SAN DIEGO — The University of San Diego and the Diocese of San Diego recently announced several initiatives to enhance and strengthen local Catholic education.
This unique collaboration, unveiled at a Feb. 14 luncheon in USD’s Jenny Craig Pavilion, will provide a pathway for students at the diocese’s Catholic high schools to continue their Catholic education at USD.
Speakers at the event included Bishop Robert W. McElroy; Dr. James Harris, president of USD; and diocesan and university leaders, including Dr. Nick Ladany, dean of USD’s School of Leadership and Education Sciences (SOLES); John Galvan, director of the diocesan Office for Schools; and Stephen Pultz, assistant vice president of enrollment management.
Several collaborations related to increasing the number of Catholic school teachers, professional development for Catholic school leaders, and wellness services linked to Catholic schools also were announced at the press conference to an audience of Catholic educators, administrators and supporters.
In his remarks, Harris recalled the university’s founding in 1949 by San Diego’s first bishop, Charles F. Buddy, and Mother Rosalie Hill of the Religious of the Sacred Heart. He described the new partnership as a continuation of that legacy.
“These are very exciting initiatives that take us back to our roots working in close collaboration with the Diocese of San Diego,” Harris said.
“Our vision is to set the standard for an engaged, contemporary Catholic university where innovative Changemakers confront humanity’s urgent challenges,” he continued. “We want Catholic students from across San Diego to be major contributors to this vision.”
Among the initiatives announced at the luncheon, the Torero Promise is the hallmark program, aimed at providing a clear and promising path for Catholic high school students in continuing their Catholic education at USD.
The Torero Promise applies to students from local Catholic high schools: the Academy of Our Lady of Peace, St. Augustine, Mater Dei Catholic, Cathedral Catholic, and Vincent Memorial. The goal is to be able to enroll at least 35 students annually from these schools and to cultivate a stronger Catholic community.
The Torero Promise will not only provide students with a clear pathway toward being admitted to USD, but also a level of financial assistance. To be eligible, a student must achieve at least a 3.7 weighted GPA (recalculated by USD’s evaluation process) by the end of their junior year. Upon submitting a complete application for admission, and a review by the admissions staff, eligible students will receive a formal acceptance letter to the university.
The Torero Promise will go into effect in fall 2017. High school graduates of the Class of 2018 will be the first to be able to take advantage of it.
“Good students worry about getting into a good college and many of our young people here desperately want to come to the University of San Diego,” Bishop McElroy said at the luncheon. “This [new partnership] provides a pathway that’s clear, and a wonderful opportunity, and a wonderful message to our Catholic high schools.”
The bishop described it as “a tangible sign” of support for the excellence that those Catholic high schools demand of their students, the excellence that those students have achieved, and of the university’s “linkage with the Catholic community throughout this diocese.”
Bishop McElroy had begun his remarks by noting a recent debate that had taken place in the pages of the National Catholic Reporter and America magazine over what makes a Catholic university. He ended by suggesting that USD’s collaboration with the diocese should be seen as an answer to that question.
In addition to the Torero Promise, other initiatives include: the Academy for Catholic Teaching (ACT), a Certificate in Catholic Educational Leadership, and a proposal for Wellness Centers in local Catholic schools.
ACT is a Masters and Credential cohort program for teacher candidates, which will be offered by the Learning and Teaching Department of SOLES and will prepare highly qualified credentialed educators to teach in San Diego’s Catholic schools. It is designed to provide elementary and middle school teacher candidates with rigorous coursework, internships and field experiences leading to a M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction and a preliminary Multiple Subject teaching credential. Applications will be accepted for enrollment in fall 2017.
SOLES’ Leadership Studies Department also is developing a Certificate in Catholic Educational Leadership. Professional practice will be made relevant through practical experiences that prepare students to grow as Catholic school leaders.
Meanwhile, faculty from SOLES’ Department of Counseling and Marital and Family Therapy have been working collaboratively with the diocesan Office of Schools to develop a proposal for Wellness Centers. This research-based model is derived from a multi-tiered system of support that includes a continuum of services from universal preventive activities to intensive individualized services for students and their families. The program is designed to be strengths-based and will target diocesan K-8 schools in the San Diego Metro area serving primarily low-income students.
Galvan, a graduate of USD, said the new initiatives are the fruit of a partnership that has deepened over the past two years, which saw both turnover among the Schools Office staff and Ladany’s appointment as dean.
“Basically, it was all these fresh people at the table with not a whole lot of prior experience with what we’ve always done,” he said. “There is tremendous synergy between my team of associate directors, Dr. Julie Cantillon and Mr. Matthew Cordes, and Dr. Ladany’s team in creating a true collaborative culture serving Catholic education throughout our diocese.”
He added, “I’m very excited about where this can go.”