The Ignatian Colleagues Program: Helping Others to Grow Spiritually and Academically
Herbert Medina, professor of mathematics and an associate dean of the Frank R. Seaver College of Science and Engineering, believes the pursuit of spiritual growth forms a key component of life at LMU. “Whether you do it as part of a program or on your own, it doesn’t matter—that’s just part of the culture here,” he says, adding that he’s always on the lookout for ways to blend spirituality with his academic work. So, when the Mission and Ministry Office offered Medina a chance to participate in the Ignatian Colleagues Program (ICP), he jumped at the opportunity.
A national program organized under the auspices of the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities, ICP specializes in assisting administrators and faculty leaders from Jesuit institutions like LMU to deepen their understanding of the Catholic, Jesuit perspective on higher education. The 18-month program (it runs concurrently with one’s regular job) includes background reading, online presentations, and Skype conferences, as well as a six-day experience of the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius and a week-long immersion trip to a developing country. Overall, ICP spurs a range of experiences and informed conversations that allow participants to gain an in-depth knowledge of spiritual humanism, faith in relation to justice, and other aspects of a Jesuit institution’s distinctive mission. Graduates of the program develop action plans for implementing Ignatian values in their work and in their roles as academic leaders.
Side-by-side with the academic benefits of ICP, participants explore key aspects of Ignatian spirituality, e.g., daily reflection, discernment, finding God in all things, and openness to “the other.” This concept of openness to others—even those with whom one may disagree because of beliefs or politics—is especially important for Medina. “It’s not just an acceptance of other folks—it’s an embracing of them as persons,” he says.
So for Medina, an important part of the ICP experience was interacting with other members of his cohort. From the start, he found himself connecting with colleagues from other campuses and from university sectors different from his own. In ICP, conventional silos break down as all participants—whether faculty, trustees, presidents, provosts, or other administrators—all come together on a common footing. “The camaraderie in ICP is quite important,” Medina says, adding that it was enlightening to hear from others, especially administrators, about how they strive to embody Ignatian ideals when facing the daily challenges of their jobs.
Even as a mathematics professor, Medina does not live in an ivory tower but believes in blending the academic with practical spirituality. Thus one of his daily challenges is helping students understand how to use their education and skills to better the world. Students of science and mathematics, he notes, will play important roles in the development of our global societies and economies. “So whenever I have a chance to talk about how scientists have contributed to the betterment or retrogression of the world, I make sure to do it.”
This long-time desire to help students ground their academic training in solid ethical and spiritual values—to become men and women for and with others—is one of the critical dimensions of Ignatian pedagogy that ICP reinforced for Medina.