Teachers help students beyond the classroom

During Jacob Terneus’ four years at Wyoming Catholic College in Lander, Wyo., the Omaha native said he felt his teachers cared deeply and worked hard, both inside and outside the classroom, to help him academically, morally, socially and spiritually.

Terneus, who graduated in May and is pursuing a master’s degree in classics at the University of Kentucky, said professors frequently invited students into their homes for meals, offered spiritual reading groups in the evenings, wrote last-minute letters of recommendation, showed excitement in their students’ projects, and were available to give advice on almost any topic.

That personal concern for the formation of students’ whole self – mind, body and soul – seems to be the standard at Wyoming Catholic College and other Catholic colleges and universities around the country, including Dominican University in River Forest, Ill., and College of Saint Mary in Omaha.

Charlene Shambare, a senior psychology major at College of Saint Mary, said her instructors, especially theology professor Jennifer Reed-Bouley, have gone above and beyond the traditional teacher/student relationship to make a personal impact, morally and spiritually.

Reed-Bouley, for example, played a significant role in her personal faith formation – inspiring Shambare to be baptized and confirmed into the Catholic Church at Easter this year.

"I was inspired by how greatly she resembled the type of Christ-like woman I wanted to be," Shambare said. "She exudes this sense of holiness that is admirable and impacts myself and others."

Dominican University, sponsored by the Dominican Sisters of Sinsinawa, is among Catholic institutions where relationship is at the heart of their mission, said Jeff Carlson, associate provost for undergraduate education and dean of the Rosary College of Arts and Sciences there.

"It is a commitment to the student’s well-being, which includes challenging them, listening to them, and walking with them as they strive to discern their own emerging sense of personal and professional vocation," he said. "Steeped in a Dominican ethos, our faculty inspire students to pursue truth, to give compassionate service, and to participate in the creation of a more just and humane world."

Rogelia Lily Ibarra, associate professor of Spanish at Dominican University, said she strives to build strong mentoring relationships with students through trust, love and authenticity.

As a first-generation college and graduate student and a Latina faculty member, Ibarra said she shares her stories and experiences with students, many of whom have similar backgrounds. She also strives to be accessible, serve as an example, and connect students to social, spiritual and health resources that can help them become strong community organizers and leaders.

Kent Lasnoski teaches theology, philosophy and Trivium (grammar, formal logic, classical rhetoric) at Wyoming Catholic College. And from his home, he conducts practical training on the methods of prayer and forms of liturgy within the church, discernment classes, marriage preparation and "Theology of the Body" courses for students. He and his wife also invite students over to celebrate holidays.

Lasnoski, who had Terneus as a student, said he makes it a point to listen, ask questions with interest and care, and help students discover in their own hearts and intellects the moral principles that lie at the heart of the Catholic tradition.

He also challenges students, by asking the "hard questions" about truth rather than simply giving his opinion, which encourages them to find the answers for what is true, good, and beautiful, he said.

"Then I challenge them to form the rest of their lives around the truth they’ve discovered," Lasnoski said.

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