Come to Believe: How the Jesuits are Reinventing Education (Again) – Inside the First Year of the New Arrupe College by Stephen N. Katsouros.
Orbis Books, Maryknoll, New York, 2017.
Non-fiction, 181 pages.
The first year of Arrupe college, a two-year, debt-free Associate’s Degree program aimed at providing low-income, first generation minority college students with a high quality liberal arts education.
A friend recommended this. First, I will mention that this is religious because the author is Jesuit priest. So he talks about homilies and Bible stories and there is a religious motivation behind this college (the name of it is based off of a famous Jesuit apparently). However, I did also feel that this book could be read by non-religious people too. Most of the book is focused on creating the college whether it’s the practicalities or the stories of different students.
Interestingly, this book was actually written via audio. Katsouros was so busy arranging the college that he did not want to commit to writing a book about it too, but others convinced him that it was important so he dictated audio files which were then transcribed and edited. I’m glad he was convinced to write this because it is certainly an interesting narrative.
The chapters are quite short and this is not a chronological narrative. The book is divided into 5 sections. Part one is the story of the author’s life, not so much his autobiography as how various stops led him to this mission. Part two is about the goals and initial set-up for the college, some of the hoops they had to jump through and logistics before anything even started happening.
Part three is about the real set-up, once they had a location and were hiring, how they realized certain things as the ball started rolling. For example, they decided to give every student and most staff a laptop so everyone started with the same technology. But food was also a concern so they set up a breakfast and lunch program. Another part details how they wanted to set up an internship program but most of their students need a paid work opportunity which was a lot more involved. Also they are open to undocumented students which is a challenge for work programs. He also writes about why they decided to be a liberal arts school:
“…for students from low-income backgrounds, the kinds of careers that they think about for themselves have to do with survival. Students from more affluent backgrounds think about careers that have to do with their self-determination and are more aspirational.” p. 72
Part four is about the students, with a special focus on creating the school culture. Specific language is used, all faculty are also advisers (and many are POC), and much effort is put into giving everything a personal touch and making support easy and natural for any student. Part five shares goals and plans for the future, where they are trying to make things better, and the impact of a sudden elimination of state funding. These last three parts make up most of the book. It covers a little over a year and then was published a year later, so a very fast turn-around.
Because the chapters are so very short, this was a very easy read. This was my “purse read” for less than a month and it’s one of the first purse reads I’ve finished cover to cover in some time.
One drawback I did notice is that Katsouros has a penchant for multiple headings. Usually there was the section title, the chapter title, a chapter sub-heading and then an epigraph (either a religious quote or one from a student). Also some of the short chapters were less interesting or relevant. I read the entire thing, but if I wasn’t planning to review this, I would have skipped some sections, particularly those full of name-dropping.
I don’t think this is required reading but it would interest those who want to learn about affordable college education or people who work in higher education or with disadvantaged teens. When I read about college preparatory high schools with teen scholarships, I always wonder, what next? Here’s one solution.