Vincentian Higher Education: Four different universities—one common mission
July 13, 2009
There’s one half a world away in Manila, Philippines. There’s another not far from Niagara Falls and another in the New York City borough of Queens. And, of course, there’s one in Chicago.
Although the world’s four Vincentian universities are separate and independent of each other, they do share a Catholic heritage and a common mission. They provide a college education—the ticket to a prosperous, purposeful life—for students, many of whom are poor or working class. Some are first-generation college students, some are from underrepresented socio-economic groups and some fit several of those descriptors.
Other Vincentian university hallmarks are service, justice, charity and advocacy. They encourage their faculty to conduct research and teach on issues of domestic and global poverty, and they provide significant amounts of institutional and external aid for students to defray the cost of their private education.
“Vincentian universities are not elitist, ivory tower institutions. They are very engaged with their communities,” says the Rev. Edward Udovic, C.M., DePaul’s senior executive for university mission. Nor are the Vincentian universities cookie-cutter. “Each has its own unique history and culture,” Fr. Udovic says.
The three U.S. Vincentian universities—DePaul, St. John’s University and Niagara University—were founded in the 19th century. Adamson University, which was a secular institution when it was created in Manila in the 1930s, was acquired by the Vincentians in 1964.
DePaul, St. John’s and Niagara collaborate on two key fronts. In 2007, they began the Vincentian Mission Institute: Leadership in Higher Education, a program that selects faculty, staff and trustees from each institution to participate in an intensive three-year continuing education program. The program is preparing lay leaders in anticipation of the day they will be solely responsible for their universities’ Catholic and Vincentian heritage.
The three universities also host the annual International Conference Promoting Business Ethics, which rotates among the three campuses. The conference is an extension of the mission and values of the three institutions, which have long histories of promoting ethical decision-making in business and in life.
Each of the three universities have departments such as DePaul’s Office of Mission and Values designed to serve as transmitters of Vincentian heritage through workshops, research grants and surveys to monitor the universities’ grasp of the mission. Another commonality is the Rev. Dennis H. Holtschneider, C.M., president, who’s held faculty and administrative positions at all three U.S. Vincentian universities.
DePaul’s relationship with Adamson, however, is much different from that with its American cousins. “Adamson has turned to DePaul for assistance, and DePaul has responded with a variety of outreach efforts,” Fr. Udovic says. DePaul organizations that have consulted their counterparts in Adamson include the School of Public Service, the Steans Center for Community-based Service Learning, the Hay Leadership Project and the Division of Student Affairs.
Most recently, Jim Doyle, vice president for Student Affairs, and Associate Vice President Peggy Burke were invited by Adamson President the Rev. Gregorio Banaga Jr., C.M., for a three-day visit in April to the campus in the heart of Old Manila. They shared their expertise on building bridges between faculty and Student Affairs to enhance student learning and engagement.
Despite being 13 time zones and nearly 8,200 miles from Chicago, Burke says, “I almost felt like I was at DePaul with the Vincentian statuary and a St. Vincent parish across the street from campus. There was a wonderful spirit of St. Vincent de Paul that resonates throughout the campus. I would love to see our relationship continue because the people at Adamson are truly our Vincentian brothers and sisters.”