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Funded Research Projects

In 2016, five proposals were chosen for their potential to inform the larger Catholic higher education community. The assistance of Dr. Christine Bachen (Santa Clara University), Dr. David Mahan (Manhattan College), and Dr. Louise Murray (College of Saint Elizabeth) in the review process is gratefully acknowledged.


Boston College: “Liberal Arts Education for Post-Traditional Students,” You Guo Jiang, SJ.  Catholic institutions of higher education have given careful attention to the liberal arts education of traditional-age students through core requirements and student life programming. Recently campuses (especially in urban areas) have experienced growth in the number of adult students. The proposed research will consider how liberal arts education is framed for post-traditional students. Issues related to human development theory, academic regulations, and the promotion of liberal (as opposed to largely vocational) education for post-traditional–age students need to be examined. Can rethinking produce better interdisciplinary models that effectively integrate mission and values central to Catholic higher education?

Cabrini College: “Shifting Governance of Catholic Colleges and Universities: Board Structures and the Religious Orders,” Thomas Southard, JD, Director of Wolfington Center.  The changing landscape of the governance of Catholic colleges and universities is not well understood. The project will develop a typology based on a careful reading of bylaws of a number of institutions, with an eye toward a comprehensive survey of board structures in Catholic higher education. Special attention will be given to the two-tier arrangements and the aspects of governance that are reserved for the founding order, as well as tools available to religious as members of a single-tier governance structure.

Loyola University of New Orleans: “Social Justice Learning Outcomes in Honors Programs at Catholic Colleges and Universities: Improving Assessment Accuracy,” Dr. Naomi Yavneh Klos and colleagues.  This research builds on and refines prior research on social justice education within the Catholic college and university context. The researchers note that existing tools are prone to a social desirability bias. An alternate methodology (“outcomes harvesting”) will be used to gain a better understanding of the sources and strengths of student understanding of social justice outcomes as part of an educational program. The research focuses on honors programs and notes that prior ACCU research identified social justice education as a defined part of such programs. The tools created and the results, however, should be applicable to Catholic higher education generally.

Salve Regina University: “Strategic Planning in the Context of Catholic Higher Education and Institutional Charism,” Dr. Nancy Gordon and Dr. Scott Zeman.  This action research project examines how effectively foundational principles are being conveyed to the rising generation of lay leaders through a key institutional process that leads to the formation of strategic plans. The 16 Mercy institutions will be the population studied although the results may be generalized to other institutions. Several questions guide the research: Does strategic planning reflect the mission/values /charism of the Mercy institutions? If so, how? What approaches to strategic planning seem to engage Catholic and charism concerns best? Based on the Mercy institutions, what lessons can be learned that can be helpful to current and future leaders of Mercy and other Catholic institutions? The primary data gathering approach will be structured interviews with key institutional leaders.

St. John’s University (New York): “The Relationship between Student Spirituality and Leadership Practices Through a Spirituality-Based Leadership Development Program,” Angela P. Seegel.  Student affairs professionals have been challenged to enhance leadership development among students. This study examines the contribution made to leadership development by an explicit effort to encourage the development of spirituality as part of leadership development programs. Existing HERI measures are used to measure program impact. A key aspect of the project is understanding how leadership and spirituality development combine to create a stronger orientation of service values related to the community.