Friday, February 29, 2008

Professor defines a Catholic, Lasallian university

By Danielle Larson
Cardinal Staff

Catholic, Lasallian universities have become more mainstream due to the pulling forces of American higher education to appear like every other university, explains the “Lasallian Assessment: Charism and the University” report, written by Saint Mary’s University history professor Dr. Richard Tristano.

According to Tristano, the shift toward mainstream is what is causing Lasallian universities to lose their identity and why many faculty, staff and students cannot explain what it means to be Lasallian.
With that in mind, Tristano devised the idea of writing the report. The report was written with the help of three other professors: Dr. Mary Catherine Fox, professor of interdisciplinary studies; Melissa Luedtke, professor of education; and Sister Judy Schaefer, professor and chair of theology.

Because Saint Mary’s faces this same threat, the assessment states that the professors felt it was their duty as Lasallian educators to put together a document with the goal of creating a truly Lasallian university.

“Lasallian Assessment is a means of integrating the Lasallian charism with the purpose of an American Catholic university through the evaluation of Lasallian goals and objectives,” the document states.

Tristano said the purpose of this assessment was to define a Lasallian university in a concrete and specific way.

To do this, they compiled broad goals of what a Lasallian university should be. Each goal was then broken down into more specific objectives that define the goal. Tristano and the other professors came up with examples from prior experiences to express how a Lasallian university could reach each objective and obtain its goals.

Goals of a Catholic, Lasallian university:

*Reflects its Catholic and university identities.
*Reflects the charism of John Baptist de La Salle and the Brothers of the Christian Schools.
*Provides a holistic, values-based education that integrates Catholic thought and tradition with various other traditions and cultures.
*Fosters relationships in community, together and by association, with particular attention to the relationship between teacher and student.
*Develops an identity in students rooted in faith and zeal.
*Responds to specific and changing educational needs especially focused on individual students.
*Measures its effectiveness by how it addresses the religious, social, political, and economic needs of those less fortunate, especially the young.

Saint Mary's is one of seven Lasallian universities in the United States. The Lasallian Assessment was sent out to the other six universities after it was completed to help them develop their Lasallian identities as well.

If Saint Mary's wants to be a truly Lasallian university, said Tristano, “[it] needs to have the will to gain the knowledge on how to become more Lasallian.”

The professors believe that by enhancing the Lasallian identity, the institution will become more appealing to students and parents because its education is based on these Lasallian values.

The Assessment took approximately 11 months to complete, from January to November 2007.

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