Loyola University Chicago is increasing its commitment to helping Catholic schools with the establishment of the Andrew M. Greeley Endowed Chair for Catholic Education.
The position, according to a statement released by the university, recognizes a faculty member who contributes to the support and improvement of effective K-12 Catholic schools and his or her continued leadership through service and scholarship.
The first holder of the chair, Lorraine Ozar, has served as the director of the university’s Andrew M. Greeley Center for Catholic Education since it was started by Jesuit Father Michael Garanzini, Loyola’s president. That position now goes to Michael Boyle, the former assistant director.
“Within higher education, endowed chairs are very special appointments,” Ozar said. “It means someone there really believes strongly in what the chair is focusing on. There are only a handful of these in every institution. Father Garanzini and the board of trustees have made quite a clear statement that the university is committed to Catholic education and the future of Catholic education.”
The center for Catholic education was created to help Catholic schools make use of the resources of Loyola’s School of Education in terms of implementing best practices in a Catholic school environment. One of its projects has been developing standards and benchmarks for best practices in Catholic schools.
Ozar said she and a researcher from Boston College recently received a grant to study what effect the implementation of those standards and benchmarks have had; that’s a project she intends to continue in her new position.
“Excellent schools of any kind need to be in a mode of continuous improvement,” Ozar said. “If you rest on your laurels, you’re going to backtrack.”
But with tight budgets and lean staffs, most Catholic schools and diocesan education offices simply don’t have the resources they need to do the research to determine what works best.
“That’s why Catholic schools need universities, why all schools do,” she said. “We can offer Catholic schools the research- based strategies and methods for their exact situation because we get it.”
Ozar said that in addition to research, she will continue being a voice for Catholic education and she will teach in the School of Education.
Presentation Sister Dale McDonald, director of public policy and educational research for the National Catholic Education Association, said it’s important for universities to really examine Catholic education, both looking at what helps it work better and what impact it has on society as a whole.
“The research is pretty sparse,” she said. “Currently, we are educating almost 2 million students, down from 5 million, we have people out in the world who have had Catholic beginnings. How has that beginning contributed to what they have done? This is a ripe field for study.”
At the same time, she said, Catholic colleges and universities are finding ways to offer their expertise to Catholic schools, especially in the area of providing professional development that is rooted in Catholic identity.
Too often, the only education in teaching that Catholic school faculty receive comes in a secular environment, and teachers and principals must translate it into a Catholic environment for themselves.
Ozar said it’s especially appropriate that the chair be named in honor of Father Andrew Greeley, who did research in the 1970s showing the positive impact Catholic schools had on their students, the church and society as a whole.
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