The Jesuit saga in higher education
Puls, Charles Wilder
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The declining number of Jesuits requires Jesuit institutions to socialize non-Jesuits, even non-Catholics, into the Jesuit traditions and saga in order to maintain the mission of these institutions. Through interviews with Jesuits, analysis of literature (from founding documents to modern, popular press), and the review of theories surrounding organizational culture, a descriptive statement of the Jesuit saga was developed around three core Jesuit concepts (cura personalis, change, and magis). The descriptive statement reads: an educational environment that encourages administrative staff to meet the full needs of each student based on his/her current state of growth and development; that empowers administrative staff to identify and act on opportunities for change; and that continuously supports and encourages the question “what’s the best thing I can do to help someone at the deepest, most important level.” A single, instrumental case study was undertaken to explore how higher education administration manifests this Jesuit saga and to provide a detailed description of one particular Jesuit institution’s efforts to socialize its non-academic (administrative) staff in the Jesuit tradition. Questions posed include: how is the descriptive statement of the Jesuit saga manifested in higher education administration; in what ways are administrative staff members able to identify the Jesuit saga in relation to their responsibilities and daily activities; and what specific socialization activities exist to effectively transmit the proposed Jesuit saga? Administrators described manifestations of Jesuit saga in great detail, though few manifestations were tied uniquely to the case site. Administrators also identified the recent and intentional socialization activities occurring around the concept of Jesuit identity. The ability to identify these activities existed regardless of participation. Finally, cura personalis and magis were articulated in relation to both the institution and their own roles, while the concept of change was articulated specifically in relation to efforts to achieve the magis. Reflection and inclusiveness were identified as two additional core elements of the Society of Jesus appropriate for inclusion in a descriptive statement of saga. Additional opportunities to apply the concepts of organizational culture to the Society of Jesus and the particular case site are identified.