“Much is required”: Religious mission and university /community partnerships in urban settings
Colleges and universities with a religious mission live with the tension of embodying transcendent ideals while attempting to provide relevant and useful service in a practical and imperfect world. This dissertation is a case study of two institutions with distinctive religious identities that serve their urban communities. Loyola College in Maryland claims a Roman Catholic, Jesuit heritage and is located in Baltimore. Eastern University, located outside Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, has a Baptist history. This paper explores the extent to which the religious mission of these institutions influences the nature, scope, and execution of their urban, service-oriented community partnerships.
The research contained herein includes a review of literature on the ideal of service in American higher education generally and among institutions with a religious mission particularly, the dynamics of how colleges and universities conceptualize and integrate service into their operations, and the impact of culture and mission on organizational action. Data collection included historical analysis of archival documents, content analysis of current documents, and interviews with almost 50 staff, faculty, administrators, and community partners.
The researcher concludes that carrying out a religious mission within an academic setting creates significant and unavoidable tensions between academic and religious values. These tensions become magnified when there is uncertainty about institutional identity. Uncertainty occurs when there is incongruence in understanding of how disparate elements of institutional culture fit together.
Loyola College struggles with how to integrate the Jesuits' emphasis on social justice with its educational mission. It is challenged by the consequences of an intentional pluralism that leaves open to interpretation the proper role of a confessional faith in shaping its service initiatives. Eastern University attempts to put an institutional face on a bold calling—bringing the Kingdom of God into being in the “here and now.” Eastern, however, consistently is forced to deal with the financial, academic, political, and spiritual consequences of that calling. The tensions which arise for Loyola and Eastern are ones between prestige and access, the social gospel and the spiritual gospel, and mission and the market.
0527: Religious education