Winter 2023 Feature-Collegium
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Another Visit to Collegium-Inspired Pedagogy

By Karen Eifler, Ph.D.

Hay Bale at SunriseIf a single word captures the essence of Collegium, it’s “behold.” We encounter G.M. Hopkins’ poem “Hurrahing in Harvest,” relating a moment that a particular ray of sun hitting bales of hay he’d seen hundreds of times brought him to his knees in awe: “these things, these things were here and but the beholder Wanting.” The final day of Collegium turns the conversation to how might these experiences shape our teaching and relationships with students? What kinds of teaching reflect Catholic higher education’s aspirations?

Cultivating the capacity to be a beholder of all that is present—in a text, in a molecule, in a piece of art, in a classroom conversation—is a compelling way to frame pedagogical practices in Catholic higher education. In the last newsletter, I described several Collegium-inspired teaching ideas that were especially germane for STEM educators. In this round, the specific strategies come primarily from Collegium alums in humanities. But the best teaching ideas cross disciplinary boundaries, so these practices are quite portable. Many Collegium alums help their students become beholders by:

  • Starting class in silence: if becoming a beholder is about learning to pay attention to what is always there, then we must clear the clutter of stimuli that erode our capacity to take in one important thing at a time. In Laudato Sí, Pope Francis quotes his predecessor Pope Benedict XVI observation that “The external deserts in the world are growing because the internal deserts have become so vast.” Students are parched for meaningful experiences of fruitful quiet, pauses from their usual hyperconnectivity. Begin each class session with structured silence; not a prayer, not telling students what to reflect upon, but just inviting all present in the room to leave aside whatever they were carrying, to take some deep breaths, to simply BE. Thirty seconds to two minutes of silence sets the stage for beholding the day’s material.
  • Geeking out proudly: sharing a shiver of wonder or delight with students is a Collegium teacher’s habit. These folks leave their professorial personae at the door and let their students in on fruits of their own pauses to pay attention. Finding beauty in a 912th walk across campus, or a turn of phrase in a student’s essay that made them roar or weep or giggle—these are pretty effortless ways to model beholding.
  • Relentlessly imagining the world that can be: harness the power of inviting students to leave despair aside and dream, vow, articulate how their work can move them closer to the world they want to inhabit. “We become our words,” Elise Wiesel reminded us. Collegium-inspired teachers invite their students to seek and employ words and images that move them from cynicism to the muscularity of hope. Spoiler alert: this often means a complete re-envisioning of assignments and course materials. 

One 2022 Collegium alum put it this way: “teaching, Collegium-style, is gonna result in me taking responsibility for the soul of my profession.” 

There’s a beholder in action.


Collegium logoSpecial Offer for "Collegium-Curious" Institutions

Even as resources shrink, the imperative to form faculty in the mission of Catholic higher education soars. Collegium, a colloquy on faith and intellectual life that is now over thirty years old, has enhanced the teaching, research and service of over 2500 alums in Catholic colleges and universities of every size. Still, it’s fair to wonder if the annual dues pay off (for the record, they do!). For the 2023 colloquy at University of Portland June 2-9, Collegium is offering a one-time only invitation to “Collegium-curious” institutions to send a participant for the flat fee of $1500. This covers travel and accommodations for the full week, and we encourage institutions to consider sending someone who will be willing to share their experiences with mission officers and others at their home institution who are responsible for mission and identity integration. To take advantage of this invitation, the institution must be new to Collegium. When the participant raves about the week and all they learned, the school will be invited to become a full member of Collegium.

We are also encouraging member institutions to send a second participant for the flat $1500 fee, to increase the sense of solidarity and security that comes from collaborating with someone who’s shared the same mountaintop experience. 

Contact Executive Director Karen Eifler via email for details on following up on either of these opportunities.





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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