block of all societies and a value espoused by all faiths. The discipline of children's law in particular is inherently interdisciplinary. One cannot truly prepare students to serve the interests of children and families without exposing them to the research, literature, and insights of other disciplines, not just psychology and social work and education, but other fields, such as medicine and economics and the sciences. In carrying out this work, my colleagues and I have been witness to and received sustenance from the Catholic intellectual tradition upon which Loyola stands and seeks to build. We are all privileged to be part of an institution that characterizes it mission as "transformative education."
Let me close by commenting on the values we share as faculty members not just at Loyola but everywhere in the world. The word "university," roughly translated (and with apologies to Latin scholars in the audience), refers to a "community of teachers and scholars." The universality of this concept was recently brought home to me as I walked through the library of a university in Ethiopia near the Somali border. There I saw a blind law student, wearing a headscarf, and hunched over the one law school text in the library in Braille, so different in time and space from out experience at Loyola, and yet so clearly a member of that same community of teachers and scholars engaged in the same search for knowledge and truth that we see as we walk through Loyola's Information Commons in this beautiful setting on this beautiful day.
Ours is a sacred trust, indeed.
Thank you again for this award and the honor it represents.