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News & Notes

…from the members of the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities


Seattle University Moves Toward Divestment

In an effort to divest its endowment portfolio of companies owning fossil fuel reserves by 50 percent, Seattle University reached its halfway point nine months ahead of schedule.

SeattleUWhen the university’s board of trustees voted in September 2018 to divest the $230 million endowment of fossil fuels investments, it set a goal of December 31, 2020, to achieve a 50 percent reduction in the exposure to companies owning fossil fuel reserves in the marketable portion of the endowment portfolio. The goal was met at the end of March, according to a report from Cambridge Associates, the university’s outsourced chief investment officer. The goal for full divestiture is June 30, 2023.

“Seattle University is a leading institution for sustainability,” said Bob Blais, chair of the university’s Board of Trustees Investment Committee. “Divestment is an important part of the university’s comprehensive commitment to society and a priority for students, faculty, and staff. The Investment Committee is pleased to advise that divesting the university’s endowment from fossil fuels is well ahead of schedule.”


Stonehill Dean Reflects on the Purpose of Catholic Higher Ed

The dean of the May School of Arts & Sciences at Stonehill College published a thoughtful reflection on the meaning of Catholic higher education, inspired by the shift to online learning since the onset of the pandemic.

In the essay, Peter Ubertaccio questioned whether ongoing social restrictions would result in a permanent move to virtual learning, replacing the residential campus experience. “Wandering around an empty campus reminds us of the many reasons they exist and why Catholic colleges, in particular, have existed for centuries: a holistic face-to-face experience that helps to develop the intellectual, spiritual, physical, and communal needs of young people. At its best, this is what Catholic college is: a community of faith engaged in learning and engaged with each other. You can accomplish some of this in online modes of delivery. But not all of it.”

Read “Unnatural Quiet.”


Seton Hall Professor Addresses the Black American Experience

Professor Widian Nicola of Seton Hall University is set to launch a weekly Facebook Live series that will discuss the “lived experience” of Black Americans.WNicola

Nicola, a Palestinian-American who emigrated from Galilee to the United States with her parents when she was eight years old, is an assistant professor in the Department of Sociology, Anthropology, and Social Work at Seton Hall. She was recently elected the first Arab-American president of the National Association of Social Workers NJ.

In 2016 Nicola launched the “Lived Experience Project,” a podcast series that “explores unique and evocative narratives rarely heard in mainstream media.” Each season focuses on a lesser known and marginalized population and how these oral histories unveil the often complex nature of the shared human condition. The first season of the podcasts dealt with the realities of life in America for undocumented immigrants. The second season, dealing with the impact of climate change on individuals, is forthcoming, but has been put on hold so that Nicola can address the effects of race and racism in America.

“To effectuate real and lasting change, dialogue on race in America will ultimately have to be more than rally cries and protest,” said Nicola. “And after nearly 20 years as a social worker, I am more than ever convinced that the most profound way to connect to a cause and to people is through narrative: stories bare with complexity and raw with the truth of our fellow human beings.”

Beginning in mid-June, episodes of the “Lived Experienced Project: Being Black in America,” will be broadcast weekly through both Zoom and Facebook.


Grant Enables Villanova to Explore the Theology of Human Nature

Villanova University’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (CLAS) has received a three-year, $3.9 million grant from the John Templeton Foundation to explore how the theology of human nature engages scientific approaches to humanity. The largest grant ever received by CLAS, it will fund a new research initiative, “Collaborative Inquiries in Christian Theological Anthropology,” directed by Jesse Couenhoven, a professor of moral theology and the project’s principal investigator. 

The interdisciplinary effort, supported by nearly $700,000 in additional contributions from Villanova, the University of Notre Dame, and 12 other colleges and universities, will explore how the theology of human nature engages with biology and the social sciences. Its primary goal is to nurture ambitious, science-engaged theological scholarship that addresses topics such as human flourishing, moral agency, and the development of virtue.  

“This grant offers us a rare opportunity to develop new ways of relating religion and science, while exploring vital questions about what it means to live a good human life,” noted Couenhoven. “Such significant funding for interdisciplinary theological research is extremely unusual.”

“Villanova is extremely proud that Dr. Couenhoven is leading the investigation of this critical topic,” said Amanda Grannas, associate vice provost for research and chief research officer. “This work is aligned with our institutional mission and belief that between true science and true religion there is no intrinsic conflict. This project will find new ways of relating religion and science, which ultimately will significantly benefit humanity.”


Scranton Honors the Class of 2020

At its virtual celebration for the undergraduate class of 2020, University of Scranton President Rev. Scott R. Pilarz, SJ, announced that the recently renovated façade of St. Thomas Hall will be named the Class of 2020 Gateway in honor of the character shown by members of the class throughout the pandemic.UScranton

“I can’t say how much my heart goes out to you, to miss your last months of college is heart wrenching and I am saddened by this state of affairs, as I know we all are,” said Father Pilarz in his remarks at the virtual ceremony. “(A)dversity does not build character. Adversity reveals character, and you have revealed your character in all of the things that have marred your college experience.… It’s a fitting way to remember always what you’ve revealed about yourself in these difficult times.”

