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The Catholic Intellectual Tradition Continues at Georgian Court

Georgian Court University Faculty Panel

(left to right) Sister Mary-Paula Cancienne, Dr. McQuillen, and Dr. Smorra discuss the Catholic intellectual tradition.

The Catholic intellectual tradition (CIT) and its significance in higher education, specifically at Georgian Court, was viewed through the lenses of theology, business, and education during a panel presentation by three faculty members as part of GCU’s Inauguration Week events.

During the presentation on October 20, Mary-Paula Cancienne, RSM, Ph.D., assistant professor of religious studies/theology, noted that the CIT is filled with “jewels” and “questions” and urged continued dialogue and deliberation about the CIT across all disciplines.

“A tradition such as the CIT dies if it does not engage the past and the present dynamically and credibly, if not prophetically, and if it does not also anticipate and bear down wisely toward the future,” said Sister Mary-Paula.

“The CIT is a framework of sorts, a dialectic wherein each discipline’s contributions and questions are more or less juxtaposed against, for example, a radical confidence in an unyielding depth, beauty, love, mercy, and intelligence, while still it remains a mystery,” she said. “That is, by the nature of our claim to be part of the CIT, we commit ourselves as a campus, at the very minimum, to a dialectic process of conversation with a radical confidence in an Ultimate Reality, and the possible consequences and extensions of such a confidence, and to the questions that follow such.”

Cathleen M. McQuillen, D.P.S., assistant professor of business and chair of the School of Business undergraduate programs, noted that developing business skills in students is not enough and that the CIT plays an important role in the development of students as leaders working for the common good. She recommended that educators be educated in the CIT and Catholic social teaching (CST). She also called for an interdisciplinary approach in which the CIT is integrated in courses from general education to business.

“We need our students to be ethical leaders grounded in the CIT and CST,” said Dr. McQuillen.

Mary Ann Smorra, Ed.D., professor of education, views the CIT as “faith into action” and pointed out that the Mercy core values facilitate bonding between students, faculty, and staff. “In conjunction with the Catholic intellectual tradition and the Mercy core values, an important thread appears to weave itself into the tapestry of our students’ lives at Georgian Court,” Dr. Smorra said. “It is the concept of the dream—the dream that so many of our students bring to GCU. In the case of our School of Education students, that dream is becoming a teacher, an exemplary teacher.”

She remarked that “the abstract to the concrete paradigm is fitting because when we look at the Catholic intellectual tradition and its relationship to the Mercy core values, it journeys from the abstract to the concrete, from faith into action.”

For the presentation, Dr. Smorra conducted a survey of 50 education students. “The surveys often showed that the values observed at GCU were reflected in the students’ aspirations as future teachers,” said Dr. Smorra. “Throughout their responses, our students expressed the desire to be involved in their students’ lives, to help them grow and succeed.”

Click here for more photos from the event.

Story contributed by Michelle Giles, GCU communications and grants specialist.

Aerial view of GCU.

About Georgian Court University

Founded in 1908 and sponsored by the Sisters of Mercy, Georgian Court University is Central and South Jersey’s only Catholic university. GCU is a comprehensive, coeducational university with a strong liberal arts core and a historic special concern for women. As a forward-thinking university that supports diversity and academic excellence, GCU is known for expanding possibility for more than 2,100 students of all faiths and backgrounds in 35+ undergraduate majors and 10+ graduate programs. The GCU Lions compete in 15 NCAA Division II sports in the Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference (CACC). In 2020, GCU was named a Best Value College by and a Best Bang for the Buck (Northeast) by Washington Monthly. High student retention and graduation rates also make GCU a Top Performer on Social Mobility on U.S. News & World Reports rankings. The main campus is located in Lakewood, New Jersey, on the picturesque former George Jay Gould estate, a National Historic Landmark. Georgian Court, which is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, also serves students at other locations, such as GCU at BrookdaleGCU at Rowan College of South Jersey–Cumberland Campus, and through multiple online certificate and degree programs.

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