Core Reflections

 Sr. Mary Virginia Micka, CSJ,  Where What Is Still Undiscovered Abides , n.d.. Charcoal on paper. Collection of St. Catherine University. [Image Source: Fine Arts Collection, used with permission]

Sr. Mary Virginia Micka, CSJ, Where What Is Still Undiscovered Abides, n.d.. Charcoal on paper. Collection of St. Catherine University. [Image Source: Fine Arts Collection, used with permission]

As we pause to reflect on this past year of teaching, and look forward to a summer season of rest and rejuvenation, we would like to share anonymous student testimony from two signature courses in the Core Curriculum at St. Kate’s. Both baccalaureate- and associate-degree students are required to take The Reflective Woman (TRW) and The Reflective Life, respectively, gateway seminars designed to introduce students to the many wisdoms of our tripartite mission: Catholic, women, liberal arts. We observed several common themes in these statements that attest to the distinctiveness of an education at St. Kate’s. These include:

  • a commitment to healing and learning in community;
  • an appreciation of Catholic Social Teaching and the values of the CSJs;
  • a responsibility to acknowledge and understand the complex role that race plays in our lived experience;
  • a deep understanding of women’s empowerment and equality;
  • a desire to share learning with friends and family;
  • an invitation to, in the words of one student, “share my story.”

*****

The Reflective Life class lays a foundation for sincere thinking, and sets the standard for academic excellence at St. Catherine University. Coming into my first semester at St. Kate’s as a student in this class enabled me to more fully comprehend the school’s mission and foundational philosophies. I was also able to become instantly immersed in this rich learning community, which acted as a portal into the entire collective of staff, students and alumni who share a common goal of healing and nourishing a broken world through truth and beauty. The three pillars of St. Kate’s mission as a school fully encompass the elements required in every area of leadership: a core philosophy, value for myself as a woman and for all women, and a life-pursuit of learning as defined by the liberal arts. As someone who seeks to be a healthcare professional, this course enabled me to more fully comprehend my root desires for the work of therapy as something that values human life and seeks to enrich it by helping out the dear neighbor whenever I am given the opportunity. Rather than focusing strictly on the medical and logistic aspects of an OTA degree, TRL has prepared me for truly transformational leadership by giving me the opportunity to focus on these root desires and philosophies as the breath that gives life to medical knowledge.

*****

 “My place in the St. Kate’s community was unclear to me until taking this course [The Reflective Life]. Certainly, learning about the Catholic Social Teaching gave me an understanding of how alike my core beliefs are to those teachings. When I enrolled in my classes I was not even sure if being Catholic was a requirement. I was happy to read that St. Kate’s is all inclusive. Truly, reading about how the sisters paved the way for women’s education was inspiring. My place in the St. Kate’s community is as an empowered woman; through my studies at St. Kate’s I will be able to role model perseverance and independence for my daughter. Lastly, learning liberal arts has reminded me to be socially conscious in all my endeavors, which will have a profound effect on me personally and professionally.

*****

“Because of the strong presence of woman’s empowerment and value of equality demonstrated in this class [The Reflective Life], I was able to feel a sense of community at St. Kate’s. Even though this is an online course and I was not physically meeting with the class, I felt like we all had similar values and we are all strong people who have voices to be heard. I felt like the stories we read and the assignments given all served a unique purpose to better our understanding of ourselves and society as a whole. Also, the instructor was very uplifting and his encouragement made me feel like he really cared about us as students. This class presented St. Kate’s core values and gave me an opportunity to elaborate on my own values and perspectives through the readings and assignments. Before this class, I had never been exposed to any material about diversity in the way it was presented in this class.  The readings and assignments definitely opened my eyes to the diverse cultural perspectives and made me reevaluate the way I had been looking at things. This class has contributed to my sense of place in the larger world by providing me a chance to see things from someone else’s viewpoint. This class has helped me relate to others from different backgrounds through the readings and with other students. Overall, this class has helped me realize that we are all together in this life, and we need to help one another no matter what the situation is.

*****

 “When I first got to St. Kate’s, I wasn’t expecting to get much out of it. I had left all my friends back at my old school, and I was commuting just to get an education. Comparing myself to the people I grew up with, I considered myself quite open-minded (even after studying abroad). BOY, was I wrong! This class [The Reflective Woman] has opened my eyes to so many issues in our society and has forced me to look at the depressing reality that we are surrounded with. I’ve had students in other classes tell me about how much they hated TRW and I’m just astonished because I love it! I’ve cried, laughed, and smiled throughout this class and it never felt unnatural. You provided such an open and loving learning environment for all of your students. It was so appreciated and honestly, you made me fall in love with St. Kate’s from the first class period when you remembered where we were from. My dad will ask me how school was most nights when I get home, and I can’t wait to tell him about all the things I learned about in TRW. I tell him about how naïve I was when I looked at the world before, and how glad I am that I’ve changed my entire outlook. I think it’s especially important for me to be aware of these issues going into healthcare — there are too many racial and socioeconomic disparities there.

*****

“This course [The Reflective Woman] helped me to expand on my current knowledge of social justice issues, and I especially gained more knowledge on race related issues. I believe I am more aware than ever of how race can influence our interactions, and life experiences of every individual. The feminist framework in this class helped me to further explore factors contributing to the inequities I face in my everyday life, which really helped to validate my feelings on many issues. This is invaluable because I can now move forward in my life feeling confident that my personal experiences matter, and are a part of the bigger story of how our culture views women. I now feel more empowered and fearless in confronting these issues head on, rather than continuing to sweep them under the proverbial rug.

*****

“I just want to say thank you for letting me share what happened in class today. I apologize if I made the situation awkward at all, it was not my intention to. As you may know, this is my first semester here at St. Catherine and this is the only class I feel like I can share my feelings and express everything. I get nervous talking in front of class and TRW really helps me get over my fear. So overall I would like to say thank you for being an amazing instructor. Thank you for letting me get over my fears and lastly, thank you for letting me share my story.