Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

"Helping souls" in the 21st century: A study of mission tensions at six Jesuit institutions
by Davis, Robert William, Jr., Ed.D., University of Pennsylvania, 2016, 176; 10158537
Abstract (Summary)

The Society of Jesus sponsors more colleges and universities than any other religious order in American Catholic Higher Education. At Jesuit institutions, the decline of members of the sponsoring order, challenging admissions markets, and financial pressures are some of the forces that are impacting already existing tensions. These tensions in which American Jesuit schools choose to live generate particular challenges, each shaped by the context of an individual school. This study is focused on the ways that leaders of six Jesuit institutions are thinking about these tensions and responding to the challenges that result from choosing to live in them.

Research revealed that the declining number of Jesuits, and the increasing number of students who claim to have no religious affiliation, have cracked foundational assumptions on these campuses. This uneasiness, coupled with increased pressure to enroll classes and stabilize financial positions, has created concerns about whether or not the religious mission of the institutions can be sustained long-term. It is clear that presidents play an important role in balancing these tensions, and that their focus or lack of focus on the religious mission sets the tone for a campus. As a result, presidents and mission officers are working more intentionally to interpret the mission, and ways it is promulgated on campus given the current circumstances. This includes practices like hiring for mission, mission programming for faculty and staff, and efforts to educate faculty and staff in the foundational principles of the Jesuits. Leaders are working to build a critical mass of faculty and staff members who are both educated in the foundational mission and who care deeply about preserving it for future generations of students. This critical mass will help address the long term issues presented by current tensions, and prevent future questions about the sustainability of the mission.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Hartley, J. Matthew
Commitee: Armacost, Mary-Linda, Maher, S.J., Ryan J.
School: University of Pennsylvania
Department: Higher Education Management
School Location: United States -- Pennsylvania
Source: DAI-A 78/03(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Religious education, Higher education
Keywords: Catholic schools, Jesuit, Leadership, Mission
Publication Number: 10158537
ISBN: 978-1-369-13545-9
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