The Principles of Good Practice for Student Affairs Professionals in Catholic Colleges and Universities : Principle #3

Principle #3: The effective administrator enriches integration of faith and reason through the provision of co-curricular learning opportunities.

The Catholic tradition has always valued and engaged in dialogue about the interconnection and integration of faith and reason. This dialogue and integration is a legitimate and significant part of Catholic higher education. Catholic colleges and universities foster the development of the whole person. In addition to rigorous intellectual development, there is particular emphasis on a student’s faith and spiritual development.

In collaboration with academic colleagues, student affairs professionals provide educational opportunities and learning experiences outside the classroom that complement learning in the classroom, such as living-learning residential communities, volunteer service activities, and service-learning opportunities. Catholic colleges and universities provide opportunities for students to develop a habit of reflection and to value prayer in bringing both faith and reason to the discernment process of how to live out their learning experiences and the values of Catholic higher education in their personal and professional lives. Catholic colleges and universities also provide opportunities for intellectually informed and robust conversations on important issues of faith and culture, including applying relevant Catholic teaching to these issues.

Assessing This Principle

1. What does this principle mean for Boston College?

2. How do I apply this principle through programs, policies & practices?

                       a. How do student affairs staff members exemplify the integration of faith and       reason, the commitment to the spiritual development of students, and to intellectually informed dialogue?

            b. In what ways do student affairs staff, faculty and academic staff, and other key contributors collaborate to complement and enrich classroom learning with respect to the integration of faith and reason?

            c. How do student affairs programs contribute to the faith and spiritual   development of students?

            d. What forums exist to encourage robust, intellectually informed conversations              among staff and/or students about applying Catholic teaching to contemporary issues?

            e. What places and opportunities exist on campus to help students to develop a     habit of reflection and prayer?

3. What evidence do I have to judge the effectiveness of my efforts?

4. What does this evidence tell you about your effectiveness?

5. What will I do with the information I have gathered about my effectiveness?


A Catholic Perspective:

“Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth; and God has placed in the human heart the desire to know the truth — in a word, to know himself — so that by knowing and loving God, men and women can come to the fullness of the truth about themselves” (n. 1). (Pope John Paul II in Fides et Ratio [Faith and Reason])


The Principles of Good Practice for Student Affairs Professionals in Catholic Colleges and Universities : Principle #2

Principle #2: The effective administrator grounds policies, practices, and decisions in the teachings and living tradition of the Church.  He or she builds and prepares the student affairs staff to make informed contributions to the Catholic mission of the institution.

“In addition to relevant civil law and professional standards of practice and ethics, scripture, tradition, philosophical reflection, and the sustained experience of the Christian community all help to guide policy-formation and decision making in Catholic institutions. Catholic theology continues to be refined, developed, and applied to contemporary circumstances.

As questions arise within the institution about the applicability of official Catholic teaching, it is important that student affairs professionals become familiar with such teaching, consulting other colleagues, Church or pastoral leaders, and theological specialists as appropriate. Senior leaders of student affairs divisions should make a commitment to hire a sufficient cohort of members who are familiar with Catholic teaching, and to provide professional development for all their employees on such matters.”

 Assessing This Principle

1. What does this principle mean for Boston College?

2. How do I apply this principle through programs, policies & practices?

a. To what extent are students engaged so that they understand and respect the Catholic teachings which are the foundation of our policies and practices.

            b. How is the student life staff engaged in professional development activities focused on Catholic identity and mission?

             c. To what extent does the student life staff’s understanding of Catholic Church         teaching inform policies and decision making?

             d. To what extent is the student life staff able to communicate this             understanding to students? 

            e. To what extent does the student life staff collaborate with others (e.g. colleges, church leaders) to assist with staff development?

3. What evidence do I have to judge the effectiveness of my efforts?

4. What does this evidence tell you about your effectiveness?

5. What will I do with the information I have gathered about my effectiveness?


A Catholic Perspective: Tradition, according to the Fathers of the Church, is in fact just the opposite of a burden of the past: it is a vital energy, a propulsive force as much as a protective force, acting within an entire community at the heart of each of the faithful because it is none other than the very Word of God both perpetuating and renewing itself under the action of the Spirit of God; not a biblical letter in the individual hands of critics or thinkers, but the Living Word entrusted to the Church and to those to whom the Church never ceases to give birth; not, moreover, a mere objective doctrine, but the whole mystery of Christ. (Henri de Lubac)

The Principles of Good Practice for Student Affairs Professionals in Catholic Colleges and Universities

Welcome to the first installment of Partners in Mission’s eight-part series that examines, engages, and reflects upon The Principles of Good Practice for Student Affairs Professionals at Catholic Colleges and Universities.

