I have a prayer. It is that my students would become people who would “redeem the time,” in the phrase of the great poet T.S. Eliot.
I hope, too, that my students would be motivated by their Catholic beliefs (or analogous beliefs if they are not Catholic) to transform the world, perhaps even in the sphere of global politics or in some way in matters of war, peace and justice, the subjects in which I teach and conduct research.
This hope, this prayer, is very much what motivated me to come to Notre Dame, a university that is seriously Catholic — but is not paradise. Paradise is rather where I held my previous job as a professor — the University of California, Santa Barbara, a school perched atop the beachside cliffs on the shores of the Pacific Ocean, where winter days are crisp, sunny and usually reach 63 degrees, where a gourmet coffee cart is never more than 50 yards away, where students come to class with sand between their toes and where professors rarely wear ties.
When I tell friends and colleagues who do not understand Notre Dame’s mission about my move, they tell me to get therapy. But unlike Santa Barbara and like few other universities, at Notre Dame professors are invited to integrate faith into their scholarship and their teaching. Through this integration, so claims the University in its mission and so runs my own prayer, students might become motivated to transform the world. That is why I left paradise.
Dan Philpott is an associate professor of political science at Notre Dame.