It’s faculty and dean recruitment season on campuses throughout the world right now. Provosts find themselves talking about their university more than usual, and they do so with people with only a limited knowledge of the institution.
I like these talks. Georgetown is recruiting more and more stellar faculty over time, and it’s a pleasure to meet them and get a sense of their research and teaching interests.
Talking about Georgetown inevitably leads me to discuss its Catholic and Jesuit character. Given that Georgetown is now recruiting faculty from around the world, this aspect of a university is new to many.
I generally review the notions of our devotion to service to others (“women and men for others”); our focus on the minds, physical health, and spirit of our students (“cura personalis”); our devotion to inter-group dialogue and empathy toward others; our efforts to address world problems while exercising deep reflection on how we do so (“contemplation in action”); our efforts to continuously seek deeper and deeper ways to achieve the goals of the university (“the magis”). I try to give examples of how this affects the deployment of resources across the university, to underscore that the values have real impact on behaviors.
While I don’t claim to our candidates that these values motivate every action by every actor at Georgetown, I do try to convey my distinct impression, as a relative new member of the community, that these values are real. Further, they yield a distinctive environment, one in which values can be evoked in decision-making discussions. Such opportunities are quite rare in most university environments that I experienced in the past.
I find the reaction of job candidates I meet quite interesting to this line of conversation. Some are quiet. Some immediately convey that they themselves had explored this part of Georgetown prior to visiting campus. Some note that this attribute was an attraction in applying. Some want to know more about the day-to-day implications of these features of Georgetown. Some note that all of these attributes sound consistent with their own values.
As I have had more of these discussions over the years, I’ve become more convinced of their utility in helping a potential colleague gain some insight into their possible life as a faculty member at Georgetown. Our discussion becomes more meaningful by the candidate asking how they might apply these values in their own teaching and research activities. This inevitably leads to more discussion about a fuller integration of faculty’s research and teaching into the goal of formation of our students.
I come away from these discussions with renewed conviction that these attributes of Georgetown are viewed as increasingly important in today’s world. Our candidates for positions seem to be attracted to them as signals that the institution does indeed have guiding principles based on enduring values. Further, these values are lived as real, far beyond what is typical in many vision and mission statements of research universities.