The faith tradition of a university can help provide its president with the focus and moral agency to navigate the increasing complexity of campus diversity today. A Catholic university president is further fortified by the spiritual character of the institution’s founding religious community or diocese. However, fewer of today’s presidents have the faith formation or religious literacy to confidently address issues of diversity, equity and inclusion in the context of mission.
The Interfaith Youth Core in collaboration with the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities is sponsoring a three-day institute for presidents to explore how a better understanding of the religious identity of their institutions can strengthen their capacity to lead inclusively. Specifically, how might our Catholic story present a hopeful theology of cooperation? Then again, as Catholic leaders, how do we reckon with our campus’ failures to work for racial justice? Ultimately, how does mission call us to engage — on campus, in the public square and at flash points that require difficult conversations?
The Presidents Institute on Diversity and the Catholic Conscience is designed to provide a small group of presidents with the space, guidance, resources and colleagueship to wrestle with these and other challenging, often emotion-charged questions. Presidents will hear from scholars in the fields of theology; diversity, equity and inclusion; and moral leadership, augmented by small group discussions, campus reflections and case studies. Institute registration, hotel and materials are grant supported, and in addition, each president will receive a campus project grant.
There is a mission-centered imperative to the Presidents Institute — that is, that Catholic universities have the moral responsibility to lead higher education’s conversation about diversity, race and reconciliation.
Donna M. Carroll is president emerita of Dominican University, a Catholic University of 3,200 students in River Forest, Illinois, 10 miles west of Chicago.