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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.

Faith & Reason Honors Program (FRHP)

The aim of this program is to provide scholarship-level students with a unique opportunity to explore the "big questions" in life, in a small cohort of students, guided by senior-level faculty at DSU. Its inspiration and organization come from the encyclical letter on this topic written by John Paul II.

In August of 2001, DeSales University was named as one of six finalists in a national grant competition among Catholic colleges and universities (funded by Dr. Donald D'Amour, executive officer of Big Y Foods, Inc.). DSU received a grant in the amount of $75,000 to initiate a new program that would explore faith and reason in a liberal arts education.

After completing the requisite university approvals, the honors program began with the enrollment of its first class in Fall 2002 and the offering of the first course in Spring 2003.

FRHP information

  • Program Overview

    The honors program comprises three main components:

    • Honors Seminars—one-credit classes each semester, in the form of "conversations" about the big questions of life.
    • Cultural Events—off-campus educational experiences, typically one each semester, chosen by individuals or classes.
    • Honors Thesis—an independent project by which Seniors research, write, present and publish a major paper

    Student participation in the Faith & Reason Honors Program is competitive, usually limited to a maximum of fifteen (15) students in each academic class. Membership in the program is by invitation only and requires a completed application.

    Student and faculty participants in the program gather annually for an Honors Colloquium. At this event the "Faith & Reason" award is presented to the student judged to have written the best honors thesis that year. At the end of the academic year, the senior theses are edited and published in an honors journal entitled On the Wings of Truth which is made available through our online library.

    Each semester, students in the Honors Program enjoy "priority pre-registration" for all their classes. Students who complete all components of the program have their participation noted on their university transcripts and receive recognition of their accomplishment at the University's commencement ceremonies.

    Ordinarily, if a student misses more than two seminars in a semester, s/he will be dismissed from the honors program unless there is a serious extenuating circumstance for an additional absence.

  • Honors Culture

    Students in the Faith & Reason Honors Program are expected to participate in at least one "cultural" event each semester (usually held off campus).  Information on special events, as well as links to local calendars, can be found below.  Students should check with the faculty seminar leaders and/or the director of the Salesian Center concerning the suitability of events for inclusion in the Honors Program experience.

    Local Calendars:

  • Honor Seminars

    The Honors Program requires the completion of six (6) one-credit seminars that integrate faith and reason in an on-going "conversation" about the big questions of life. Students complete one seminar each semester.

    Seminars consist entirely of discussion about assigned readings, chosen among classical and/or contemporary texts from a variety of academic disciplines. The seminars meet weekly for one hour during the Fall and Spring semesters and take place under the direction of one or more senior faculty leaders, who will select pertinent readings and guide lively discussions on existential questions.

    "They are questions which have their common source in the quest for meaning which has always compelled the human heart. In fact, the answer given to these questions decides the direction which people seek to give to their lives." John Paul II, Fides et Ratio, no.1

    Students who participate in the seminars regularly and actively receive a grade of "A" for the course. Completion of three one-credit seminars fulfills one "free elective" requirement for graduation (with a maximum of six credits = two free electives). Credits received for these seminars do not fulfill any General Education Core requirements.

    Continued participation in the seminars is at the discretion of the faculty leaders and the director of the Honors Program. The following seminars are offered through the "Liberal Studies" program of the Division of Liberal Arts & Social Sciences at DSU:

    LS 4001-Spring semester, Freshman year-Thursday, 8 am: Conversations about Being Human (The Person) with Rodney Howsare, Ph.D. (Professor of Theology) What is the origin and destiny of the human person? What is distinctive about being human? Is there such a thing as human "dignity"? How do I become who I am?

    LS 4003-Spring semester, Sophomore year-Thursday, 8 am: Conversations about The World with Andrew Essig, Ph.D. (Professor of Political Science)What drives the history of the world: politics, economics, culture? How does seeing the world through the lens of politics affect our global perspective? What lessons can we learn from international relations for making the world a better place in today's time?

    LS 4005 - Spring semester, Junior year - Tuesday, 8 am: Conversations about Truth with Gregory Kerr, Ph.D. (Associate Professor of Philosophy) Does life make sense? Can I really know anything (skepticism)? Is there objective truth (vs. relativism) and how do I know it?

