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Why Choose a Jesuit College Education

Updated on September 30, 2010

Just like every high school senior, when I was faced with the big college decision, my head was spinning. Where in the country should I go? What did I want to study? Large state school or small liberal arts college? So many decisions!

What made the decision easier for me was choosing to go to a Jesuit college or university: well, that narrows it down to 28! My family has always been active at the local all-boys Jesuit high school, and since my brothers would be educated there, I was encouraged to seek out a Jesuit education in college.

I chose Loyola in New Orleans (not just a party school!) and I am so glad I did - I felt that I was being educated as a whole person, not just a brain. I felt comfortable talking with my teachers outside of class and took time to take part in my school community in a way that I could not have done at a huge state school.

A Jesuit education is not the only way, but it was the best way for me. Below are reasons why I chose a Jesuit university.

St. Ignatius Loyola

History of the Jesuits and Education

Jesuits are the members of the Society of Jesus, the largest Catholic male order. St. Ignatius of Loyola founded the Society of Jesus in 1534. The Jesuits are best known for the missionary work and are currently enagaged in this type of work in 112 nations. They are also famous for their work in education and other intellectual activities.

From the beginning of their existence, the Jesuits put a strong focus on education. While many priests of the time period were not very educated, the Jesuits put an emphasis on academics for anyone who wanted to join the Society of Jesus.

When St. Ignatius died in 1556, the Jesuits were operating 74 colleges on three different continents - the Jesuits have always focused on a liberal arts type education, even in those days, encouraging the study of religion, languages, sciences and the arts.

Currently the Jesuits operate 28 colleges and universities in the Unites States as well as high schools; they also have a presence all over the country, especially the Philippines and India in the area of higher education.

Academic Excellence

Most Jesuit colleges are well-known for their focus on a liberal arts education - probably why so many politicians come from Jesuit-educated backgrounds. St. Ignatius taught the study of the world - basically everything from art to language to science was taught at every the earliest of Jesuit schools. Making money or being the most successful at one particular subject is not the focus of a Jesuit education - instead, they focus on creating a well-rounded student, who is educated on things that are going on around them and the experiences of other cultures.

The community at Jesuit colleges and universities is strong, which means that a student's experience at one of these institutions will be hands on. Classes are generally smaller, teachers more accessible and the relationship between student and mentor/teacher is an important one. The teacher's aren't talking heads at the front of a lecture, but they provide guidance that is essential to a student's development as a whole person.

Spiritual Growth

Another thing the Jesuits are known for worldwide are their retreats. From its early development, the Society of Jesus has stressed the importance of meditation and silence in order to speak with God and hear what He is calling you to do in your life.

The Spiritual Exercises is a text based on the teachings of St. Ignatius, and much of the exercises employed in this historical text are used today to guide individuals through the Ignatian retreat experience. While the original Spirtual exercises are meant to take a full 30 days, there are many opportunities at Jesuit colleges and universities to experience this powerful prayer experience over a weekend.

Aside from access to Catholic Mass services on campus, the retreats that take place on a Jesuit college or university campus is a positive aspect of student life. Whether or not a student chooses to be heavily involved or not, the strong faith of the Jesuits will permeate life at these colleges and universities.

Social Justice

St. Ignatius taught a culture of service to others - wanted his Jesuits to be "men for others," which is why a Jesuit education will have a strong focus on social justice. Just as Christ lived his life for others, so too did St. Ignatius and that became the basis of the Society of Jesus. Ignatius even asked Jesuits who were in training to spend part of their time doing work in hospitals, doing menial work, in order to learn humility and service to others.

Today, that culture of service lives on in every Jesuit institution: high school, college or university. There are a plethora of opportunities for community service and each campus in truly a part of the surrounding neighborhoods where they are located. A student learns that his or her talents shouldn't be limited to making as much money as possible, but to making a true difference in the world, just as Jesus did with his life.

Famous Jesuit Alumni

Alumni from Jesuit colleges and universities are CEOs of major companies, elected officials (even a President!), owners of sports teams, mathematicians and physicists, just to name a few. Here are some notable alumni:

Alan Alda, actor, Fordham University

Jack Bree, former CEO of Sherwin-Williams, John Carroll University

Tom Benson, owner of the New Orleans Saints, Loyola New Orleans

William Casey, former director of the CIA, Fordham University

Hon. Bill Clinton, President of the United States, Georgetown University

Sandra Cisneros, author, Loyola University Chicago

Chris Farley, actor, Marquette University

Mary Higgins Clark, author, Fordham University

Vince Lombardi, Hall of Fame NFL coach, Fordham University

Alonzo Mourning, NBA star, Georgetown University

Kathleen Murphy, CEO of ING Management, Fairfield University

Tim Russert, politician and anchorman, John Carroll University

John Stockton, NBA star, Gonzaga University

Clarence Thomas, Supreme Court Justice, College of the Holy Cross

Denzel Washington, actor, Fordham University

From the Mouth of Jesuits...

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