Fall 2022 Feature-Collegium
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Taking Collegium Home to Curriculum Design

By Karen Eifler, Ph.D.

After a week of learning, praying, discussing and reveling with colleagues from all over the country, most Collegium participants can identify with Peter, James and John up on the mountaintop with Jesus after the Transfiguration when they want to build three tents and park there after witnessing the glory of the Transfigured One. But Jesus won’t allow them to do so, as there is a lot of transforming that needs to happen down below. Similarly, as Collegium participants prepare to take their leave from one another each June, conversations shift to how to allow Collegium’s illuminations of the Catholic Intellectual Tradition (CIT) to shine on their teaching, research and contributions to professional communities. In the next few ACCU newsletters, I’ll point to specific questions and strategies academics from multiple disciplines have transferred from Collegium to their classrooms.

CIT is not a credal declaration, but a way of leaning into the world; not a set of canonical texts, but an orientation to approaching any text or natural phenomenon: what does this reveal about the Divine?  Summer 2022 brought an unusual number of engineers to Collegium, so Engineering and other STEM fields is a fruitful place to start. Am I saying there’s such a thing as Catholic engineering? Of course not. But answering the question “having unpacked CIT for a week, how then are we to teach?” yielded these portable ideas from a talented array of engineers thinking about infusing elements of CIT into their teaching:

  • A computer scientist and statistician noted that they have control over the data sets they give their students in coding courses, and make that count by being intentional about the kinds of data they have students use to practice  coding and statistical skills: income gaps among professions, gender and SES; numbers of sexual assaults on campuses before and after anti-violence training; disparities in retention and graduation rates among gender, ethnic and language groups are among the examples they offered. In addition to eye-opening realizations about the gaps between institutional aspirations and achievements, they reported increased awareness among their students that every data point is a living, breathing, sometimes suffering human being.
  • Modeling and encouraging generous questions in their design courses that fuse theory and practice with transcendental glimmers of CIT’s deep conviction that we live in a graced, if fallen world: what does it mean to be a creator? How has your life and education and this very course been designed? What can you tell about a designer by unpacking the design?
  • Sitting with the realization that each of us has responsibility for the soul of our profession, on small, medium and large scales: in what ways do my teaching and relationships at school model that conviction? How do I ensure the impact of my engineering has a life-affirming influence on the people my designs are meant to serve?

Even as many of these strategies seemed straightforward, no one claimed they would be easy. Perhaps the most heartening part of these “Taking Collegium Home” conversations was the awareness fostered throughout the week that none of us are in this alone. Community matters. There’s an insight straight out of the CIT notebook.

 

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Collegium logoWant re-vitalized, committed, happy faculty?

Contact Executive Director Karen Eifler via email at Collegium’s new home, the University of Portland, for more information on Collegium and how to join next year's summer colloquy.

 

 


 

 

Karen Eifler, Ph.D.Karen Eifler, Ph.D. is the Executive Director of Collegium.

In addition, she is Professor of Education at the University of Portland where she is also the Director of the Garaventa Center for Catholic Intellectual Life and American Culture.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photos courtesy of Karen Eifler, Ph.D.

 

 

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