    LS 4002 -Fall semester, Sophomore year-Tuesday, 8 am: Conversations about God with William Hamant, Ph.D. (Assistant Professor of Theology) Does God exist (classical atheism)? Does the existence of God matter (contemporary atheism)? How can God be "good" with so much "evil" in the world?

    LS 4004 - Fall semester, Junior year -Tuesday, 8 am: Conversations about Beauty with Stephen Myers, Ph.D. (Professor of English) What is beauty and how do I recognize it? What is happiness and can I have it? Is there more to life than the material world?

    LS 4006 - Fall semester, Senior year -Tuesday, 8 am: Conversations about Goodness with David Gilfoil, Ph.D. (Professor and VP for Marketing & Planning) How can people in the world relate well to one another? Can there be a just society? Does freedom have any obligations? What is the common good?

  • Honors Thesis

    As the culmination of their educational experience, students in the Faith & Reason Honors Program are required to write and publish an honors thesis (30-50 pages in length) during the Spring semester of their Senior year. They present their work during the colloquium in April.

    Development of the Honors Thesis (research and writing) is directed by a full-time faculty member at DeSales University and counts as a 3-credit "independent study" course in the Division of Liberal Arts & Social Sciences (LS 499); with the approval of the director of the Salesian Center, the course may be credited in the respective department/division of the student or faculty member. This course fulfills a "free elective" requirement in the student's General Education Core curriculum.

    The topic of the thesis and the faculty member who directs the research are both chosen by the student, with the approval of the director of the Salesian Center for Faith & Culture.

    To receive academic credit for this project, students must register for an "Independent Study" course. To do so, students must complete the appropriate approval form, which is available from the Academic Affairs Office or from the University's web site.

    Independent Study Form

    Each student makes a five-minute summary presentation of his/her thesis at the annual Honors Colloquium. At the Colloquium, the best thesis each year, as judged by the Review Committee of the Salesian Center for Faith & Culture, receives the annual "Faith & Reason" award.

    Honors theses are published by the Salesian Center on a list below: On the Wings of Truth Honors Thesis.

    Timetable for the Spring 2020 semester

    Monday, January 13
    Registration for the "Independent Study" course

    Monday, April 6 due by 5:00 p.m.
    Draft of thesis to be submitted electronically to the Salesian Center for evaluation by Review Committee

    Tuesday, April 7
    Thesis distribution to Review Committee

    Tuesday, April 14
    Review Committee submits its evaluations of each thesis. After we score the results, two semi-finalist theses are sent to Review Committee.

    Tuesday, April 14 by 5:00 pm
    Review Committee receives the top two choices, one each group has already read.

    Monday, April 20
    Selection of thesis winner is conducted by Review Committee @ 12:30 lunch

    Friday, April 24
    Students undertake revisions of the thesis in view of the final submission and eventual publication

    Sunday, April 26
    6:30 p.m. - University Center
    Honors Colloquium, during which each thesis is presented by the author

    Saturday, May 9
    Final version of the thesis to be submitted to the director of the program as well as to your faculty advisor  

    Friday, May 22
    Salesian Center
    Publication of the Honors Theses in On the Wings of Truth

  • Honors Colloquium

    The Honors Colloquium is the year-end celebration of the work of students in the Faith & Reason Honors Program. Culminating four years of study, by way of six honors seminars, the colloquium offers to the Seniors an opportunity to share the fruits of their scholarship with the University community.

    Participants in the Honors Colloquium include all student members of the program, all faculty teaching in the program, the staff (members and advisors) of the Salesian Center for Faith & Culture, and other invited guests.  Alumni of the Honors Program are also invited to return to campus to participate in the event.

    At the colloquium, each Senior presents a five-minute summary of the Honors Thesis that he/she developed during the semester.  The colloquium concludes with the presentation of the annual "Faith & Reason Honors Thesis Award", as judged by the Review Committee of the Salesian Center.

    The next Honors Colloquium takes place on Sunday April 26, 2020, from 6:30 to 8:45 pm.

  • Honors Application for Membership

    Membership in the Faith & Reason Honors Program is by invitation and application only. Membership is limited to fifteen (15) students in each academic class. 

    Each Fall, invitations to apply to the program are extended to members of the Freshman class who maintain Presidential or Trustee scholarships, as defined by the Office of Enrollment Management at DSU (approximately 80-95 students in all). 

