From the Editor:
Dominican “Daisies” In Bloom at SHU
“The memory of Mother Augustine Neuhierl lived on in the prophetic words spoken to the professed nuns gathered around her bedside during her last hours on this earth. She told them of the ‘daisy field,’ her vision of a peninsula in the West dotted white with Dominican foundations; and she reminded them that, though they were contemplatives, their active work would take them into the schools awaiting them.”
— From “Amid the Alien Corn,” Sister Mary Philip Ryan, OP.
I love history. I’ve learned from my personal and professional experience there are few things that put the present in perspective and help map the future better than studying the past.
So, not long after I arrived at Siena Heights, I had a chance to read “Amid the Alien Corn,” a 1967 work chronicling the history of the Adrian Dominican Sisters, which, of course, includes the founding of St. Joseph College, now Siena Heights University.
I found the above passage of Mother Augustine fascinating. The title of the chapter was aptly named “The Prophecy.” Her vision of this “daisy field” that she shared with her fellow Sisters, some of whom would eventually travel from New York to Adrian, Mich., has stayed with me during my time here. Even though I did not know very much about Siena Heights at the time, I couldn’t help but wonder if Mother Augustine was referring to—at least in part—present-day developments.
After all, we now have campuses at eight locations in Michigan and also a robust online program. Quite a bloom, I would say.
In preparation for this issue, I had a chance to hear from some of the people who were involved with the development of our off-campus programs. After my abbreviated “history lesson,” I must say it was also an unlikely bloom.
For a small, Catholic institution to step away from the safe confines of its main campus and start degree programs for non-traditional students, most of whom were working adults, was a bold move. There was no blueprint, no historically reliable model to reference. And yet it has worked. Remarkably well.
My office works closely with the College for Professional Studies, and I’ve seen first-hand the success of these programs. But more importantly, the overwhelming success of these students. You can read about some of those successes in this issue. In fact, my office colleague, Liesel Riggs, is a CPS graduate of the Monroe program. She is also a shining example of how SHU’s degree completion program positively impacts students’ lives.
During my prep work for these stories, I had my own “revelation” of sorts: Siena Heights has brought the liberal arts and the Dominican tradition to these unique groups of students in a new and unconventional way. Didn’t St. Dominic follow a similar unconventional path in reinventing the Catholic Church a few centuries ago, by going out and meeting people where they are? It’s not surprising that “Meeting People Where They Are” is one of the mantras of CPS.
Ironically, “Amid the Alien Corn” was written well before the first adult degree completion program was offered and the first off-campus site opened. And though the Adrian Dominicans also had a hand in founding several elementary and high schools in the “peninsula,” I can’t help but think that Mother Augustine’s vision had Siena Heights at its core.
That I take on faith, not history.