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Petty Shares Insight On Student Affairs

Heights Staff

Published: Thursday, February 28, 2013

Updated: Thursday, February 28, 2013 01:02

Petty Shares Insight On Student Affairs

Matt Liber // Heights Staff

“It’s not brain science, but it is heart science.”
That is how M. L. “Cissy” Petty, Vice President for Student Affairs and Associate Provost of Academic Affairs at Loyola University New Orleans, described the process of building an Ignatian style of development in Jesuit universities. Last night she gave a lecture titled “Nexus,” specifically highlighting that Jesuit institutions must nurture an Ignatian community that helps to create “a seamless student experience.”
One of Petty’s objectives at Loyola University New Orleans is to ensure that her university embodies Ignatian development in all its programs. This Ignatian style can be summed up in the phrase, “the care of the whole person,” or as it is more commonly referred to in Jesuit circles, cura personalis.

“To get things done in a way that we [Jesuit institutions] need to in an Ignatian sense, in student affairs, you have to have a connection with mission and ministry and you have to be able to articulate it—and you have to have a connection in academic affairs,” Petty said.

According to Petty and Ignatian teaching, the care of the whole person is made possible by nurturing four main parts of the person: the intellectual, physical, social, and spiritual. The university setting is ideal for this kind of development and, according to Petty, is greatly enriched by proper execution of relevant programming.

“Student formation is everybody’s business,” Petty said. “So it’s not something that just belongs in an office of student formation and it’s not something that just belongs in an office of mission and ministry and it’s not something that just belongs in an office of student affairs or office of academic affairs … for this to work, all of that energy and all of that passion and all of the joy of being with students and watching that educational process take place needs to be promulgated.”
Even though a variety of student formation strategies are known, Petty explained that only those that leverage every aspect of university life are most effective.

“The only way to do student formation, in my opinion, is that everybody comes to the table to collaborate,” Petty said. “Now, there’s a huge difference between collaboration and cooperation. Collaboration means folks get to the table and then they start saying ‘Lets create this together, this is what we think this should look like.’ Collaboration is at the key of having a successful formative process for students. It’s hard to do.”
Petty outlined many of the key initiatives and programs that Loyola New Orleans is implementing to improve student formation. One program is called “Open doors with faculty and staff,” which helps faculty and students connect outside of the classroom.

“What we basically do is we have teams of faculty and staff partner together and go through the entire first-year hall and we bring cookies,” Petty said. “The funny thing is when we first did that they thought that we were trying to catch them doing something wrong … we got a very odd reception at first, they didn’t know why we were there. And faculty had to also get over crossing that barrier of ‘this is the academic side of the house’—the quad, the student center, and the residence halls—the student center is sort of the line of demarcation. The faculty did not want to readily go past that.“
Eventually this barrier was broken and with a group of about 45 faculty members they were able to meet about 850 students.

“It brought down some barriers—it’s a tradition [now] and so new faculty know about it, we do it twice a year,” Petty said. “It’s one way of trying to get faculty to get past that [barrier]. Because you know what, at the end of the day faculty are the reason students stay. For our team, student affairs, mission and ministry, academic affairs, we bolster that relationship so that there’s this comfort level about going to more lectures, more music, more theater, more ball games, all of those things that make a campus life vibrant.”
Petty thought this type of campus program helped to enrich not only the students’ development, but every member of the university’s community.

“I never want to get too old to have fun with students and enjoy the vibrancy that they bring to the world and their work,” Petty said.

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