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There is an opening for an assistant professor position at a US university, that I really want to apply to. However, it is a Catholic university and the application requires a "Statement of Contribution to Mission." I have read the university's mission statement which, besides the usual academic missions, includes quite a few religious missions. I am not Christian; in fact, I am an atheist. From the answers to this related question, and that the job posting states clearly Equal Opportunity, I understand that I can still apply to this position. But I have no idea how I should write such a statement. Of course I won't lie in the statement to pretend that I'm Christian. But having no clue and personal connection to those religious values, tradition, and missions, I find it impossible to write even one word.

Is there any suggestion for writing such a statement? Or should I not apply?

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    Dig something out of John Henry Newman's The Idea of a University, cite and riff on it. There's bound to be something.
    – Dɑvïd
    Dec 7, 2016 at 22:33
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    @David I think this patently constructed insincerity is unlikely to fool such employers. It's easy to tell the person off-beat once the jazz group starts.
    – Trunk
    Aug 1, 2022 at 10:56

4 Answers 4

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I think you should certainly apply, as long as you have no personal opposition to Catholic education writ large; the previous question you link is a great source if you are uncertain.

As to your question, for an example, I pulled the mission statement for Marquette University in Milwaukee, WI.

Marquette University is a Catholic, Jesuit university dedicated to serving God by serving our students and contributing to the advancement of knowledge. Our mission, therefore, is the search for truth, the discovery and sharing of knowledge, the fostering of personal and professional excellence, the promotion of a life of faith, and the development of leadership expressed in service to others. All this we pursue for the greater glory of God and the common benefit of the human community.

Following this broad statement, they have four subsections on Excellence, Faith, Leadership, and Service. Of course the mission of your university may differ but I presume it will paint similar broad strokes.

I would write a statement that addresses the primarily non-Faith elements of the mission. Quoting again from Marquette, on Excellence they state:

education must encompass the whole person: spiritual and moral as well as intellectual, the heart as well as the mind

Without aligning with their religious beliefs, you could certainly contribute to education encompassing the whole person, particularly in intellectual pursuits.

Most U.S. Catholic universities that I am familiar with belong to either the Jesuit or Franciscan orders, though there are others as well - it might be worth spending a bit of time researching the order of the university you are applying to. Painting in a very broad brush, Jesuits tend to value intellectual pursuits as valuable contributions to society, and lean quite a bit more liberal than official Church policy on social issues. Franciscans are particularly concerned with service to the poor, and as such their universities try hard to accommodate students with financial difficulties. Even if you disagree on the religious aspects, you can probably find something in the general mission of these orders you also support.

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This answer is too late for the OP but may be of use to those reading this thread.

  1. Clearly, religiously affiliated colleges have to allow fair employment procedures not only in regard to applications but also in regard to decisions for both student intake and faculty appointments.

  2. There are questions of the demographic viability of a traditional spiritual/professional education in the modern age: the ~ 200 catholic colleges across the USA simply will not be able to recruit teachers/researchers up to an adequate standard from within their denomination alone. I know plenty of Christian-affiliated liberal arts colleges in USA and EU with Muslim and Jewish staff - all excellent lecturers and researchers.

  3. Lastly - and firstly too - the essence of a Jesuit education is largely overlapped by the values of a good secular education. The student must always find his/her own way to God and Truth.

So in your situation I would see this Statement Of Contribution To Mission as simply an elaborated version of the Personal Statement that you would attach to your résumé with any other job application; the only extra item is of course the fact that your are not a Christian but an atheist. So elaborate clearly on your professional (or vocational, if that's how you see your job) values in this same Statement as the "mission" is in major part one of professional preparation of young people for work and society.

Naturally, any interests/skills you may have in relation to extra-mural activities and willingness to contribute there would be to your advantage in a Jesuit college as much as anywhere else.

In fairness to yourself, you must obtain tolerance of your own beliefs or lack of them from your employer's human environment. So you might add a closing sentence of aspiring to "contribute to an educational environment that is wholistic, tolerant and compassionate".

That is all you can do. Some religiously-affiliated colleges will make a sane decision, others not so. Take all this philosophically, not personally - it's just the vagaries of the academic job market after all.

