Monday, September 5, 2011

AFCU-SBU Liberal Education Conference 2011: The Beginning

St. Bonaventure University in Western New York sponsored an Association of Franciscan Colleges and Universities (AFCU) symposium on “Liberal Education and Franciscan Pedagogues” from July 25 to July 28th. The University of Saint Francis Fort Wayne sent an impressive delegation. It has lead by the Dean of the School or Arts and Science, Matt Smith. The team included Earl Kumfer, Trish Bugajski, Connie Collins, Dan Torlone, Sister Anita Holzmer , sister Mary Govert and myself. We were the largest delegation at the conference. I think an objective evaluation would also reveal we were the must fun and the best looking as well!

It was a long drive. Once we got to the university and got our rooms we had a little time to wind down before the opening of the conference. I immediately took a walk along the shore of the Allegheny River. The campus is large, over 500 acres. It is framed by low mountains and the river. Forty five minutes away the school also has a mountain retreat. It is a beautiful setting.

AFCU 2011 Liberal Arts Conference: First Afternoon Along the River

AFCU 2011 Liberal Arts Conference: Walking Along the Allegheny River

Behind the sports complex and across the river , on the side of a hill/mountain is “Merton’s Heart.” This is where Thomas Merton went to meditate when he was at SBU. For a man who was rejected by the Franciscans (to be a friar) and became a Trappist, his influence on the campus is substantial. I always feel happy looking at “Merton’s Heart.”

AFCU 2011 Liberal Arts Conference: SBU Merton's Heart

With the little bit of time we had we did a little exploring of the campus. I had been to SBU for their AFCU Symposium six years ago. It was like visiting an old friend. I loved the buildings, the open spaces, the library.

AFCU 2011 Liberal Arts Conference: The SBU Campus

I always liked spending a little time at the Oratory. It was one of the many ways you knew you were at SBU.

AFCU 2011 Liberal Arts Conference: The Oratory

Inside the Oratory was a quiet place of meditation. You were cut off from the busy campus. It was a place of meditation

AFCU 2011 Liberal Arts Conference: Inside the Oratory

However, as I stated, it was a brief time to explore. At 4:30 the conference began. The first presentation set the tone, “Liberal Education in the 21st Century: The Challenge and Opportunity.”The talk let us know what would happen to schools that did not meet the challenges of distant learning, a move toward professional school education or government funding that was often gong to for-profit schools. It also highlighted what we as Franciscans had to offer that was of value and different. It was food for thought.

And so went then went, had had some food at Hickey Dinning Hall. Finally we had drinks and conversation at the Merton Ministry Center. It was the beginning of a productive and four weeks.

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