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UDALLAS RELEASE: Seeking Wisdom, Truth and Virtue: UD Aims to Build First-Generation College Citizens

Irving, TX (03/03/22) – Thanks to a generous grant from the Teagle Foundation’s Knowledge for Freedom Initiative, the University of Dallas will launch the College Citizens Program in the summer of 2022. This program is an academically rigorous, cohort-based program for local, underrepresented high school students. These students will participate in an on-campus summer college bridge program before their senior year of high school. The goal of the initiative is to support DFW-area high schools as they seek to increase their students’ matriculation to liberal arts colleges and universities like UD and to help these students develop an intellectual curiosity that will benefit them in whatever they do in life. 

“We are thrilled to welcome the University of Dallas to our growing network of KFF institutions, which bring a mind-opening liberal education to young people for whom college might otherwise be an elusive dream,” said Teagle Foundation President Andrew Delbanco, Ph.D. 

The university is excited to launch this new program. According to President Jonathan J. Sanford, Ph.D., “The ever-relevant mission of the University of Dallas is to cultivate the whole person by orienting our students to wisdom, truth and virtue. Our collaboration with the Teagle Foundation will expand upon that mission and extend it to new audiences.”

He added, “This investment in North Texas' community of students will also promote important initiatives in student success and civic participation that are needed in our society. The Teagle Foundation should be commended for its ongoing focus on students and their pathways to an education rooted in cultivating one's full humanity and encouraging responsible citizenship.”

The program, led by Director of Academic Success and Seven Arts of Language Matthew Spring, Ph.D., and Chair of Modern Languages and Associate Professor of Spanish José Espericueta, Ph.D., has as its centerpiece a three-credit interdisciplinary course. The course was developed in collaboration with Assistant Professor of Education Carmen Newstreet, Ph.D., Chair and Associate Professor of Physics Jacob Moldenhauer, Ph.D., Professor of English Scott Crider, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Philosophy Cynthia Nielsen, Ph.D., Associate Professor of History and Director of Latin American Studies Mark Petersen, D.Phil., Assistant Professor of Theology Father Thomas Esposito, Ph.D., and Assistant Professor of Art History Catherine Caesar, Ph.D. 

“College Citizens is built on the unique and life-changing education we offer at the University of Dallas. I am a firm believer in the universal value of a UD education. Students don't just gain highly valuable skills through a rigorous study of the liberal arts here at UD, they also receive an education that is truly formative,” said Espericueta, who will teach the course. “This program seeks to educate historically underserved students in the beauty, value and diversity of the Western tradition through representative texts.”

He added, “It was a great joy to collaborate with colleagues across disciplines and develop a curriculum that ranges from Plato, Sophocles and the Bible to Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, Martin Luther King Jr. and Albert Einstein. In this program, students will learn to think critically about these texts while they consider how to pursue a moral and ethical life and how to serve others in their community. I am excited to be a part of this venture.” 

The course aims to address questions that are at the heart of our goals as educators in a liberal arts tradition: What is our responsibility to others? How can we pursue a moral and ethical life? The early readings chosen for the course (Plato, Sophocles, the Bible) ask students to question not only what it means to search for the truth, but also to consider the challenges that arise when attempting to live as responsible citizens and the responsibilities we have to others. 

“I'm grateful to the Teagle Foundation for the work they are doing to bring the liberal arts into these students' lives and to prepare these liberal artists to be active participants in our democracy,” said Spring, the College Citizens program director at UD. The students’ early discussions will inform the examination of texts authored by Bartolomé de las Casas, Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, Luther Standing Bear, Martin Luther King Jr. and many others as they recognize and grapple with the historical tensions between our values and the lived realities of historically marginalized peoples.

This particular summer bridge program and the Teagle initiative are also unique insofar as the education is designed to extend beyond the classroom into the community. After completing the summer course, rising seniors will partner with UD’s Dallas Refugee Project, a student-led organization that works to address the needs of the refugee community in the greater Dallas/Fort Worth area. 

Spring believes “that this initiative will serve not only the high school students involved, but also UD undergrad and grad students who will be leaders in the summer academic program and in the civic-centered initiative connected to it." Because the need for assistance is so significant, particularly following the resettlement of Afghan refugees in the area, students in this program will have a valuable opportunity to put into practice the curriculum’s focus on ethical citizenship and service to others.

About the Teagle Foundation

Established in 1944, The Teagle Foundation works to support and strengthen liberal arts education, which it sees as fundamental to meaningful work, effective citizenship and a fulfilling life. The Teagle Foundation believes that all students, regardless of major, should have an opportunity to experience the liberal arts. Liberal education entails engagement with the most challenging ideas of past and present. It fosters humility, curiosity, empathy and concern for others. It helps young people shape lives of meaning, purpose and informed participation in the democratic process. The Teagle Foundation believes that the opportunity to experience such an education is part of the promise of our democracy, and that it must not be restricted to the privileged few.

Knowledge for Freedom Programs invite underserved high school students to study enduring works of literature and philosophy that raise deep questions about leading lives of purpose and civic responsibility.

About the University of Dallas

Located in one of the largest and fastest-growing metropolitan areas of the U.S., the University of Dallas is a nationally recognized Catholic liberal arts university with campuses in Irving, Texas, and Rome, Italy. Known for the academic rigor of its undergraduate Core Curriculum, rooted in the great works of Western civilization and Catholic intellectual tradition, the University of Dallas also offers flexible graduate degrees in business, liberal arts and ministry, all taught by exceptional faculty who are dedicated to the pursuit of wisdom, truth and virtue. For more information, visit udallas.edu.

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