Last fall on dead day, Constantin College faculty met in Braniff 302 to lay the groundwork for the Studies in Catholic Faith and Culture program, spearheaded by Sr. Jane Dominic. This program is intended to be a platform for the University of Dallas culture to reach beyond the limits of the Irving campus.
The Catholic Faith and Culture program is the first project under Provost Dr. Jonathan Sanford’s umbrella program called Liberal Learning for Life. This first project is established by Sr. Jane to give some of the educational opportunities of UD to a broader audience.
“You could say ‘traditional Catholic education made accessible’ is our tagline,” Sr. Jane said.
Catholic Faith and Culture aims to share with the broader community the unique UD experience of a faithful community striving for the good life through a liberal arts education.
“I got my bachelor’s and my master’s degree at [UD] and I loved it — it changed my life,” said Sr. Jane. “It changed the way I saw the world. And with this program, I wanted to give people the opportunity to experience what I experienced at UD.”
The Catholic Faith and Culture program has already filmed the first of four video series through a partnership with UD and the production company Star of the Sea Studios. The first series was filmed around UD’s campus, and the second series will be filmed at various locations around the city of Dallas, said Sr. Jane. The fourth and final set may be filmed around Europe.
“One of the most wonderful parts of this experience was the overwhelming support from the faculty,” Sr. Jane said. “We filmed course one of the program in April, and twenty-six professors participated in its creation. Essentially, the whole of Constantin is involved with Catholic Faith and Culture.”
The program’s material requires a group of ten, called a cohort, to purchase access to the program curriculum. This includes outlined discussions and roles assigned to the group members to encourage interactions in the time of each meeting. The program finds participants in Newman centers, parishes and other faith institutions.
“The Catholic Faith and Culture program is grounded in the question of the human person, since that, in a sense, is what is under attack,” Sr. Jane said. “What does it mean to be human?”
By the end of the semester, Catholic Faith and Culture is expected to have over 500 participants across the country, according to Sr. Jane.
Assistant Provost Ryan Reedy has provided logistical support for the program from its infancy, collaborating with UD’s General Counsel, Business Office, and Marketing and Communications, as well as outside vendors for the advancement of the program.
The larger Liberal Learning for Life program highlights what UD does best in its communities of Catholic higher education, said Reedy. It will also allow a better way to connect with alumni, parents, and friends and showcase the benefits of the UD education.
Sanford’s hope for Liberal Learning for Life is that it will cultivate community around the sharing of ideas in order to encourage the creation of culture.
“We didn’t want people just sitting at home watching the material alone,” Sanford said of the Catholic Faith and Culture series. “While the program might have more individuals involved if we didn’t have the group requirement, we sacrifice growing super quickly for the emphasis on the community, which I believe will enrich their lives.”
Sanford initially reached out to a number of alumni and donors who believe in UD’s character and mission as a liberal arts institution to support the program in fall 2017. They have responded generously to successfully produce the first project of Liberal Learning for Life.
Liberal Learning for Life is new, but has many goals in mind for the near future, including both on and off-campus symposia and conferences led by UD faculty in order to reach new audiences. More information about Liberal Learning for Life is forthcoming on the UD website, according to Sanford.
“I want to start distributing in a newsletter on a monthly basis, with some snapshots of the many excellent speakers we bring to campus,” Sanford said. “I think it would be enriching for those who received the newsletter to have access to a condensed version of the presentation, as well as a link to the audio or video content of the talk with printed text.”
Liberal Learning for Life hopes to take the UD mission to greater audiences and bring benefits to the institution, including greater fundraising and support to students through the publicity.
“Ultimately, I want to take seriously what Don Cowan recognized, that it is the fundamental mission of education to build culture,” Sanford said.