St. Thomas graduate school tracks integrate professional life, spiritual growth
August 16, 2016
HOUSTON — To educate is one of the greatest acts of charity of a society. To inform and form the human mind, heart and spirit is quite the responsibility, too. The University of St. Thomas (UST) has two graduate tracks for Catholic educators, and those thinking about a job in education. The tracks are designed to help educators better understand the mission of Catholic education and harness their talents to dialogue with our American culture through the eyes of our Catholic Christian faith.
As joint initiatives of the UST School of Education and Human Services, and the Center for Faith and Culture, the two tracks offered in Catholic education are the Master of Arts in Catholic Education (MACE) and the Master of Arts in Catholic Educational Leadership (MACEL) for principals, administrators and those wishing to pursue this type of career. Both tracks also offer a graduate certificate program.
Ana Egea is currently a student in the MACE program and said it has provided her the academic and practical formation that she needed to grow as a Catholic educator.
“I work full time in a Catholic school, so these tracks were perfect for my busy schedule,” she said. “Now I have a better understanding of the special role that we, Catholic teachers, have for the intellectual, human and spiritual development of our students.”
Egea has 14 years of experience in education — Catholic, public and private. She has taken eight courses in the MACE program and participated in the variety of class options including a three-week compressed course, seven-week compressed courses and regular full semester courses.
She said the themes in MACE have helped her have an understanding of authentic Catholic education.
“The program places emphasis on the integration of faith and the American way of life,” she said. “They have helped me to deepen my understanding of education in general, man’s spiritual dimension, the search for life´s meaning, the desire for personal and social transformation, and the rejection of a rationalistic and materialistic view of humanity.”
She also appreciates the small class sizes that she said allows students and professors to get to know one another by name and through shared experience. One of her new friends and classmates is Clement Chee.
Chee, also on the MACE track, is in his fourth year of teaching and currently teaches science and theater at Cristo Rey Jesuit College Preparatory School of Houston. He is also the co-coordinator for its afterschool theater program.
“In college, I wasn’t sure exactly where my life would take me, but when I tried teaching, I fell in love with it,” he said. “I knew that I wanted to work in Catholic schools because I’ve gone to a Catholic school for my whole life and I love the environment. So far, the program has been exactly what I wanted it to be. I have met like-minded individuals who share my passion for education that extends beyond the contents of a textbook. I have learned from great professors who have provided valuable insight into the intricacies of Catholic education. Most importantly, I have already felt the difference when I walk into my classroom and I sense the difference as I plan and execute my lessons.”
Chee has taken six courses so far with the MACE track: Faith in the Dominant American Culture, Classroom Management, Faith and Science, Christian Spiritual Journey in the American Context, Catholic Teachings on Education, and Multicultural Populations. As some of the courses overlap with those in the UST Master of Arts in Faith and Culture, there is further collaboration among the various educational tracks offered by the UST Center for Faith and Culture. Also, Chee said the professors are great about accommodating for the students’ busy schedules without sacrificing the quality of education they are receiving.
“My professors have all encouraged dialogue in and outside of class and stressed how important it is for us to enter into dialogue with everyone: students, coworkers, parents, family, friends, random people that we meet in our day-to-day lives,” Chee said. “Many professors have also instructed us to work in pairs or groups to bring our different perspectives together as we synthesize our projects/papers.”
Chee also said he feels much more prepared to understand his students. Through his courses on classroom management and multicultural populations, Chee said he has a better frame of reference for understanding how his students tick, which was exactly what he felt he needed to grow in as an educator.
“It has definitely helped me to view my work as far more than just work,” he said. “Teaching is a vocation and it takes great fortitude, patience and intentionality to do it right. I am not saying that I’ve mastered the art of teacher, or that I ever will, but I definitely see the path to growing into a better teacher and it starts with the principles that have been the focal point of this program. These principles are to always respect the dignity of all human beings and to remember my duty to form my students, not only in mind, but in body and spirit.”
A classmate of Egea and Chee is Ann Harlan. Harlan, who is not currently teaching, said the Certificate in Catholic Education best fit her goals at this time in her life.
“I enjoy teaching and would like to return to it one day,” Harlan said. “The courses and instructors are excellent and I feel much more aware of my role in the world as a representative of my faith, in whatever I’m doing at the time.”
Harlan has been in the field of education for about 26 years and is currently an administrator in the UST Music Department. As certificate program courses are the same as masters courses, but with less credit hour requirements, Harlan is most impressed with gaining the understanding of the emphasis the Church places on education.
“I was previously unaware of the Church’s designation of education as a vital tool for evangelization and serving humanity. This impresses me greatly and compels me to support this particular mission of the Church. Also, the group discussions have been very enlightening in terms of hearing their experiences and understanding others’ view of Catholicism and the role of faith in education.”
For more information about these programs, visit stthom.edu/cfc and click on “Degrees and Programs.” Professor in Education and Center for Faith and Culture Associate Director, Dr. Adam Martinez, can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.