Implications for Christian Higher Education
Beyond the Jesuit, Catholic context of Boston College, though, we can see the way that a service-learning program like PULSE could be implemented elsewhere in Christian higher education to achieve certain desired student outcomes. We have shown in this chapter the way that PULSE, through its intentional program design, was able to respond to the specific needs and demands of the campus community. Institutionally speaking, Boston College is a diverse university with many schools and offices that is attempting to live into the ideals of Ignatian education in diverse ways. The thread that holds this diversity together is intended to be the education of human beings as lifelong reflective learners who use their knowledge in service of others. Some initiatives or foci where this thread is present arc curricular, co-curricular, or even non-curricular; regardless, there is a pervasive culture of educating the whole person, and service and concern for the common good, that is normalized on campus. While certainly there are pockets of resistance and individuals who resist, there is an expectation that caring for others is an important part of one’s own education and formation as a human being for and with others. So, in the case of this particular Jesuit, Catholic institution, it is clear that the curricular service-learning approach of PULSE has become one of the dominant through-lines connecting the goals of community-centered social justice and student holistic development.
But ultimately, PULSE is a clarifying example of the kind of intentional, praxis-oriented curriculum that is possible within all Christian higher education. Anchored in the humanities—in particular, theology and philosophy—the academic work engages students in ways that enable outcomes visible to the social scientist. The available evidence about PULSE indicates that the program by its design draws in students who are interested in developing an orientation toward praxis (if not at the point of admission, then at least during enrollment). Well-designed service-learning programming like PULSE that has been intentionally implemented into the curriculum can thus enable institutions of Christian higher education to simultaneously reinforce the importance of praxis and provide students an opportunity to develop their own capacity to bridge theory and practice in their lives and their communities. Christian higher education has, as one of its foundational concerns, this kind of reflexive praxis, where the sclf-in-community develops as the community develops. What the institutional design and response to PULSE show is that if Christian higher education chooses to make these concerns explicitly part of curricular programming, students will benefit. The students are ready for the work now and will be drawn to it (as the PULSE data show); they simply need the space intentionally carved out for them to work on these goals with guidance and support. Going forward, Christian higher education can look to the example of the PULSE orientation toward reflexive praxis to reexamine all curricular and co-curricular configurations, and to adapt that praxis to work on themes of individual formation, community development, democracy, and social justice as appropriate to institutional contexts, needs, and purposes.