Christendom College President Dr. Timothy O’Donnell appeared on Relevant Radio’s Trending with Timmerie show on Tuesday, June 2, to discuss why Christendom plans to reopen in the fall for in-person classes. Discussing the crucial need for personal education in our modern day, O’Donnell further noted why a Catholic education still matters today, calling it a “guide on the road to happiness.”
Christendom College announced its plans to resume in-person classes this coming fall on May 13, making it one of the first colleges to do so. During his interview with Timmerie Geagea, O’Donnell talked about why the college felt it was so necessary to resume classes in the fall, citing the importance of interpersonal connectivity in the pursuit of wisdom.
“When you’re doing a liberal arts education, it is something that is intensely personal — you’re touching people’s souls,” said O’Donnell. “Wisdom requires that type of interpersonal connectivity that you just can’t get looking at a computer screen. That’s one of the big reasons that we decided to bring our students back. Our professors aren’t just detached academics — they’re mentors, there to guide and direct the students. We’re all fellow learners in the pursuit of wisdom, which is something that you really need to do in a personal way.”
The college assembled a task force to help prepare for contingencies that may arise both before the semester begins and during the academic year, in order to ensure the health and safety of the student body upon their return.
“While no segment of society can guarantee that there will be no cases of the coronavirus in the days ahead, we are a small residential school, with the ability to put in place reasonable protocols, partner with healthcare professionals, sanitize prudently, and increase awareness of helpful practices to reduce the likelihood of infection and its spread,” said O’Donnell.
O’Donnell went further in his discussion of why in-person mentorship is so integral to a Catholic education. In a time where digital communication has taken precedent and people are feeling more disconnected than ever, Christendom’s personal education becomes even more important, with professors truly working to help students on their vocational journey.
“The purpose of the faculty and the staff that are involved is to try to build and strengthen community, and, in a Catholic setting, that includes a strong emphasis on not only the intellectual life but also the sacramental life as well,” said O’Donnell. “If you have a community where faith, hope, and charity are living, the community naturally begins to thrive. There will be problems because of our fallen human nature, but where there is grace the Holy Spirit can work in a really beautiful way.”
Pivoting to the state of higher education in America today, Timmerie pointed to a recent study released by NPR showing that college enrollment is down 11% over the past decade. While colleges across America are seeing a decline, Timmerie noted that Christendom has instead seen an increase — one that O’Donnell believes is due to the clear mission of the college.
“Because we have a clearly defined and articulated mission, we have grown steadily,” remarked O’Donnell. “As a matter of fact, we’re expecting another record enrollment in our undergraduate class this coming year, despite the coronavirus and everything else that is involved with that. Part of the thing that we’re experiencing right now is that everyone, universally, is seeking happiness, but unfortunately, many of the institutions used to provide and give insight into meaning and purpose are no longer doing that, and if the only thing in life is just to get a job and make money, that is not enough to satisfy the deep and profound hunger in the human heart. That’s why, whenever possible, if someone has the opportunity to get an authentic, Catholic education that will probe those kinds of questions deeply and openly, it’s a road to happiness that we all seek.”
Finally, in an age where STEM education and careers have taken precedent, O’Donnell defended the need for a liberal arts education in 2020 and beyond, seeing it as an antidote to the confusion and hatred that is seen in society today.
“A liberal arts education is incredibly relevant. What we’re seeing in our culture now, the type of confusion and hatred, a liberal arts education equips you to think clearly, to make informed decisions, to think critically about things, to not be carried away by every headline or be manipulated by rhetoric. In doing so, we come to a deeper understanding of our common humanity, and we are more capable of entering into a relationship of God, which provides a deep insight into the dignity of the human person that a Christian anthropology can provide. There is not an employer in the world who would not want someone who is deeply educated, possesses moral integrity, and understands the true dignity of the human person and could bring that into the workplace.”
In addition to the college announcing plans to reopen this fall, a new free online class series will be launching from Christendom this coming week. Taught by O’Donnell, the class, “Christ: The Center of History” will be available beginning Monday, June 8.