Mission Values of Gonzaga University

Mission Values of Gonzaga University

derived from the Statement of Affirmation

Strongly rooted in its Catholic, Jesuit, and humanistic heritage, Gonzaga University serves its community and the world through education, scholarship, artistic expression and professional and community engagement.  As an institution of higher learning, Gonzaga is committed to the education of the whole person in mind, body, and spirit, aspiring to graduate well-rounded women and men who will make a difference for good in their communities and the world.

As a Jesuit Mission of the Catholic Church, Gonzaga University exists to teach and educate students at the baccalaureate and post-baccalaureate (Master's, Law, Doctoral) levels with a view towards combining a rigorous, contemporary academic program with specific values reflected in Jesuit and Catholic teaching.  The responsibility for achieving this mission is not restricted to Jesuits or to those engaged in ministry; it is the responsibility of the University leadership and all who work and study at Gonzaga.  The complexity associated with combining academic programs with Jesuit, Catholic, and humanistic values is real and ongoing; it can only be accomplished by facilitating a continuous dialogue within the campus community and fostering opportunities for the development of, and engagement in, practices that the community embraces and imparts.

The following Catholic, Jesuit, and humanistic values enlightening the work and vision of the Gonzaga community invite our reflection and discernment for their implementation.

Values of a Catholic University

The Catholic Church has defined in several key documents its desires for its universities and the students they educate; among these are the Apostolic Constitution of John Paul II, Ex Corde Ecclesiae, and various documents relating to the Catholic Intellectual Tradition and Catholic Social Teaching.  Ex Corde Ecclesiae identifies the core purpose of the university as the pursuit of truth; it holds at the same time as essential a framing of "truth" in relationship to the Gospels and the teachings of the Church.  The fundamental dynamic set up by Ex Corde Ecclesiae is one that seeks to understand how a Catholic university differs in its educational program from that of a secular university.

University education must include not only formal classroom instruction but also experiences which teach the student how to live a life of leadership, social justice, academic excellence, and intellectual pursuits, providing thereby a conduit of the values and doctrines of the Catholic Church into the communities where they live and work.

The Catholic Intellectual Tradition is rooted in a developing and authentic history of scholarship and teaching that derives from the Christian scriptures, the Church Councils, the founding of universities by the Church in the Middle Ages, schools of theology and spirituality, and major Catholic thinkers, artists and writers.  This tradition, interpreted for our time by the Second Vatican Council and subsequent teaching, emphasizes the following characteristics of higher education:

A.     The Complementarity of Faith and Reason as shown in the dialogue between religion and science.

B.     The importance of Intellectual Community and Dialogue, especially the community of scholars and students engaged in learning and teaching, which include interfaith and ecumenical dialogue.

C.     An Incarnational and Sacramental Vision of the world through the lens of the incarnation of the divine in the humanity of Christ.  From this religious belief and from reason, Catholic higher education promotes a study of the dignity of the human person in society, of the ultimate purpose and significance of human history, and of the sacredness of intellectual understanding through all disciplines.

D.     Whole Person Education that promotes the growth in students in all dimensions of their personhood - intellectual, emotional, social, moral, and spiritual.  Such broad education also includes scholarship and teaching in all areas of human learning, including liberal education, scientific-technical education, and professional education.

E.      Emphasis on humanistic Liberal Education, which calls for an integrated and reflective search for truth about the natural world through the sciences; the personal and social world through the humanities, social sciences, and fine arts; and the transcendent world through philosophy, theology, and spirituality.

F.      Concern for Prophetic Witness and Service among its faculty and students as fostered by active learning and service carried out in the light of Catholic social teachings on justice and peace.

Catholic Social Teaching has developed a rich body of principles and ideals to guide the behavior and activity of individuals and communities.  Some of the key elements of this Teaching include:

A.      Belief in the inherent dignity of the human person; all people are made in the image of God.

B.      Each person has a responsibility and right to contribute to the good of the whole society, the common good.

C.       Every person has a fundamental right to life and to those things that allow for a decent life.  With these rights come duties and responsibilities - to ourselves, our families, our society.

D.      The common good and a just society cannot be attained without working to positively impact the state of the poor, the vulnerable, and those marginalized by society at large.

E.      All people are to be assured a right to participate in the economic, political, and cultural life of their society.

F.       All people have a right to work, and access to safe and fair working conditions.  Economic progress and prosperity cannot occur as a result of human exploitation.

G.      Humans are the stewards of God's Creation, and thus are responsible for preserving the earth for future generations.

H.      We acknowledge our identity and responsibility as members of a global human community, one which recognizes common objectives despite national, racial, cultural, ethnic, ecological differences.

I.        Core to the nature of humans as social beings is the necessary and appropriate role of government in keeping with the principle of subsidiarity.  The function of government is to support the pursuit of the common good.

J.        Peace is the fruit of justice; the active pursuit of peace, through commitment to conflict resolution and understanding, is a Catholic value.


