National Assessment Results Show SHU as Leader in Personal and Social Responsibility

News Story:

Sacred Heart University received high scores in a national survey for its efforts to integrate ethical and moral competence into the general education curriculum and co-curriculum, further affirming the University’s status as a leader in educating the whole person.

The survey, on Personal and Social Responsibility, was administered by the Association of American Colleges and Universities to 23 member institutions that were selected to be part of its National Leadership Consortium: Core Commitments. The survey examines perceptions of how universities across the nation are implementing the AAC&U’s five dimensions, which are designed to provide students with holistic education in personal and social responsibility. The five dimensions are striving for excellence, developing personal and academic integrity, contributing to the larger community, taking seriously the perspectives of others, and developing competence in moral and ethical reasoning.

“These five dimensions are essential to our students becoming knowledgeable and educated individuals in a global world,” said English and Psychology Professor Michelle Loris, Ph.D., Psy.D. She is associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and chair of the University’s Core Curriculum Committee.

Approximately 1,000 students and nearly 200 Sacred Heart administrators, faculty, and student affairs staff responded to the survey. Nearly 60 percent of students and more than 60 percent of administrators, faculty, and student life staff strongly agree that helping students develop personal and academic integrity is a high priority at Sacred Heart University. Seventy-two percent of administrators, faculty, and staff and more than 50 percent of students strongly agree that contributing to the community is also stressed at Sacred Heart. And more than 50 percent of students responded that they have increased their abilities in ethical and moral reasoning since matriculating here.

“We are heartened by these results since these Five Dimensions are so consistent with the university’s mission and its new common core curriculum, The Human Journey,” Loris said.

Sacred Heart was one of 23 universities selected out of a group of 150 to participate in this National Leadership Consortium and the survey that measured implementation of the five dimensions. When selected in 2007, Sacred Heart was developing its new signature common core curriculum, The Human Journey, which Caryn McTighe Musil, senior vice-president of AAC&U, called “…an exemplary gem of a new core curriculum…because it is very values-oriented…”

Each of five courses in this new core — history, English, social and natural sciences, and religious studies/philosophy — is taught within the framework of four key questions: what does it mean to be human, to live a life of meaning and purpose, to understand and appreciate the natural world, and to form a more just society for the common good?

Sacred Heart was chosen to be part of the AAC&U’s National Leadership Consortium, in part because The Human Journey aligns with the five dimensions of the Core Commitments project.

“They’re very consistent,” Loris said. “They’re very connected.”

To further implement the five dimensions on campus, the University set up a leadership team of 40 professionals from the divisions of Academic Affairs and Student Life. The team is collaborating on several projects that integrate the five dimensions with academics and co-curricular activities.

One project is the “Faculty Fellows Program,” in which faculty and student affairs staff will go into residence halls and jointly spend time interacting with students through a set of activities centered on each of the five dimensions within the context of a student’s experience in and out of the classroom. The goal is to foster dialogues between groups and develop a more inclusive sense of community by encouraging a discourse pertinent to issues of civic and moral responsibility.

Another project is called “Making the Grade: Putting the Academics Back into the Clubs.” The purpose is to revamp academic clubs to focus more on their respective disciplines and de-emphasize their social aspects. By strengthening academics, social development will follow naturally. This re-structuring would strengthen the relationships between the academic department and the club.

Another project proposes to have incoming freshmen develop an electronic portfolio where they integrate work from their courses in the new common core curriculum with the six pillars of their personal development plans and the five dimensions. The six pillars are educational enrichment, faith and ethics, community service, global perspectives, career development, and health and wellness.

“Educating the whole person — that’s what Sacred Heart University is all about,” Loris said. “It’s central to Sacred Heart University’s mission. It’s what we do and it’s what we are going to continue to develop.”