Partners in Mission and The Principles of Good Practice are meant to serve as resources of reflection and conversation for you and your departments about how a student affairs professional’s work is influenced by the Jesuit and Catholic identity of Boston College.

If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to contact me at


Principle #1: The effective student affairs professional at a Catholic college or university welcomes all students into a vibrant campus community that celebrates God’s love for all.

“Student affairs professionals at Catholic colleges and universities are committed to creating inclusive, welcoming campus environments in which the members celebrate the diversity of all in both faith and culture. Their works, actions, and programs reflect respect, justice, collaboration, and dialogue.”

 Assessing This Principle

1. What does this principle mean for Boston College?

2. How do I apply this principle through programs, policies & practices?

                 a. How are students welcomed into the campus community?

          b.  How do these welcoming activities both celebrate the institution’s Catholic identity and embrace diversity in both faith and culture?

            c. To what extent is the student life staff prepared to welcome a diverse community of faith and culture?

                       d. In what ways do the actions of the student life staff reflect God’s love for all?

            e. How is this principle implemented through intentional activities that reflect respect, justice, collaboration, and dialogue? 

3. What evidence do I have to judge the effectiveness of my efforts?

4. What does this evidence tell you about your effectiveness?

5. What will I do with the information I have gathered about my effectiveness?


A Catholic Perspective:We have come to believe in God’s love: in these words the Christian can express the fundamental decision of his life. Being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction. Saint John’s Gospel describes that event in these words: “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should … have eternal life” (3:16). [Pope Benedict XVI in Deus Caritas Est (God is Love)]



We know that our professional literature and “good practices” standards emphasize the importance of working within the mission of the particular institution in which we are employed.  As an institution animated by the Jesuit-Catholic tradition, Boston College acknowledges the relevance of faith, religion, and spirituality in the life of our community.  Our work as Student Affairs professionals is significantly shaped by this reality – both in the form of structures and practices that ultimately give meaning to our vocational callings.  Consequently, it is important that we continually seek to grow in our understanding of what it might mean to be a Student Affairs professional at a Jesuit-Catholic institution.

To this end, I am pleased to announce that Boston College’s Professional Development Blog for Student Affairs, Partners in Mission, will run a semester-long series examining the Principles of Good Practice for Student Affairs Professionals at Catholic Colleges and Universities.  This series, which will include bi-weekly considerations on the Principles, is meant to serve as a resource for individual and communal reflection on the challenges and opportunities we face in our particular institutional context.

The Principles of Good Practice are meant to ‘provide a framework for reflection and conversation, planning, staff development, and assessment for student affairs professionals who work at Catholic colleges and universities.’

There will be a brief presentation on the Partners in Mission blog and the Principles of Good Practice at our divisional meeting on October 31.  It is hoped that by frequenting the blog and its considerations on the Principles of Good Practice, Boston College’s division of Student Affairs might grow in its understanding of the unique opportunities afforded in student engagement because of our uniquely religiously, faithfully, and spiritually informed heritage.

If you have any questions regarding the Partners in Mission blog or the Principles of Good Practice, please contact the blog’s author, Higher Education graduate student, Peter Hlabse (

I look forward to our considerations and reflections throughout the semester.

Vice President for Student Affairs

Women for Others, Leaders for the Church

Higher Education Administrators in Catholic universities face unique roles and responsibilities compared to their peers in secular institutions.  Likewise, administrators are faced with unique challenges and opportunities because of the university’s Catholic identity.  These challenges extend to the unique roles that men and women play in the constitution of both the university’s and the Church’s missions.  This dynamic of challenge and opportunity on a Catholic campus is rooted in the Church’s understanding of the roles of both men and women.

