The Art of Reflection

Ignatius Statue

With commencement season fast approaching, students across the nation—undergraduate and graduate—are often asked to look back on their educational experiences and compare themselves to the people they were at the outset of their studies. At many universities, this process of reflection begins and ends in a final class meeting, capstone project, or team retreat. Reflection is always a valuable exercise for a student, of course—but one made all the more powerful when it’s woven throughout the student’s experience. This interwoven approach to reflection is embraced at Loyola University Maryland and in the Sellinger School of Business and Management.

This approach to reflection doesn’t just apply to students. The Sellinger School also calls upon faculty to engage in examination, and reexamination, of the ways they encourage students to embrace the University’s Jesuit values, think about the implications of their decisions in the long term, and to see their decisions from the perspectives of others.

Sellinger School faculty members and colleagues have integrated reflection into their work and classes in several ways. Here’s how some members in various disciplines approach this challenge:

Rev. James Connor, S.J, professor of theology, member of the Sellinger School Board of Sponsors, and the Sellinger School’s Jesuit in Residence:

“Nearly a year and a half ago the Sellinger faculty and I established what are known on campus as ‘mission lunches.' People can get so busy with day-to-day operations that the leisure to reflect gets put aside. We bring everyone together to reflect on what a Jesuit business school should be and how the curriculum can be designed to encourage students to develop the necessary professional tools in a socially responsible manner. Our aim is to help people understand…their own best way of operating and the role they play as team members and team leaders. Once you have this understanding it tends to have a multiplier effect on students. ” It’s an approach management guru Peter Drucker embraced.  “He had a great admiration for St. Ignatius Loyola as an ‘executive manager’ for the way Ignatius made constant use of evaluation, reflection, self-examination for the improvement of performance. What Drucker called ‘feedback analysis’ is exactly what any successful business leader does—on himself personally and on his whole organization.”

Fred Derrick, Ph.D., professor of economics, is a regular attendee at Fr. Connor’s lunches:

“The two ongoing questions that are asked at the lunches are, ‘What is a Jesuit business school?’ and ‘How do we get our students to understand how all the pieces of a Jesuit education fit together?’ Reflecting on these questions has helped shape a curriculum centered on competence, conscience, and compassion.  Many universities today teach a course or two on ethics, but Loyola’s twist is the University’s efforts to infuse ethics and written reflection into the entire business curriculum. In doing so we produce a student that is not only quite good at what he does, but one that knows who he is. You graduate Loyola as a whole person, not simply a technician.”

Gerard Athaide, Ph.D., professor of marketing, connects reflection and service learning:

 “Students in our Introduction to Marketing classes partake in service learning projects as part of those classes. They become engaged in helping local organizations such as the Refugee Youth Program and Hand in Hand Baltimore with marketing-related issues like attracting more volunteers or donations. Having students think through why organizations exist and how they help the community helps them reflect on Loyola’s mission. Service projects are great methods to bring the principles of a marketing class and reflection together as students love thinking through hands-on involvement.”

Rev. Timothy Brown, S.J., associate professor of law and social responsibility and special assistant for mission integration:

“Through our service experiences, all of us —students, faculty, and members of the communities in which service takes the world of others in their otherness, and in the concreteness of their diverse experience —grow in our ability to re-imagine the world we share.

Service helps expose us to new ideas and encourages reflection on those ideas. Reading, thinking, and connecting on those helps us grow beyond the closed notions we have and instead nurture new and different ways of thought and practice.”