As the 2016–17 academic year begins, a new chapter unfolds for a trio stepping in as endowed chairs for mission. Former President Andrea Lee, IHM created the prestigious academic positions — and named professors Kate Barrett, Allison Adrian and Amy Hamlin to them — to connect students, faculty and staff more deeply to the University’s Catholic identity, women-centered education and liberal arts core.
Barrett, occupational therapy director, lifts the mantle from retiring economics professor Amata Miller, IHM. As Archbishop Harry Flynn Distinguished Chair in Catholic Identity and Director of the Myser Initiative, she will cultivate Catholic Social Teaching in the curriculum and through the Myser lectures that feature renowned Catholic leaders.
Adrian, the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet Distinguished Chair in Women’s Education and Director of the Rita Gillach Otte Initiative in Women’s Education, will integrate the spirit and values of women’s education more robustly both inside and outside the classroom. Hamlin, associate professor of art history, will foster greater appreciation for the liberal arts as the Alberta Huber, CSJ Distinguished Chair in the Liberal Arts and Director of the Evaleen Neufeld Initiative in the Liberal Arts.
Here, the three share their thoughts on the work ahead:
Q: What is a mission chair and how does it serve us?
Adrian: A mission chair ensures that the University’s founding principles continue to permeate our institutional culture as we grow into a future that’s quite different from that in which the college was founded in 1905.
Hamlin: I like to think of a mission chair as an ambassador, an individual tasked with representing and promoting an institution’s mission, which is its loftiest goal. I’m currently reading Mary Oliver’s poetry, and she observes, “Attention is the beginning of devotion.” I hope to cultivate a certain attentiveness to the liberal arts in our community.
Barrett: We have an opportunity to shape what a mission chair looks like specific to St. Kate’s. We have a unique model in that all three of us are faculty members — connected to the curriculum and to students in the classroom. This strategic grounding will shape how we go about our work as mission chairs.
Q: What are your responsibilities and priorities?
Hamlin: At St. Kate’s, Sister Amata blazed a trail with the Myser Initiative on Catholic Identity. Allison, Kate and I are indebted to her and plan to continue her tradition of hosting the Myser lecture and offering summer workshops to help faculty and staff integrate Catholic Social Teaching into their work. Personally, I want to share our stories of how the liberal arts inform the work we do and the lives we live, while advocating for the relevance of the liberal arts.
Barrett: At the 2016 opening faculty and staff workshop, we brought together faculty, staff and administration across our departments, colleges and schools to more deeply understand their individual and shared roles related to mission. We have a priority of making the mission explicit for the general public — so when someone thinks of St. Kate’s, they automatically think “Catholic, woman and liberal arts.”
Adrian: My priorities include examining existing research on educating women, and cultivating more research and scholarship here at St. Kate’s. I hope to continue the good work of the CSJs and the Abigail Quigley McCarthy Center for Women in creating an academic culture that values women, celebrates their contributions and examines the history of women across cultures.
Q: What is your vision and what do you hope to accomplish?
Adrian: I have witnessed our community’s willingness to go against the grain in order to create a more just society and I want to support that. I intend to work with faculty and staff to become innovators in women-centered education in single-sex and co-ed classrooms. At new faculty orientation, we invited our newest members to create reading groups to discuss the book Liberating Sanctuary, about St. Kate’s feminist heritage.
Barrett: I want to support faculty, staff and student understanding of Catholic Social Teaching because it promotes justice and peace, and can help bridge differences as well as foster respect and dignity across faiths, ethnicities and socioeconomic backgrounds. Our communities need St. Kate’s graduates who are prepared to live those principles now more than ever.
Hamlin: I hope we can have an impact on the conversation of crisis around the liberal arts in higher education. It’s just too easy — and also reckless — to throw the liberal arts under the proverbial bus. I am keen to promote a more sustainable and creative alliance between the liberal arts and professional programs, while also identifying and celebrating programs where that alliance is already thriving.
Q: Final question: If your post was an actual chair, what would it look like?
Hamlin: What a terrific thought experiment! I imagine a three-legged stool, honestly and elegantly crafted from simple materials. Portable. Sturdy.
Adrian: Simple, three-legged, and like our campus, more beautiful than it has to be for its function.
Barrett: Just like everybody else’s chair. We are all in this together.
MISSION CHAIRS OFFICE
210 Coeur de Catherine, St. Paul campus
Allison Adrian: 651.690.6689
Kate Barrett: 651.690.8767
Amy Hamlin: 651.690.6809
Photos by Rebecca Zenefski, By Rebecca Studios.
The mission chairs and program funds are made possible by the generosity of more than 200 donors.
For a complete list of contributors, visit: stkate.edu/chairs.