Communication professors and deans from a variety of Jesuit colleges and universities visited Loyola University Chicago last week to listen to presentations and share ideas on teaching about communication and social justice.
The faculty members visited Loyola as part of the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities (AJCU) annual Communication Conference.
Participants came from many of the 28 Jesuit colleges and universities, including Boston College, Creighton University and St. Louis University.
The conference is comprised of deans and professors of communication studies from each of the AJCU member institutions. The conference is held annually at one of the member schools to foster discussion on new academic initiatives and possible collaboration.
Loyola’s School of Communication Dean Donald Heider began going to the AJCU communication conference two years ago, it wasn’t long before he envisioned the conference coming to Loyola.
“It was a natural fit for Loyola to host with our new school and new building,” Heider said. “I thought it would be important for us to have that opportunity.”
Heider cited the benefit of bringing like-minded professors together from various universities who shared the same goals.
“Jesuit universities are unique in some of their goals relating to social justice,” he said. “that’s something you probably won’t see as often at some of the larger schools.”
The attendees of the conference have a lot in common according to Heider.
“One of the benefits is the ability to brainstorm together. It is helpful to see what other programs are doing to accomplish some of those Jesuit values,” he said. “There is an emphasis on giving back and social justice, you can see how that is accomplished at other universities and how those programs can be implemented elsewhere.”
According to Heider one of the most useful aspects of the conference comes from teaching panels where professors can discuss how well certain teaching tactics work as well as why it is something does or does not work. Professors also receive a large amount of support from their peers when it comes to their research projects as well.
“It’s a small conference, so it’s a very supportive environment,” Heider said. “You can submit a research idea, get a helpful brainstorm going. If you’re having a problem you can ask for help.”
Loyola professor of communication Bren Murphy agrees with the benefits of the conference for not only the attendees, but their students as well.
“All of us get new ideas for classes and research and discover opportunities for future collaboration,” she said. “This has a direct benefit to students in that it can improve SOC classes and provide SOC faculty with new contacts for students looking for job or internships in other cities.”
Murphy also believes in the importance for the Jesuit universities to collaborate with one another.
“Although each of the 28 Jesuit colleges or universities in the U.S. has a distinctive character, they are bound together by underlying values and mission,” Murphy said. “Because of this underlying bond, we can learn a great deal from one another about how we embody those shared values in our curriculum and our research.”
For Heider, the biggest benefit is the sense of community the conference brings.
“Some people have been coming for 15 years, this is only my third one,” he said. “But everyone knows you, you get to talk frankly about what’s going on at other schools, almost like a support group. We’ve gotten a lot of praise for our program.”