Why is Education outside the Classroom a part of Jesuit Education?

By Rev. Andrew Thon, S.J.

Even though the words “education outside the classroom” were not used in formulating the Jesuit educational mission, Jesuit education has always valued the holistic development of students. Student affairs professionals are among those who value the education of the whole person and the learning experiences of students during their many hours outside of class. This article focuses on the historical development of the student affairs profession in Jesuit colleges and universities and the integration of the Jesuit educational mission’s core values with the mission and values of the student affairs profession.

Historical Development

While student affairs (originally called student personnel) grew as a profession after the landmark 1937 Student Personnel Point of View, student affairs in Jesuit schools took more time to develop as a professional function since Jesuits initially took on the roles of dean of students, counselors, activities directors, etc. In 1955 Joseph Rock, S.J., dean of men at Georgetown, affirmed the Jesuit value of educating the whole person at the annual meeting of the Jesuit Educational Association (JEA) – the forerunner of the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities (AJCU):

The student personnel point of view, awareness, or philosophy, about which so much has been written in current personnel literature, has never in theory been lost, and but infrequently neglected in Jesuit educational practice. The individual’s worth, value, and meaningfulness both as a person and as a member of society have never been obliterated, but have been stated repeatedly in every Jesuit college catalogue, have been inculcated in every Jesuit teacher, and hammered into every Jesuit student. Reiteration of our concern for the whole educand and all his faculties – a novel concept to some moderns – has become a cliché in our educational terminology.

At the 1961 JEA Institute for Academic Deans, Rev. Victor Yanitelli, S.J., Director of Student Personnel Services at St. Peter’s College and the principle spokesperson for student personnel administrators at Jesuit schools, emphasized that: “the goal of the student personnel program must be education; and its primary purpose must be to assist the academic dean in getting the job of education done.”

In 1962 JEA sponsored a major workshop for Jesuits involved in higher education entitled “The Role of Philosophy and Theology as Academic Disciplines and Their Integration with the Moral, Religious, and Spiritual Life of the Jesuit College Student.” The workshop participants stressed that students’ extra-curricular life was closely linked with the religious and academic missions of the Jesuit Institution and the task of student personnel was: “to develop the ability of students to apply to their own personal and social lives the principles learned in the philosophical and theological disciplines.” The workshop valued the fact that “since most of the student personnel officers were Jesuits or Jesuit-trained, their actions are influenced by spiritual principles, philosophy, and theology.”

Also at the 1962 JEA workshop, Father Yanitelli made this bold statement:

Jesuit education from its very origins up to modern times is based on a commitment to what the contemporary educational world calls student personnel services. The Jesuit commitment to the student personal program is essential to the goals of its academic program; and without student personnel, in the larger meaning of the term, there would be no Jesuit education today.

In 1965 the 1st JASPA (Jesuit Association of Student Personnel Administrators) summer workshop was held with the theme “The Coordination of the Student Personnel Program and Its Integration with the Total Educational Purpose of the Jesuit Institutions of Higher Education.” The purposes of this 2-week workshop were: (1) indicate the type of professional training necessary for competency in student personnel work; (2) lead to better coordination of all student personnel services within the Jesuit college or university as well as insure their integration with the total educational purpose of the Jesuit institution.

The 1965 workshop discussions and the publication of the workshop proceedings (587 pages!) more clearly defined the nature of student personnel work and significantly increased awareness of the role and importance of student personnel services in the Jesuit educational mission:

In the Jesuit view, education fosters the development and perfecting of the total human person toward personal and social Christian maturity. This presupposes that the compete Jesuit educational program must include not only the richest possible curricular offerings, particularly theology and philosophy, which are the core of Christian wisdom, but also an integrated and coordinated program of student personnel services designed to provide opportunities for those aspects of Christian growth and development which are not, and cannot be, fully-achieved through classroom instruction.

This 1965 JASPA workshop reaffirmed “care for the whole person” as a major characteristic of the Jesuit educational vision when it recommended that:

Each of our colleges resolve, not as rhetorical banality, but as a revolutionary pledge, to put the student at the center of the institution’s efforts, understanding the student not as subject or financial resource or academic prime matter, but as a person. The fullest development of his personhood would be the entire college’s enterprise. Faculty, libraries, laboratories, administration, and other resources exist to facilitate this development. This concern for the student is understood not only to include the involvement of the student in shaping his college experience in and out of class, but also a recognition of and provision for the whole sweep of his developmental needs, academic and non-academic.


At the 1989 Higher Education Assembly hosted by Georgetown University, Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, S.J., Superior General of the Society of Jesus, also stressed the necessity of developing the whole person: “Without attention to the other dimensions of a student’s development, our education runs the risk of remaining cerebral, not fully human in its quest for God’s love and guidance.”

One of the daily themes of the JASPA 2000 summer institute at Santa Clara University was “Seeking Common Ground,” which focused on integrated learning. The introduction for this day stated:

To be effective on our campuses, we need to create common ground with our academic colleagues.

 Holistic education of our students leads to the inevitable imperative that we deliver our educational programs holistically, meaning that we must find ways of effectively collaborating with faculty and others in order to make a lasting difference in the lives of our students.

Today, the primary and privileged mission of student affairs educators continues to be providing educational experiences outside the classroom which complement the educational experiences in the classroom and contributing in significant ways to the Jesuit and student affairs values of educating the whole person.