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    "Clearly, religiously affiliated colleges have to allow fair employment procedures..." This is actually not the case, as a matter of law. Religiously affiliated institutions are legally allowed to discriminate on the basis of religion in hiring (42 USC 2000e-1(a)). It would be perfectly legal for the university in the question to decide flat-out that they will only hire a Catholic. I addressed this in the answer that OP linked. May 28, 2023 at 14:29
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    Now that said, the mention of "Equal Opportunity" in the ad is probably meant as a signal that the university doesn't intend to discriminate on religion, at least not explicitly. But there are certainly others that do. May 28, 2023 at 14:32
  • Yet it's not that simple. mtsu.edu/first-amendment/article/903/… suggests that universities with religious affiliations which receive state or federal education funds need to be mindful of the right of persons of other religions to be fairly considered for purely secular roles (e.g. assistant professor of economics) within these institutions. It would not therefore be okay for a catholic university to "decide flat out to only hire a catholic".
    – Trunk
    May 29, 2023 at 0:09
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    That article seems to say just the opposite. "In a related but separate issue, case law suggests that religiously affiliated institutions of higher education may preferentially hire employees on the basis of religion without impairing the entitlement of such institutions or their students to state and federal assistance programs." May 29, 2023 at 4:23
  • A case in point would be Baylor University, which receives all kinds of government funding, and in a recent job ad for a mathematics assistant professor, states that "as a religious educational institution, Baylor is lawfully permitted to consider an applicant’s religion as a selection criterion." May 29, 2023 at 4:47
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Bigger question- why would you apply to a college or university that is based in a belief system that is fundamentally opposed to your view of the world? The Catholic Intellectual tradition is based foremost in a belief in God. You do not believe in God. How can you teach from a prospective you do to believe in or understand? Is that fair to the students who are going to that university to learn from that prospective? Is it fair to the administrators and religious of that school who build programs and collaborations based in the prospective? Is it fair to others who may want the job who do hold the same beliefs?

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  • I'm confounded by the -2 or two people who downgraded my response. The response is based in simple logic and is a clarifying question as to motive and eventually the happiness and well being of both the applicant and the institution. I would like one of the people who voted the comment down to help me understand the logic behind their opinion, or is this just anti-Catholic or religious mind set showing?
    – Tim
    May 26, 2023 at 14:24
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    To answer your question: (1) Simply because applicants of other beliefs need to get a job so they can get on with their lives and (2) Religious universities are universities first and foremost. Whatever that university's ideal outcomes for their students may be, as an academic institution it exists in a competitive space and its down-to-earth mission, i.e. to offer good learning & research programs to young adults takes priority. If a staff vacancy occurs college deans have to apply realistic weighting to competence vs religious orthodoxy. OP needs a start to his career, not a full one.
    – Trunk
    May 26, 2023 at 22:40
  • And no, I didn't vote you down !
    – Trunk
    May 26, 2023 at 22:41
  • Oh and thanks for not voting me down, but entering into academic dialogue. That's a gift our modern academic culture seems to be losing!
    – Tim
    May 28, 2023 at 6:42
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    Look at the standard of some of these universities: Georgetown, Fordham, Boston College, Marquette, etc en.wikipedia.org/wiki/… Would Bill Clinton seem to you to be someone browbeaten into a narrow catholic mindset by his time at Georgetown ? "God" is open to all sorts of interpretations. If catholic colleges in US were running a sort of Operation Mind-Control we'd have heard about it by now. They don't. At best they can only hope to influence people to a more fair-minded society after graduation, marriage, mortgage, etc.
    – Trunk
    May 28, 2023 at 9:25
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I know this question is old, but there is one glaringly obvious answer that does not appear.

If you know nothing about a topic, read a book about it.

For example, Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis.

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    OP seems want to avoid all spiritual discussion in his interview. He doesn't want to get into an argument on faith. And certainly not against religious minded people who will always have to "win" on their own ground. He just wants to baldly state that personally he's an atheist and then get on with the meat of the interview, i.e. his educational ethos, past academic work, research, teaching, extra mural stuff, career plans, etc. A university having a christian ethos doesn't mean everyone among faculty has to share it.
    – Trunk
    May 26, 2023 at 22:51
  • I was not talking about getting into an argument about faith, I don't think religious people are more stubborn than atheists, and I didn't say OP would have to become religious in order to apply. I was just addressing OP's main point that he/she felt no connection to religion and didn't know what to do.
    – gib
    May 27, 2023 at 9:26
  • I was just addressing OP's main point that he/she felt no connection to religion and didn't know what to do . . . How would reading the boring essays of some old Oxbridge academic help OP in any way to write a Statement Of Contribution To Mission for a university run by an order of some religious denomination ? OP isn't going to discover a previously unnoticed Christianity in himself, is he ? His atheism seems thought through and genuine, unlike Lewis' pubescent flirtation with it before he returned to the common fold. Better to acknowledge that and write on his own educational ethos.
    – Trunk
    May 27, 2023 at 13:44
  • @Trunk I haven't read Mere Christianity, but it is classic and popular so I doubt it is boring. Lewis was not "some old Oxbridge academic" but a famous and popular author. Reading that book would help OP to learn something about Christianity, which would help them understand the university's mission and get ideas for their application. OP's atheism might be "thought through," but the question contains no evidence of that, and more suggests the opposite ("no clue" about Christianity). Lewis was in his 30 s before he returned to religion, so his atheist period was not a "pubescent flirtation."
    – gib
    May 28, 2023 at 12:24
  • I have read Mere Christianity and I would say that it is more a book intended to persuade the viewer to C. S. Lewis's point of view (which he presents as least-common-denominator Christianity, and is popular among a wide range of Christians, though many Christians have disagreements with certain positions) than to educate the reader about what Christians believe. I don't think that research is a bad idea, but I prefer books that find common ground without trying to convert, and like the suggestion made in an earlier answer to read about the religious tradition that the college comes from. May 28, 2023 at 20:01

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