Opening Workshop Feedback by Allison Adrian

Note: This article originally appeared in the Mission Chairs December 2016 newsletter

Thank you to all faculty and staff who offered feedback about our tripartite mission at this year’s Opening Workshop. We asked you about your hopes, your concerns, how you currently deliver a mission-centered education, and your ideas about the future. Here’s a
snapshot of our community’s responses.

Best Hopes
There was a sense of optimism about all three mission chair roles being filled, and a desire for equality in terms of the visibility of each plait. Respondents reported a belief that the infusion of our mission into our curriculum and co-curriculum creates an environment in which students are valued as whole people. Many asked for more visibility of our mission and greater
clarity around the definition of the mission plaits. There was a deep sense of gratitude for Sr. Amata’s work in the Myser workshop and how she infused Catholic identity throughout our University. You expressed a desire for the Myser workshop to continue. Furthermore, many voiced pride in being unapologetically feminist in spirit, and fervently hoped that the liberal arts would continue as the central focus of our educational practice.

Some think that our external perception is quite different from the reality of our institutional culture and wonder how that impacts recruitment and retention. You recognized many intersections as well as tensions among the three plaits. One of the more frequent concerns was the tension that exists between liberal arts and professional programs. Some commented that market demand was not in line with our mission’s commitment to women and the liberal arts, and wondered how we were going to maintain the integrity of our mission as the number of women’s colleges continues to decrease, and professional degrees continue
to outnumber those in the liberal arts. Fears about slippage of the women’s mission resounded
loudly throughout the feedback. Many of you wondered, in particular, how the new coed
bachelors program would affect our women’s mission. Amid concerns about our
women’s mission, the fundamental question became: How do we provide a strong, safe, coeducational culture for women at our University? How does our history as a women’s college, and the male-dominated culture of the U.S, help us think about how we define “women” at a time when gender roles and labels are in flux? Other concerns included ensuring inclusivity for students who practice faiths outside of the Catholic religion, those who identify outside the gender binary, and men. Finally, some wondered how we advocate for adjunct faculty, and support them teaching in a mission-centered way.

Current Delivery of Mission
Some of you are confident in connecting our mission to your work at St. Kate’s, and many of you expressed curiosity in how to do so. The most frequently cited answers had to do with promoting creative thinking, critical questioning, and deep listening to make informed decisions and invoke positive change in the world. You believe in women pursuing careers in male-dominated fields, empowering marginalized students to share their experiences, and educating the whole person. Many responded that your mission-centered interactions and work guide your purpose as members of our community.

Next Steps
Many of you asked for training on incorporating mission into your work. We are so glad; that is why we are here! Our goal is for all to feel connected with and included in each plait of the mission. The most frequently cited suggestions included a desire for each college and school to articulate how they deliver our tripartite mission on campus and online, a focus on the presence of the mission on the Minneapolis campus, an appeal for faculty input on changes to the liberal arts core, and the integration of workshops that focus on women’s education and the liberal arts at St. Kate’s.

Thank you.
We are enjoying working with you, and inspired by the challenge of responding to your hopes, fears, and the future of our mission.