Reflection on the Dominican Pillar of Community
by Deborah D. Frattini, M.F.A.
Associate Professor of English and Humanities
Dominic's vision of preachers included his belief in the power of community. Early Dominicans, itinerants, preached the Gospel to the people, but they always returned to their community as a place for contemplation and renewal. The Dominican Way is not isolated; it is relational. Community is one of the four pillars of Dominican life because it is through others that we encounter God.
As Albertus Magnus College celebrates its 90th anniversary, it is noteworthy that over its long and successful history, Albertus has always recognized the fundamental importance of community as a place, an experience, where connections are made that provide support and direction for our life journey. "Reflective of the dedication and commitment to service of our founder and sponsor, we at Albertus assume responsibility for the fulfillment of our particular service as an academic community" (Mission Statement). Moreover, the value of community is underscored in one of the five initiatives in the College's Strategic Plan ("Albertus 2020: A Strategic Path for the 21st Century") with the call to "Celebrate our Inclusive and Diverse Community."
Albertus Magnus College places importance in its community-just as it is. I have often heard that a good teacher meets her students where they are and takes them to where they should be. This philosophy is mirrored in the way Albertus regards its community: a place of potential, engagement, celebration, and hope grounded in what can be referred to as the four R's: Rights, Respect, Recognition, and Resolve.
Rights, especially to an education, are fundamental. Education empowers, and Albertus embraces this responsibility, welcoming students from all backgrounds, cultures, and ages. Diversity in a student body enhances the learning community; Albertus Magnus College places great value in its diverse learning environment that reflects an ever-changing society. Recognized as a leader in innovative education, Albertus is responsive to the needs of learners at every level and phase of their lives.
Respect for other is central to being Christian. The Albertus community wants students to grow to fullness both personally and professionally; this growth begins with honoring each individual, regardless of race, gender, or ethnicity. With its distinctive character and reliance on Dominican values, the Albertus community encourages respect. Thus, the Tradition of Honor, begun in 1925, specifically promotes an atmosphere of responsibility in every facet of college life, creating mutual trust critical to understanding one another and to personal growth. Such trust is the lifeblood of any flourishing community.
When I first began teaching, a wise mentor, Anne Kilbride, O.P., suggested my role as a teacher was to "Love my students into being." This powerful advice has stayed with me. The Albertus community "loves" its students insofar as it wills the deepest good for them. As a Catholic college in the Dominican tradition, we are called to love everyone; we are called to bring our students to fulfillment. In acknowledging the dignity of each person and the interdependence of everyone, Albertus reaffirms its search for truth in all its dimensions, including truth as it resides in each person, mind and spirit. Sharing the fruits of one's search for truth with others also helps define and shape community.
Recognition of individual talents and gifts is cultivated at Albertus Magnus College. Because Albertus is an academic community, emphasis will always be placed on facilitating learning; however, community building extends beyond the classroom. Involvement in campus activities is important. For instance, Albertus Magnus College includes athletes who may never go on to play professional sports, but under the guidance of dedicated coaches, learn values such as teamwork and sportsmanship. Student government recognizes and encourages gifts of leadership. Breakwater, the literary magazine, Dominican Ministries, and the Albertus Magnus Chorus, in addition to numerous clubs, empower students in nonacademic situations and provide opportunities to enliven and validate one another with a sharing of gifts. Candlelight Ceremony formally welcomes new students into the Albertus community. An annual study for all constituencies of the College gives the Albertus community a common language and provides an occasion to discuss our mission, the Dominican tradition, and how we experience this now and will live this into the future. The Saint Catherine of Siena Chapel, a beautiful space for nourishing the faith life of all individuals, speaks to an atmosphere that is invitational.
Albertus encourages dialogue; the Albertus community is a listening community. Everyone is welcome to tell his story; the College pays attention. Close interaction with Albertus faculty who mentor as well as teach is central to discovering and nurturing an individual's potential. Ultimately, all members of the Albertus community are celebrated, affirmed, and transformed, each in his own way. Connecting people to one another creates a sense of belonging. Often individuals say the Albertus community is like a family.
Resolve is the keystone that holds together the Albertus community. This resolve is seen in the coherence and stability of the College's academic programs which prepare students for building a career as well as for a life well-lived. The inclusion of internships, practica, and experiential learning speak to the College's offering an education that is practical in its application. Just as important, however, is a foundation in liberal arts that supports the belief that there is a higher purpose to education: preparation to live a meaningful life, one in which each person has a distinct and unique place. The Dominican pillar of community is reinforced by a vibrant Albertus education that is deliberate in its design and steadfast in its resolve to facilitate self-knowledge and spiritual and intellectual growth.
"We have faith in your future." These are not just words. They speak to the College's commitment to lifelong learning. Albertus does not see its mission as ending with a degree. Each May, at the end of Commencement, when President Julia McNamara tells new graduates they are always welcome back to their alma mater, she is reminding them that they remain vitally important members of the Albertus community, loved by their College, a College that will always believe in them and regard them as family.