Values of a Jesuit University

The Society of Jesus has articulated in several specific and contemporary documents its understanding of how the apostolic activity of its sponsored works is to be carried out.  Chief among these are the Decrees of its more recent General Congregations, the Complementary Norms, and various publications on the Characteristics of Jesuit Education.  The principles enunciated in these sources significantly enrich the educational endeavors of the university and include the following:

A.      Each work of the Society is dedicated to the service of faith, of which the promotion of justice is an absolute requirement.  The service of faith involves the evangelizing mission of the Church: the bringing and discovery of Christ's message to a broken and beautiful world.  The promotion of justice recognizes the imperative to confront injustice in society and to extend care to the ignored, abandoned, and marginalized.

B.      Dedication to human dignity from a Catholic/Jesuit faith perspective.  Human dignity here appreciates not only religious tradition, but respect for human and environmental diversity.  Further, this translates into a focused care for students: a way of teaching and relating that underscores the value of community and the never-ending pursuit of an integrated life. 

C.       A dedication to creating opportunities for students and community members to grow in their faith, which for Christians includes an experience of Jesus Christ in an atmosphere that supports them, while respecting religious difference and promoting interreligious dialogue. The experience of living in community furthers their sense of the religious importance of abiding relationships with others.

D.      A public and consistent demonstration, throughout the institution, of the university's fulfilling its higher educational mission within the Catholic Church.  The university is clearly understood to be not only a source and sponsor of intellectual endeavor, but a community actively engaged in the promotion of faith and faith-filled opportunities, as well as active efforts to participate in and support the local Church.

E.      That educational excellence, which is a hallmark of the Jesuit intellectual tradition, is steadfastly protected and supported as a pre-eminent goal of the university in service of the primary role within the Church: the search for truth.  In the spirit of St. Ignatius, intellectual endeavor is characterized by reverence for the mystery of God's creation.

F.       That the promotion of justice permeates the university, not only in its academic curricula, faculty and staff, but in the ways it relates with its myriad constituents across all activities: students, student support, and student conduct; parents; alumni; the local and regional civic and religious community; benefactors; vendors and partners.

G.      That the university through its educational work demonstrates an appreciation for international and global interconnectedness, and the value associated with relating each student's educational experience to the contemporary issues of a global reality.

H.      That the university fosters an appreciation for the cultural, ethnic, and religious diversity of its local communities and the wider world.

I.        That the university fosters a care for creation recognizing the rights and responsibilities of all to promote a sustainable use of the goods of creation, recognizing the importance of biodiversity and the rights of future generations.

J.        That Board Members, administrators, faculty and staff have opportunities to experience the Spiritual Exercises, access to annual retreats, spiritual direction and support.


Values of a Humanistic University

The term "humanistic" is understood to include the quest for self-knowledge and the formation of a virtuous character.  We impart to our students a critical understanding and appreciation of our common human nature, the moral heritage of their culture and society, as well as some exposure and education in cultures and societies different from our own. We also impart to students a similarly critically informed understanding and appreciation for their own religious traditions and an exposure and education to other religious traditions prevalent in our global community. Humanistic in its original meaning, "of the humanities," is meant beyond academics to include the development of the whole person, helping students to integrate their lives into a harmonious whole and learning to prize and respect the flourishing of others, however different from themselves. This latter sense links "humanistic" to both "Catholic" and "Jesuit," which have a concern for the faith that promotes not only individual, but social, justice.  The humanism that has characterized Jesuit education over the centuries would espouse most or all of the foregoing Catholic and Jesuit values.

Gonzaga University's Baccalaureate learning goals offer an example of such humanism:

Gonzaga seeks to graduate Baccalaureate students who possess and demonstrate

  • Knowledge developed through the practices of liberal humanistic learning
  • Intellectual and practical skills, including
    • Thinking: reasoning, finding and evaluating information, and interpreting and performing critical analysis
    • Communicating: exchanging information and ideas through effective use of listening, speaking, writing, and technological tools
    • Quantifying: understanding and using mathematical skills and reasoning
    • Problem Solving: individually and in collaboration with others
    • Specializing: competence in one or more disciplines
    • Integrating: connecting learning within and across disciplines and experiences
    • Imagining: creating new perspectives, finding one's own voice
  • Habits of mind and heart, including
    • Reflection
    • Ethical reasoning and action
    • Civic, cultural and intercultural engagement
    • A commitment to a just society and world and the courage to act justly
    • A commitment to developing one's mind, body, and spirit
  • A thoughtful, evolving spirituality, including
    • Discerning one's faith and vocation
    • Engaging with the personal challenges of formation and transformation
    • Becoming women and men with and for others.

One need not be a Jesuit or Catholic to espouse the great majority of these values.  They are accessible from other faith-traditions and from philosophical, ethical reflection.  All at Gonzaga share roles of leadership and responsibility in sustaining and integrating them into our campus culture.