Be interdisciplinary: pursue Catholic studies

By The Beacon | October 26, 2011 9:00pm

UP’s Catholic studies and social justice minor programs offer students a way to focus on interdisciplinary studies

By Fr. Jim Lies, C.S.C.

Why did you come to college? Why did you choose the University of Portland? What about this place is so distinctive that you would choose to give four years of your life to it? Ten years from now, what will you wish you had done while you were here? It's not too late to pursue some of those things.

One of the glories of UP as a Catholic liberal arts institution is the interdisciplinary nature of the place. You will, in pursuing your course of study, take courses beyond those that are required for your major.

During your time here, you will be, if you haven't been already, exposed to a whole array of courses that will challenge your thinking about God, yourself, your relationships and the world.

Another of the glories of being at this place is that if you plan well you can pursue a second major or an academic minor or two.

There are a few minors that are particularly appealing for being interdisciplinarity. With this article, there are two of which I'd like to say a bit more: the first, the Program in Catholic Studies (PCS) minor, and the second, the Social Justice Program (SJP) minor.

Though distinct minors, the programs share an introductory course, Catholicism and the Religious and Theoretical Roots of Social Justice and a Capstone Seminar in Catholic Studies and Social Justice. The other four upper division courses (12 credits) required for the major can be chosen from an array of courses offered in each of the respective minors.

Students pursuing a minor in Catholic Studies will gain a knowledge of the living Catholic tradition. They will become familiar with resources from the Catholic intellectual tradition that will permit them to critically explore the history and contemporary significance of Catholicism. They will learn about major Catholic figures from a variety of cultural and historical settings and will be able to demonstrate a knowledge of the complex and broad history of the Catholic intellectual tradition.

Students pursuing a minor in social justice will grow in awareness of a field of knowledge and expertise that will enable them to critically examine the roots and values, Catholic and otherwise, that constitute social justice in theory and practice. Also, they will learn to understand the principles of effective social activism and formulate and evaluate policies that seek to address issues such as racism, violence, literacy, human rights, poverty, hunger and stewardship of the environment.

Another exciting aspect of the programs is the study abroad opportunities associated with the minors.

During the summer of 2012, the program in Catholic studies and the social justice program are offering a joint Summer session in Florence and Rome. Students will take six credits in either of the two disciplines. Their credits will count toward upper division English and upper division Psychology or Sociology, whether for their majors or for required upper division credits outside of their major.

The PCS/SJP study abroad program in Florence and Rome will offer students the opportunity to spend six weeks studying in Italy. Living in the heart of Florence or Rome, students will be immersed in the language and life of a culture other than their own. As we consider the historic significance of these ancient cities, we will also be able to appreciate how Catholic thought and culture, and the 2,000-year presence of the Church, have shaped much of contemporary life in both cities and far beyond.

As much as a fine university education will provide knowledge and expertise in particular disciplines, it also prepares students to become citizens of the world. I urge you to take advantage of the many opportunities in this place to pursue your own becoming. Take advantage of the opportunities to understand and live your faith. Take advantage of the opportunities to attend to the needs of others. Take the time you have now to explore the rich depths that undergird each.

Beyond the opportunities that the program in Catholic studies and the social justice program offer, seek out the offerings provided by Campus Ministry, the Garaventa Center and the Moreau Center.

These days together on The Bluff can be all too fleeting. Let's be about some of the most important business that we can be about in this place. As busy as we are now, we'll never again have the time or opportunity that is afforded us in these days. Let's seize them!

Fr. Jim Lies, C.S.C, is the Executive Director of the Garaventa Center and an assistant professor of psychology. He can be reached at