The Class of 2020 Gateway features include a lit glass wall etched with the seal of the University of Scranton that spans the center of the four-story west façade of St. Thomas Hall, as well as an iconic cross that rises above one side of the building.


Artwork Celebrates History of University of St. Francis

The University of St. Francis (USF) in Illinois continues to celebrate its 100th anniversary throughout 2020 and has created several visual reminders to commemorate the centennial, including a one-of-a-kind commemorative work of art.

USF-collageAppropriately named the Centennial Collage, this three-dimensional work is displayed on campus in a space adjacent to a dedication wall in honor of the university’s founding Sister Sponsors – the Sisters of Saint Francis of Mary Immaculate. The collage honors the legacy of the Sisters and USF’s Franciscan heritage through carefully selected miniaturized photos, publications, and other institutional memorabilia. The retrospective reflects USF’s values, mission, and vision, while commemorating its history, leaders, innovation, and accomplishments since 1920.

The Centennial Collage measures 46” x 26” x 5”, and is created of mahogany framed in gold and silver leaf. It is designed as an arch to replicate the iconic arches found throughout the campus buildings and in the university logo. A miniature statue of Saint Francis of Assisi sits at the heart of the piece.

The story, told through the placement of items within the piece, flows from the bottom upward and includes a three-dimensional replica of Tower Hall at the base of the art and a three-dimensional miniature of USF’s iconic Three Oaks tree near the top of it. Over 100 images and three-dimensional items symbolize the growth of programs and recognize USF’s leaders over the first century.


Grants Helps Georgetown Expand Prison Ed Program

Georgetown University’s Prisons and Justice Initiative (PJI) will use a Second Chance Pell grant from the U.S. Department of Education to bolster existing programs and launch a new Bachelor of Liberal Arts program at a nearby correctional facility.

The grant will provide $6,345 for every full-time student in PJI’s Prison Scholars Program at the DC Jail and will also help the initiative expand to the Patuxent Institution in Maryland, with the goal of opening in January 2021.

“Georgetown has been committed to teaching in prisons in one way or another for almost 40 years,” said Joshua Miller, director of education for the Prison Scholars Program. “The new Pell grant, along with our $1 million grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, will allow us to ensure that commitment for years to come, with a bachelor’s degree and an expanded footprint in Maryland.”

PJI launched the Prison Scholar Program in January 2018 and since the fall 2018 semester provides credit-bearing courses with the support of the School of Continuing Studies to scholars at the DC Jail.


New Opportunity for Assessing Social Responsibility

The International Federation of Catholic Universities (IFCU), through its International Centre for Research and Decision Support (CIRAD), has created a platform for Catholic institutions around the world to assess their own performance in areas of social responsibility.

The System for the Evaluation of the Performance of Catholic Universities in the area of university social responsibility is based on the Newman Benchmark Framework. This Framework, the result of three years of collaborative work, includes roughly 160 indicators and some 20 criteria in areas such as institutional governance and environmental protection efforts.

The evaluation mechanism will allow Catholic universities to gain a better understanding of their achievements in social responsibility, while at the same time providing them with reliable data to redefine their present and future institutional development strategies. By making their social responsibility policies and practices visible and quantifiable, IFCU has noted, Catholic universities will be able to more easily communicate the added value they bring to the higher education landscape.

More information is available from IFCU.


Collaborations & Connections

This summer, the Association of Colleges of Sisters of St. Joseph (ACSSJ) will partner with Acadeum to launch a new ACSSJ online course-sharing consortium. The consortium will provide increased access for students to take courses at sister institutions for the 2020-21 academic year.

The Australian Province of the Society of Jesus and Australian Catholic University (ACU) have announced a new agreement for the delivery of ACU-accredited courses by the Jesuit College of Spirituality (JCS). This collaboration, which will start in January 2021, opens new opportunities for JCS and ACU students, both domestically and internationally.

In response to the announcement that Holy Family College in Wisconsin will close on August 29, 2020, the Catholic University of America is offering a degree completion path to Holy Family College students. The schools have signed an agreement for Catholic U to accept transfer students from the college beginning with the fall 2020 term.

Alvernia University and SCORE Berks Schuylkill Chapter have announced a partnership to provide education and mentoring for small business owners and their associates in the southeastern Pennsylvania region. The new partnership offers entrepreneurs total support throughout various stages of start-up and growth, advancing the economic climate in the region.

Ohio Dominican University (ODU) has partnered with Wilmington College (WC) in Wilmington, Ohio to allow WC students who are pursuing a bachelor of science in sport management the ability to earn a master’s degree in one additional year of study through ODU’s online master of science in sport management program.

Immaculata University is expanding its University Center partnership with Montgomery County (PA) Community College. Launching in the fall 2020, Immaculata will offer the RN to BSN degree-completion program at the community college campus, the second undergraduate program offered through the partnership.