Guided by Ignatius

Loyola looks to Jesuit founder for inspiration for new strategic plan

By Rita Buettner  |  Photos by Scott Suchman

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From the earliest conversations about the next strategic plan for Loyola University Maryland, one theme rose to the surface: The Loyola community was craving deeper engagement with the
University’s mission.

All members of the community sought greater purpose, inspiration, and direction.

As the plan evolved during 24 months of examination, observation, and reflection, the discussions focused on how Loyola was distinctive—and has the potential to be
distinctive in the future. The charge was to bring to life the vision:

Loyola University Maryland, anchored in Baltimore, will be a leading national liberal arts university in the Jesuit, Catholic tradition.

 

It was a significant task, particularly because the creation of the plan was embraced in a Jesuit way, reflecting on what Loyola University Maryland was, and discerning what it could and should be in the future.

“Loyola can be anything it wants to be,” said Thomas Scheye, Ph.D., professor of English, who offered counsel throughout the planning process. “But it cannot be everything it wants to be.”

Fifteen work groups delved into specific aspects of the University, considering ways to position Loyola for the future while enhancing the experience for students, faculty, staff, administrators,
alumni, and parents.

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Rebecca Brogan, Ph.D., associate professor of biology, served as co-chair of the Strategic Planning Steering Committee.

“It has been a community effort,” said Rebecca Brogan, Ph.D., associate professor of biology and co-chair of the Strategic Planning Steering Committee with Marc M. Camille, Ed.D., vice president for enrollment management and communications.

“Not every idea that came forward is included in the plan, but every idea was heard and considered, and it was the collective themes of the ideas that inspired the plan.”

Ultimately, more than 300 members of the Loyola community lent their voices to the plan, raising the bar for collaboration in a strategic planning process for the University.

“It’s exciting the way the process worked, and how so many people were engaged from all areas of the University,” said the Rev. Brian F. Linnane, S.J., president. “From the beginning there was
an interest in the Jesuit, Catholic mission of the University and how that might be more effectively experienced by our students and all members of the community.”

On Oct. 19 the Board of Trustees enthusiastically endorsed The Ignatian Compass: Guiding Loyola University Maryland to Ever Greater Excellence, rising in a standing ovation after the unanimous vote. Now the University is making an implementation plan, while beginning already to embrace the ideals and priorities of The Ignatian Compass.

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Marc M. Camille, Ed.D., vice president for enrollment management and communications, served as co-chair of the Strategic Planning Steering Committee.

“We believe that if you open up your minds and hearts, there is a place for every member of the Loyola community in The Ignatian Compass,” Camille said.

“We committed from the beginning that the planning process would be defined by engaged listening and transparency. We wanted the voices of the Loyola community to be the source of innovation. Over the course of two years when updates were shared, we never faced the question of ‘Where did that idea come from?’”

The plan, which will be implemented from 2017-22, embraces the teachings and philosophy of St. Ignatius Loyola and applies them to positioning Loyola for the future.

“Today’s universities recognize that to stay the same is to fall behind,” said Fr. Linnane. “The Ignatian Compass offers Loyola the opportunity to look back at the mission that St. Ignatius embraced even before he formed the Society of Jesus, and consider how we can enhance the education and experience we are offering our students,” Fr. Linnane said.

Walking in the Steps of Ignatius

Committing to embracing an Ignatian way represents ideas and actions that extend beyond what it means to educate in the Jesuit tradition.

With the new strategic plan, Loyola University Maryland harks back to the first moments when Ignatius, as a layperson, found his purpose as a follower of Christ, even before he took his vows as a priest or founded the Society of Jesus.

His journey of self-discovery, of accepting his new calling to live a life of faith, of ser­vice, and of purpose is the journey we now undertake as a community to reshape, to reinvigorate, and to recommit fully to our origins, while looking far into the future to all Loyola University Maryland can be.

The Ignatian approach is distinctive, as George W. Traub, S.J., explains in Do You Speak Ignatian? Through that lens, we see life and the universe as a gift, calling forth wonder and gratefulness; we give ample scope to imagination and emotion as well as to intellect; we seek the divine in all things—in all peoples and cultures, in all areas of study and learning, in every human experience; we cultivate critical awareness of personal and social evil, but point to God’s love as more powerful than any evil; we stress freedom, stress the need for discernment and responsible action; and we empower people to become leaders in service, “men and women for others” who are “whole persons of soli­darity,” who are building a more just and humane world.

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Ignatius’ perspectives on education, which are deeply linked to his spirituality, grew from his experience while studying at the Sorbonne. His time recovering at the Cave of Manresa gave rise to The Spiritual Exercises. His Spiritual Exercises and his vision for education are based on an embrace of reality, an understanding that we can find God in all things, that the world is a good place; as described so eloquently by Gerard Manley Hopkins, S.J., it is “charged with the grandeur of God.” Ignatius believed we should be at home in the wider world, not limited by provincial borders or parochial ideas.

Ignatian spirituality and education are based on a singular paradigm: experience, reflection, and action. They begin with experience: whatever the subject, it is not enough to be an observer; we have to immerse ourselves, bringing all our senses to bear on the experience and bringing it home, taking it personally. Experience leads to reflection, just as feeling deeply leads to thinking carefully about what we have felt. And reflection leads to action. It is not enough to completely understand a subject or situation; we must take the next step of engaging.

By reconnecting with Loyola’s Ignatian heritage, we rediscover a compelling and appropriate vision for our community—particularly at this time when we are poised to grow and evolve in such meaningful ways. As a community, we are ready—and we should be confident of all we can and will achieve together.

“He who goes about to reform the world,” said St. Ignatius, “must begin with himself.”

This plan calls the Loyola community to accept the Jesuit challenge for constant improvement, to experience, to reflect, and to act—not just talking, but walking in an Ignatian way.

Learn more about the inspiration, planning process, and priorities for The Ignatian Compass, the new strategic plan for Loyola University Maryland.

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