    Applications consist of:

    • a letter of intent on the part of the interested student
    • a letter of recommendation from a DSU faculty or staff member
    • a brief writing sample (2 page max)  

    The application process typically follows the calendar below. 

    • Early October - invitations to apply to the program are sent by email to scholarship students
    • After Pacer Break - Deadline for submission of applicants to the Director of the program
    • October - Applications are considered by the Review Committee of the Salesian Center
    • Friday before pre-registration - New Honors class is notified of acceptance into the program
  • Students in the Program

    CLASS OF 2023

    Lucas Acosta-Morales, Computer Science/Math

    Jayden Carlucci, Accounting

    Mia Crank, Business Administration

    Anna Darling, Nursing

    Grace Fort, Medical Studies

    Daniel Gillinger, Accounting

    Thomas Greve, Marketing

    Benjamin Johann, Supply Chain Management

    Grace Kelleher, Political Science

    Daniel Martinez, Biology

    Michael Pierce, Accounting

    Catherine Ray, Medical Studies

    CLASS OF 2022  

    Nolan Beck, Exploratory Studies

    Meghan Corbran, Nursing

    Nathan Hatzfeld, Criminal Justice

    Mark Jannuzzi, History

    Logan Marsh, Management/Finance

    Emma Stanfield, Business Administration

    Sean Wiser, Sport Management 

    CLASS OF 2021

    Wesley Carroll, Accounting Major

    Micah Wasser, Biology Major

    Carmine Cicalese, TV/Film Major

    Hagar Fadel, Biology Major

    Hannah Fresa, Biology Major

    Micaiah Humes, Dance Major

    Vincent Maria, Exploratory Studies

    Mark Stenske, Medical Studies Major     

    CLASS OF 2020
    Alexandra Ayers, Theatre Major

    Francis Krug, Biology Major

    Vincent Groelly, Finance/Accounting Major

    Tyler Sarge, Mathematics Major

    Paige Merrill, Dance/Exercise Physiology Major


  • On the Wings of Truth Honors Thesis

    Each Spring semester, the students in the Senior class of the Faith & Reason Honors Program undertake a 3-credit independent study, the culmination of which is a 30-50 page honors thesis.  The topic of the thesis is chosen by the student, with the approval of the director of the Salesian Center for Faith & Culture and their faculty advisor.
    The best thesis each year, as judged by the Review Committee of the Salesian Center, receives the annual "Faith & Reason" award.

    Class of 2020

    Best Thesis: Paige Merrill -The Relationship Between Barre3 and Christianity An Exploration of Catholicism and Psychology

    Alexandra Ayers - Faith and Theatre 

    Tyler SargeParadox and Its Relationship to Christianity: Understanding God’s Call

    CLASS OF 2019

    Best Thesis: David Talarico - Homosexuality and Catholicism: On the Road to Sainthood

    Yesha Shastri - Don’t Be Afraid to Stand Out: The Impact of Social Identity on Opportunities in the Workforce

    Caroline Accurso - Implications of Catholic Social Teaching for Capitalism

    Alaine DeSantis - Jesus Christ: The Desire of Every Man’s Heart

    Bridget Walsh - The Ethics of the Discrepancy of Participation: Funding, and Exposure for Women in College Athletics

    Zach Kratz - Using Literature as a Vehicle for Teaching and Discussing Economic Theory

    CLASS OF 2018

    Best Thesis: Erik Cudo - Medical and Catholic Ethical Concerns in CRISPR Technology

    Dylan Bortz - A Whole New World: An Analysis of Exoplanets and Life in the Unknown Universe
    Kayla Alderfer - The Role of Analogy in an Adequate Epistemology
    Jake Stoudt - Virtue Ethics and the Rise of Darth Vader
    Matthew Trovato - Substance, Relation, and the Human Person
    Alexander Bondi - Capitalism and Catholicism: are they compatible?
    Hannah Popp - Femininity -- The Search for Essential Meaning: A Synthesis of Catholic Minds
    Matthew Reeder - Mathematics and its Relationship with Christianity

    CLASS OF 2017

    Best ThesisGina Galassi - Divine Mercy: God’s Greatest Gift

    Ryan Jordan - Catholic Social Thought Throughout the Business World
    Angeline Lonardi - Still Hurting: The Catholic Church and Palliative Medicine
    Allison Myers - The Origin and Laws of the Universe Support the Existence of a Divine Creator
    Sean Palen - Catholicism and Capitalism: Giving to Get More From Life
    Rochelle Salib - A Framework for the Role of Healthcare in Christian Global Missions: Short-Term Missions without Long-Term Harm
    Christina Tran - God is With Us: Exploring How Mathematics Connects to God