To this end, on Thursday,  April 26th at 5:30pm in the Heights Room of the Corcoran Commons, C21 will sponsor a conversation about faith and the vocation to serve others with three women, from different generations and backgrounds, who draw from their professional, personal, faith-filled experiences to make significant contributions to the Church.  [Information for Women for Others, Leaders for the Church]

The panel will be moderated by Boston College Vice Provost for Faculties, Patricia De Leeuw.  Joining her will be Paula Ebben ’89, Nancy Pineda-Madrid, and Elizabeth Stowe Fennell ’05.

These conversations ought bear fruit in further dialoging about how the particular roles and responsibilities and challenges and opportunities of women in Catholic higher education provide the potential of personal formation of self and professional development.

Public Policy & Higher Education, Catholicism & Student Affairs

In recent weeks, much has been made of the state’s relationship with private institutions – particularly concerning issues of ‘religious freedom’ and ‘conscience’.

Perhaps there is no more profound a manifestation of such tensions than as found in Catholic university settings – both at once rightfully ‘Catholic’ and rightfully institution/university.

In a very evident way, these tensions implicate administrative professionals within student affairs divisions across the network of private, Catholic universities.

How, as professionals and persons, we interact with students and colleagues (in advice-giving, guidance, and friendship), is framed within these tensions of governmental legislation and convictions of institutional and personal conscience.

Services such as Student Programming and Health Services are bound up between wider secular public policy and a Catholic university’s distinct vision and mission.

Resolutions and strategies to resolutions between this apparent tensions and conflicts are difficult to come to – particularly as the practical daily responsibilities of every office of the university seem to take precedence over such wider issues.

There then seems to be a point at which, as administrators within a Catholic university, offices and departments might need to take the time to dialogue about how, as individual people and as a community, we might best come to understand and/or reconcile personal conviction with institutional mission and institutional mission with wider public policy.

There are certainly many challenges administrators face when situated within a Catholic university – the manifestation of religious liberty and conscience, though a large issue to be sure, is only one of a host of other tensions that impact the way we understand our work in relation to the mission of the university and the mission of the university with the wider culture.

Several questions can be asked in response to such tensions, including:

  1. How do I, as a person, understand the mission of a Catholic university?
    1. If I don’t see ‘eye to eye’ with the mission, how can I still contribute in a meaningful way to people’s/students’ lives and to the community as a whole?
    2. How does my particular administrative position contribute to the formation of students, colleagues, and the university community?
    3. How can I learn more about the ideas and convictions that inform the mission of a Catholic university?
      1. What resources are available to me? (C21, Mission and Ministry, etc)
      2. Ultimately, how, at the end of the day, am I able to find meaning in what I do, the community in which I am a part, in light of this university’s Catholic identity?


Not coincidentally to this posting, there is an event coming up on Wednesday, April 18th that deals with this particular issue of religious liberty, conscience, and Church-State relations.

The Title of the event is: “Is Religious Liberty Under Threat in America?”

Where: Robsham Theater (Lower Campus)

When: Wednesday, April 18th @ 7pm

Description: John Allen will moderate a discussion on the theological, legal, and political foundations of religious liberty in American society, especially as it applies to faith-based charitable, educational, health and social service ministries.

Moderated by John L. Allen, Jr., Sr. Correspondent, National Catholic Reporter.

Panelists: M. Cathleen Kaveny, Professor of Law and Theology, University of Notre Dame; Rev. J. Bryan Hehir, Professor of the Practice of Religion and Public Life, Harvard University; and Vincent D. Rougeau, Dean, Boston College Law School.

C.A.R.E. Week & Other Opportunities

This next week marks C.A.R.E. (Concerned About Rape Education) Week (Monday, March 26 – Saturday, March 31).  This is a week to raise awareness about sexual assault, support survivors in solidarity and educate the community about issues surrounding sexual assault.

There are several events scheduled throughout the week, starting on Monday (3/26) with ‘Masculinity, A Round Table Discussion’ (Fulton 453, 12pm) and finishing on Saturday (3/31) with the C.A.R.E. Baseball Game (Shea Stadium, 1:30).

There are also other speakers and presentations of note for those interested in the intersections of Catholic identity and Higher Education administration.

On Thursday, 3/29 @ 7pm in the Fulton Honors Library, philosophy department professor Fr. Paul McNellis SJ will be presenting “The Hook-Up Culture: How Should Men Respond?”.