It's not an entirely empty exercise to imagine what the present would look like, had Bishop John McMullen not envisioned beginning a college for young men in Davenport in the years after the Civil War. How different would be the lives of thousands of St. Ambrose alumni without their well-rounded education, delivered within the context of an individual responsibility to use one's God-given talents to make the world a better place? And what of the hundreds of students each year who make St. Ambrose their educational choice because of the unique environment they experience the moment they step on campus?
What would the Quad Cities and states of Iowa and Illinois and beyond be like today without the educational partner who's not only able and willing to respond to the needs of their citizens, but also considers such responsiveness among its core values?
It's nearly impossible to imagine such a world, even from the vantage of hindsight. Yet in 2007, when St. Ambrose's president Joan Lescinski, CSJ tasked the campus community with developing a new vision statement for the university, it set us upon a journey to consider both our past and our future afresh. Our vision, we knew, needed to be congruent with not only who we are, but more why we are. Each turning point along the way arose from a common desire for increased clarity looking forward, where key niches must be identified and secured.
And in developing the lens with which to focus our endeavors, a picture of the St. Ambrose of tomorrow indeed emerged: "St. Ambrose will be recognized as a leading Midwestern university rooted in its diocesan heritage and Catholic Intellectual Tradition. Ambrosians are committed to academic excellence, the liberal arts, social justice and service."
To understand what this vision means and how it allows us to purposefully plan for the future, in this and coming issues of Scene we will "unpack" Ambrose's vision statement and explore the meaning and significance of each of its elements. We begin with social justice-why and how social justice became one of St. Ambrose's fundamental values and an Ambrose distinction.
More importantly, we'll explore social justice's role in Ambrose's future: What does a future look like in which we live in a socially just world? What should we be doing to achieve social justice on a more global scale? And what must St. Ambrose do to instill in our students not only a sense of social justice, but also how they can work for it in their lives?
All good questions, the answers to which lie in the very seeking of them, and in the work that we have been called to do.
So – let us begin our vision quest.