    CLASS OF 2016

    Best ThesisRyan FischerModern Day Frankenstein or Medical Marvel: A Bioethical Evaluation of Human Head Transplantation Based on the Catholic Understanding of Human Dignity

    Casey DeStasio - The Ethics of Animal Testing in Medicine in Accordance with the Catholic View of Animals
    Janalyn Frederick - The Importance of Interfaith Dialog between the Mennonite and Catholic Churches
    Hutton Jackson - The Underlying Causes of Sexual Violence: How Pornography, Sexual Violence Depicted in Interactive Media, and Sexualized Advertising Are Contributing to Sexual Violence in Society
    Matthew Jesiolowski - A Discussion on Artificial Intelligence
    Robert Johnson - The Holy Roman Empire and the Thirty Years' War: An Analysis of a Religious Conflict
    Monica Lupin - End of Life Decisions
    Theresa Marlin - The Scientific Basis for Human Personality
    Emily Marshall - Physical Activity and its Effects on Childhood Development and Success
    Darryn McCauley - Sighting Through the Wrong Scope: Why Complex Psychological Phenomena Defy Scientific Explanation
    Kaitlyn Mills - Mental Illness in the Modern Age: How Stigmatization Violates the Dignity of the Human Person
    Brittany Pierzga - Native American Cultural Appropriation: A Misinformed America, an Underrepresented Culture, a Stolen Dignity
    Amanda Tarantino - The Need for Christian Humanism in the Care of Older Adults
    Stefanie Wolcott - Global Migration Trends, Human Rights Concerns, and Catholic Social Teaching

    CLASS OF 2015 

    Best ThesisAlexandra Romanyshyn (PL/EN) - Literary Analysis: Contrasting Tradition and Modernism

    Katherine Bortz (CM) -"Star-Crossed Plotlines: Discussions of Determinism and Free Will in Young Adult Literature"
    Ashley Caroff (HI) -"A Call for Equality in Educational Opportunities for All Students"
    Jennifer Fay (CJ) - "The Modern Educational System: Historical Influences and Pursuit of Knowledge Equality"
    Seth Foreman (SX) -"Sports and Professional Athletes Impact Our Youth"
    Nicholas Johnson (PL) -"On The Kingdom of God: Maria Christus Vincit, Quod Deus Vult"
    Jessica Mathiesen (BICH/BI) "The Ethics of Human Stem Cell Research"
    Casey Schermick (SS/MK) -"Athlete Philanthropy: A Review of the Moral Obligations for Professional Athletes"
    Stephen VanDoran (PO) "Medical Marijuana Policy"

    CLASS OF 2014  
    Best Thesis: Kristin kavanaugh (DA/SX) - "Dance, A Gift Stolen"
    CLASS OF 2013 
    Best Thesis: Kathryn Stimpfle (EE) - "The Gospel of Womanhood According to Jane Eyre"
    CLASS OF 2012 
    Best Thesis: Robert Zanneo (MA/ED) - "The Negative Impact of Incentives on Human Behavior: The Difference Between Intrinsic/Extrinsic Motivation"
    CLASS OF 2011 
    Best Thesis: Benjamin Foster (BI) - "An Examination of the Intrinsic Ethical Concerns Associated with Synthetic Biology"
    CLASS OF 2010 
    Best Thesis: Nicholas Schenk (BI) - "Personhood or Dignity: What Is the Foundation of Bioethics?"
    CLASS OF 2009 
    Best Thesis: Lauren Greene (EN/ED) - "Thomas Merton: A Study of 20th Century Ideas for the 21st Century American
    CLASS OF 2008 
    Best Thesis: Rachel Coleman (BI) - "The Sins of our Fathers: The Current Generation and the Vice of Acedia"
    CLASS OF 2007 
    Best Thesis: Elizabeth Pfister (NU) - "The 'Human' in Human Immunodeficiency Virus: Focus on a Domestic and South African Stigma"
    CLASS OF 2006 
    Best Thesis: Marian West (DA/MFS) - "Time to Move, Humanity, Art and Dance Redeemed"
    > Mary

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