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Programs for Students and Faculty

The work of the Salesian Center for Faith & Culture 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:

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.

Ryan Leadership Institute

This institute emerged in collaboration with the Catholic Leadership Institute in Philadelphia. Under the administration of the Salesian Center for Faith & Culture, 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.

Ryan Leadership Institute

  • 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
    • sducationally—learning skills taught in the best executive training programs in the corporate world
  • Applying to RLI


    • The Faculty/Staff Review Committee of the Salesian Center' for Faith & Culture nominates prospective members
    • The Oblate members of the SLI 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


    Ryan Leadership Institute Application

    Ryan Leadership Institute Expectations

Faith & Reason Honors Program

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.

Faith & Reason Honors Program

  • 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:

  • Honors 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, 8am: 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, 8am: 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, 8am: 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, 8am: 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, 8am: 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, 8am: Conversations about Goodness with Joshua Schulz, Ph.D. (Associate Professor of Philosophy) 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 & Colloquium

    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 in an annual journal entitled On the Wings of Truth.

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