Week 2: The Value in a University

Week 2: The Value in a University

"If then a practical end must be assigned to a University course, I say it is that of training good members of society. Its art is the art of social life, and its end is fitness for the world. It neither confines its views to particular professions on the one hand, nor creates heroes or inspires genius on the other [...] A University training is the great ordinary means to a great but ordinary end; it aims at raising the intellectual tone of society, at cultivating the public mind [...] It is the education which gives a man a clear, conscious view of their own opinions and judgements, a truth in developing them, an eloquence in expressing them, and a force in urging them. It teaches him to see things as they are, to go right to the point, to disentangle a skein of thought to detect what is sophistical and to discard what is irrelevant."

- St. John Henry Newman (Discourse VII, "The Idea of a University")

This week we will be discussing "The Value in a University," exploring the values of universities and the value in a university education. Fr. Gary and Kevin will be joined in conversation by Rev. Dave Tyson, C.S.C., President of Holy Cross College; Kathleen Sprows Cummings, Director of the Cushwa Center for the Study of American Catholicism; and Aisling MacRunnels, Chief Business and Growth Officer at Synack, a cybersecurity company based in Silicon Valley.

View the Event

Watch the recording from Wednesday, October 14, at 1 p.m. EDT below. Register to receive information about how to join future live events.


Presented by Rev. Gary S. Chamberland, C.S.C. and Kevin Whelan

This week, we will be reading two articles to situate our conversation about university value and values in a contemporary context. Janan Ganesh, Financial Times journalist, author, and political commentator, writes “We need to talk about talent” as a lament to the modern notion that hard work alone, rather than natural talent, is a sufficient requirement for the materialization of young people’s dreams.

We will also be reading “English universities are in peril” by Stefan Collini, Professor of English Literature at Cambridge and author of “What Are Universities For?” (2012). Collini argues that English universities have become transactional, treating students as consumers and education as a commodity, rather than viewing university as a  “life-changing” opportunity to encounter “manifold forms of otherness.” Collini’s observations 130 years later reminisce Newman’s fears that universities would abandon a model of broad, liberal education in favor of professional training.

Discussion of the Pre-Reading Materials

Presented by Rev. Gary S. Chamberland, C.S.C. and Kevin Whelan

Watch below as Kevin and Fr. Gary discuss this week’s supplementary reading.

Newman on Education - A Brief Introduction

Presented by Rev. Gary S. Chamberland, C.S.C. and Kevin Whelan

Kevin worked with last week’s guest speaker, Professor Emerita and renowned Newman Scholar Mary Katherine Tillman, on a few summaries of Newman’s admittedly dense “The Idea of a University.” Read their mini-article on Newman’s emphasis on liberal education here.

Join the Live Event - This Week’s Guests

Presented by Rev. Gary S. Chamberland, C.S.C. and Kevin Whelan

Register to receive information about how to join live events and submit your questions for the panelists.

Fr. Gary and Kevin discuss this week’s guest speakers and their diverse expertise and experiences that they will be bringing to our conversation as we interrogate “The Value in a University.”

Aisling MacRunnels

Aisling MacRunnels is the Chief Business and Growth Officer at Synack, a cybersecurity company she co-founded that is based in Silicon Valley. Originally from Greystones, County Wicklow, she left Ireland at the age of 18 to attend university at Mount Saint Mary’s in Maryland. MacRunnels is highly involved with the Notre Dame ESTEEM program, an interdisciplinary master’s program for STEM graduates transitioning into business and entrepreneurship. She speaks to the cohort yearly, sharing her insights from Silicon Valley and advice on entrepreneurship, emphasizing authenticity, problem-solving, and passion over money as motivation. Read one of her latest speeches from the ESTEEM and IDEA Center’s game day Innovation Rally here.

Rev. Dave Tyson, C.S.C.

Rev. Dave Tyson, C.S.C., was elected President of Holy Cross College in 2017. A member of the Notre Dame class of 1970, Fr. Tyson has served in a variety of faculty and staff positions at Notre Dame since, including as an assistant and associate professor in the Department of Management, St. André Bessette Director of Nonprofit Professional Development at Mendoza College, executive assistant to Notre Dame President Emeritus Father Theodore Hesburgh, C.S.C., and as Vice President for Student Affairs. In 1990, he was elected the President of the University of Portland, a Holy Cross sister institution of Notre Dame, where he served for 13 years.

Kathleen Sprows Cummings

Kathleen Sprows Cummings is the Director of the Cushwa Center for the Study of American Catholicism. She is also a professor of American Studies and History at Notre Dame, and an affiliated faculty member in Gender Studies, Italian Studies, and the Nanovic Institute for European Studies. “The church canonizes saints in large part because the faithful need their stories.,” said Professor Cummings. “St. John Newman’s story is exceptionally relevant today, offering avenues for Catholics to think about the purpose of the University, the role of faith in public life, and the place of religion in a fractured modern world.”

Additional Resources

Presented by Rev. Gary S. Chamberland, C.S.C. and Kevin Whelan

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