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Student/Community Programs

Work focuses on three major areas of interest: education, dialogue, and outreach.

Each of these areas includes numerous programs and activities that aim to fulfill our mission on the University campus and beyond. Each of these areas involves numerous people, including students, faculty, staff, visitors, celebrities, experts, and donors.

To learn more about how we "open the door" to the engagement of faith and culture in our world, just as St. Francis de Sales did in his time, follow the links below:

Student Retreats
Annual retreats for students to gather, reflect, and share their faith guided by faculty and staff. 

Educational Initiatives
Include continuing education programs in Salesian spirituality, research projects linking faith and culture, and student groups for specialized learning

Dialogue Opportunities
Include various presentations, focused discussions, and inspiring arts.

Partnership Ventures
Include groups of professionals, both on- and off-campus, who collaborate in areas of ethical concern, such as healthcare, business, sports, and communications.

The Ryan Leadership Institute

This institute emerged in collaboration with the Catholic Leadership Institute in Philadelphia. This leadership institute represents a uniquely designed two-year initiative to provide students with a program of personal growth and leadership training in the context of Catholic spirituality.

Membership in the Salesian Leadership Institute is by invitation only and is ordinarily limited to 15 students each year.

  • What Can I Expect As A Member?

    The Ryan Leadership Institute offers many benefits and opportunities for invited participants, including:

    • An opportunity to forge close, personal relationships that will positively affect your life and work in the future;
    • A new vision to help you see how religious faith is a key element for my happiness and success in whatever career you enter;
    • The development of personal and interpersonal skills taught in the best management training programs in the corporate world.

    This membership is provided at no cost, thanks to the generous financial support of the Ryan family, alumni, and benefactors who believe in the Institute’s value and in my own potential.

    Therefore, members of the The Ryan Leadership Institute commit themselves to:

    • Maintaining good academic and disciplinary standing as a full-time DSU student.
    • Attending and participating fully in two (2) weekend retreats (Friday evening through Sunday noon) held off campus at the beginning and near the end of the Junior year.
    • Responsible preparation for and active participation in the ten (10) evening discussion sessions held during the academic year.
    • Active leadership engagement during the senior year, in a University-sponsored club, team, or organization, working to complete a leadership program, in cooperation with other program members and program advisors
    • Active participation in three evening discussion and workshop programs held each semester during the senior year.
    • Participation in the annual program dinner at the beginning of the second semester of each year. During the senior year dinner, presentation of a brief report on their leadership activities.
    • Active support, communication, and participation as a graduate of the program, providing mentorship and guidance to members of the program who follow in their footsteps.
  • Applying to RLI


    • The Faculty/Staff Review Committee of the Salesian Center' for Faith & Culture nominates prospective members
    • The members of the RLI Staff evaluate the students' academic achievement (minimum 2.75 GPA required ) and involvement in student activities and generates a list of students to invite.
    • The Director of the Salesian Center extends the invitation to apply for membership in the institute and conducts interviews with the applicants.


    To be selected for membership, students must commit to:

    • Attending two (2) weekend retreats and all ten (10) meetings throughout their Junior year at DSU
    • Participating actively in all activities of the Institute
    • Attending six (6) leadership workshops throughout their Senior year at DSU
    • Serving in a leadership capacity in a recognized student club, team, or organization during the student's Senior year at DSU
    • Engaging in follow-up evaluations at the end of each year of the institute and following graduation from DSU


  • How does the two-year participation work?

    Each cohort or “class” is built in the Junior college year and capped by completion of an on-campus major leadership project Senior year.

    All of this takes place in a Salesian framework, which begins each gathering with a time of prayer in the model which St. Francis de Sales taught us.

    You will hear from such diverse “coaches” as Bobby McFerrin, Maxie Maltsby, Edwin Land, and of course the Saints themselves as you discover your own particular gifts and talents.

  • Being Energized and Inspired Together (BE IT) Meetings

    The Being Energized and Inspired Together program is a series of ten (10) two-hour meetings, held on campus in the evenings, which focuses on personal reflection and group discussion. 

    Materials for these sessions promote skills development in terms of leadership of self, creating winning relationships, and leading others to a better future. The sessions are facilitated by faculty/staff trained in Salesian leadership. 

  • Junior Year: Leaders Experiential Adventure Program (LEAP)

    The Leaders Experiential Adventure Program is a three-day retreat, held off-campus at the beginning of the academic year, which focuses on the discovery of one's personal profile and the development of one's personal mission. 

    Through participation in a "mountain adventures" experience, the retreat promotes skills development in terms of clarity, courage, choice, and support. 

    A second retreat at the end of the academic year, also held off-campus, draws the year-long program to its conclusion with a co-missioning ceremony for the class.

  • Senior Year: Business Education in Skills & Techniques (BEST) Workshops

    The Business Education in Skills & Techniques program consists of six (6) workshops, conducted three times each semester, in which business professionals offer a variety of skills that would be applicable in any career or corporate setting, such as:

    • projects: proposals and formal presentations
    • personnel: personal branding and networking, conducting interviews and performance appraisals
    • communications: active listening, generational differences, and public relations
    • groups: efficient meetings and successful navigation of corporate culture
    • finances: operating budgets and financial statement
    • events: planning, promotion, and activities
  • DO IT - Senior Service Project

    Ryan Leadership students are required to take an active role in a campus organization of some kind — a team, a club, a committee, etc.

    The purpose of these service projects is to put into practice all of the valuable tools students have learned on their RLI journey. 

    Senior project proposal form

  • Institute Objectives

    • To support the future life and work of the Church, by fostering a deeper commitment to the Roman Catholic faith and to campus/parish communities
    • To disseminate the distinctive charism of Salesian Spirituality, by providing a more in-depth education in this religious tradition
    • To effect a transformation of individuals, by developing an awareness of personal talents and inter-personal communications
    • To inspire future leadership of self and others, by developing practical skills through individual reflection, expert coaching, and group activities
    • To effect a transformation of culture, by enacting the spiritual and personal dynamics of the institute through leadership in student, civic, and ecclesiastical organizations

    Students also benefit:

    • personally—forging relationships that positively influences one's future
    • spiritually—seeing how faith is a key component to human happiness in any career
    • educationally—learning skills taught in the best executive training programs in the corporate world
  • A brief history of the Ryan Leadership Institute

    1990: During an executive leadership retreat, Timothy C. Flanagan felt a profound calling to bring the best in leadership and personal development programs to the Catholic Church. To help people understand their purpose in life and to reach their God-given potential as leaders in our world, he founded the Catholic Leadership Institute (CLI). 

    1999: Matt Manion (married to Kerrianne Dougherty ’96), volunteered to serve CLI, and, four years later became its President/CEO. Under Matt’s leadership, the programs were revised to include college and university groups. 

    2004: Faculty Oblates approached CLI with a proposal to reflect the distinctive teaching of St. Francis de Sales into the leadership training experience at DeSales.

    2005: In collaboration with CLI, the first cohort began the two-year pilot program during the 2005-2006 academic year.

    2012: Members of the Ryan Family Foundation established an endowment to honor the founding role in this Institute played by their parents, Jane and Frank Ryan, and to provide a stable financial foundation for its future. 

Contact Us

The Center for Faith & Justice at DeSales University