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Connecting Faculty to the University’s Mission

Rebecca McDermott
Graduate Assistant, College of Liberal Arts

IC Chapel

Mount faculty members call it the “CIT Seminar” or just “CIT.” The letters refer to “Catholic intellectual tradition,” which Professor of Philosophy Joshua Hochschild, Ph.D., describes as the “enculturation of God’s wisdom in history.” In 2009, Hochschild established the annual seminar, which helps staff, administrators and faculty members enhance their knowledge of the long history and immense learning associated with Catholic thought.

“The Catholic intellectual tradition,” Hochschild, explained, “helps us fulfill our academic mission to share with students an integrated understanding of reality.” While the seminar has evolved over the years, the goal remains the same: to allow those who serve the Mount to connect more deeply with the university’s mission.

mike-miller-in-text-cit.jpgThe seminar, which meets weekly through the fall and spring semesters, was initially geared toward junior faculty members whose academic preparation may have included different levels of exposure to the broad tradition explored by Catholic teachers and scholars.  At the heart of the seminar was the goal of preparing and informing beginning faculty members so that they can effectively synthesize learning across the university's curriculum in ways that foster students’ growth and enrich their understanding of the holistic purpose of a Mount education. Associate Professor of Philosophy, Mike Miller, Ph.D., current director of the seminar, explained, “The program was started to educate junior faculty so they can understand our mission. If you understand our mission, then you can fulfill the mission better.”

Throughout the seminar, newer faculty members discover how they can better integrate learning specific to their disciplines into the Mount’s core curriculum.  As word about the program’s stimulating discussions spread, more seasoned faculty members expressed a desire to participate and began to join the group.  Associate Professor of English Jack Dudley, Ph.D., who led the seminar prior to Miller, decided to invite staff members and administrators as well.  Miller continued this approach, observing, “The seminar is a chance for people who are committed to the Mount to come together, read interesting texts, and learn from each other.”

Students in the seminar read material such as Pope John Paul II’s apostolic constitution Ex corde Ecclesiae, Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si’, Graham Green’s novel The Power and the Glory, and Flannery O’Connor’s short story “A Good Man Is Hard to Find.” They also watch films such as Roland Joffé’s The Mission and Gabriel Axel’s Babette's Feast. “In the seminar we study the broader Catholic tradition of higher education to help us better understand the Mount’s unique contribution,” Miller explained. Each week, participants discuss themes in the readings or films and relate them to the Catholic tradition.  Many of the seminar’s texts are works read and studied by Mount students in their core classes, allowing faculty members from across campus to explore issues Mount students will discuss in their undergraduate program.

dudley_jack_class3-in-text.jpgThose who have led the seminar highlight different aspects of the Catholic tradition and how it relates to the Mount’s mission.  For example, Dudley used literary and aesthetic culture to help Mount faculty and staff think about different traditions within Catholicism, encouraging participants to discover ways each person can contribute to the Mount’s mission. “I really wanted to think about it as a reciprocal exchange,” he said. “What can these individual faculty members bring to our idea of being Catholic and what does our idea of being Catholic enable these faculty to do better?”

The impact that CIT has on those who take the course is clear. Associate Provost David McCarthy, Ph.D., benefited from participating in the seminar last year.  He reflected, “CIT is the Mount’s mission in action. The seminar focuses on leadership, particularly in terms of how we are called to serve God and others, and it undoubtedly draws on our passion for learning.” McCarthy was enthralled by the readings, themes, and issues that he and his colleagues discussed each week. “Shaped by common life,” McCarthy offered, “Catholics have had a distinct way of encountering God’s creation.”

Education Department Lecturer Kara Brady found great joy in interacting with Mount colleagues during the seminar. “It gave me the opportunity to meet so many people who are dedicated to the Mount,” she said. “I was able to interact with those who I may not have met had it not been for CIT.” Brady believes her experience was beneficial to her role as an educator, particularly because she is preparing the next generation of teachers.  As a student in the course, she was most impacted by viewing the film The Mission. “At the end of that film, you can see that even the darkest situation can end with hope, which is a message I have tried to teach my students,” she shared.

When Miller spoke about CIT and the Mount’s mission, he reflected that not everyone who attends the Mount is Catholic. “What we hope to teach through our mission is the idea that a Catholic and liberal arts education has inherent value, and that the Catholic perspective on life is worth following,” he said. As Mount faculty members prepare students for the world, they are tasked with giving them the tools to apply sound moral reasoning to any situation.  For over a decade, the CIT seminar has prepared the university community to implement wholeheartedly this central component of the Mount’s purpose.

Rebecca McDermott
Graduate Assistant, College of Liberal Arts