I teach at a small, Catholic liberal arts university founded by an order of nuns who are guided by relatively progressive core values that direct both their ministry and our institution’s mission. (Though Catholic in mission, the institution welcomes–and even seeks–a diversity of faiths in its faculty, staff, and students. I, for example, am raised Catholic but have explored many faiths and not landed on any one in particular. I made my agnosticism clear during my interview.) These values I vaguely refer to contain commitments to justice, knowledge, choice, and compassion–all of which could be embraced by many faiths. Another feature of our founding order of women religious–and one that is not officially recorded anywhere but is universally understood–is their commitment to their work. What this looks like at my institution is a long history of women who had the passion and, more importantly for my purposes here, the time in the day, to commit to founding and maintaining an institution of higher education. Education became their calling and, therefore, consumed their lives.
Since the institution’s founding, 14 of the 17 presidents have been members of the founding order. This means that 92 of the institution’s 116 years of existence have been shaped directly by an institutional ethos of work, work, work. It was present five years ago when I arrived: (a) what I like most about ____ is that we all honor the tradition and are willing to do whatever it takes for our students to succeed, (b) we all work hard around here because we believe in the mission and in our roles as contributors to a larger cause, c) you won’t see anyone work harder than a nun, but we all try! In year one, this commitment to the institution/community was inspiring. In year five, it’s exhausting and has me reevaluating what my role is/has been versus what my role should be. Continue reading