A Jesuit gem hidden in plain sight

Students may never realize it, but every time they head to the caf they pass an office specifically designed to keep Xavier’s Jesuit mission alive. 

Beyond the green wall adorned with flowing cursive, two doors and a monarch butterfly, behind the Pizza ATM, lies the Center for Mission and Identity (CMI). The CMI  aims to assist faculty and staff in incorporating the Jesuit values into their work.   

Joe Shadle, the director of the CMI, summarizes the center’s work as engaging primarily with faculty, staff and administrators to reflect on how they can incorporate Ignatian spirituality and the principles of a Jesuit education into their work.  

The CMI additionally works with faculty on utilizing the Jesuit pedagogical style and building their programs around its principles. This style of education focuses deeply on values such as reflection, discernment, service and solidarity, among others.  

Shadle said that overall, the main goal of the CMI is to guide and encourage all faculty and staff “to be people of reflection and discernment and to care for the individual student, kind of like cura personalis and then for the Greater Glory of God, which is Magis.”  

The CMI accomplishes this goal in a variety of ways, one of which is offering professional development for faculty and staff. The center also offers professional development for student leadership groups on campus, including the 10 p.m. Mass Committee, resident assistants, health services administration graduate students and others.  

“Usually the way I think about it is for students who serve other students,” Shadle said. The CMI’s work is akin to the Center for Faith and Justice but focuses on faculty rather than on students. “We can do it for all students, but that’s usually what the Dorothy Day Center is for or Interfaith Community Engagement… They primarily deal with students with some faculty/staff connections. We primarily support the work of faculty and staff and some students, in this case students who serve other students.” 

The CMI also accomplishes this goal by hosting a Manresa-type orientation program for all new faculty and staff. Participants have two options: They can opt for an overnight experience, or they can attend three lunches on campus. Both versions feature a popular President’s Luncheon with Father Graham.  

Whichever orientation they attend, incoming hires emerge equipped with an understanding of Xavier’s mission.  

“They’re pretty similar,” Shadle said, “it helps them to come to know who Xavier is, kind of like the (Manresa) we do with students, but in a faculty and staff perspective.” 

All programs offered through the CMI are voluntary and open for all faculty and staff to participate in, regardless of their faith tradition and religious beliefs.  

“Everyone is welcome to come take part of our programs because we believe that everybody can live the Xavier values in their own way,” Shadle said.   

Even though these programs are optional, there is a relatively high turnout.  

“Between the President’s Luncheon for new faculty and staff and one of the two Manresa’s, we get about 70 – 80 percent participation,” Shadle said. 

One of the CMI’s largest programs is AFMIX, which stands for Assuring the Future Mission and Identity of Xavier. It is a two-year program in which where faculty and staff meet for an hour and a half during lunch every Tuesday during their four semesters in the program. The program began 20 years ago and currently has 45 members, including two members of the president’s cabinet.  

“(AFMIX) really steeps people in the Jesuit Ignatian tradition of the university,” Shadle said. “I think first, it gives (faculty and staff) a real deep grounding in the tradition. Second, it helps them integrate more of the tradition of Ignatian spirituality and reflection in their lives, and also the principles, of course, of Jesuit education.”  

Shadle added that he believes programs like AFMIX also positively impact students.  

“It benefits students because the students get a richer ,deeper experience, whether it’s in the classroom through the principles of Jesuit education or outside the classroom in co-curricular activities like service work,” Shadle said.  

Along with AFMIX, through the Ignatian Mentoring Program Xavier created specifically for faculty, new faculty can be mentored by senior or experienced faculty on how to teach their students in the Jesuit tradition.  

“Usually they have some kind of final project,” Shadle said. “…Sometimes they rewrite their syllabus to reflect the values of the Jesuit education process more specifically.”  

Then the CMI will publish projects, with titles such as “Computing for the Social Good,” in a publication called Teachings of the Mission. The publication is available online so that anyone, including new faculty who don’t participate in the program, can read them. More than 100 projects have been published.   

These are just a few of the programs the CMI offers. Shadle said he believes these programs help new faculty and staff improve their overall experience at Xavier as well as the experiences of the students they interact with.  

“People certainly are engaged and maybe reflective when they come to work at Xavier,” Shadle said, “but our work also helps them to deepen that and to deepen their engagement with students and with each other as faculty and staff.”