Skip to main content

Student/Community Programs

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 (RLI)

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.

RLI information

  • 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 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


    Ryan Leadership Institute Application

    Ryan Leadership Institute Expectations

  • L.E.A.P. - Ryan Leadership Institute Hero's Journey

    During their Junior year, students in our Ryan Leadership Institute participate in two programs that focus on intra- and inter-personal development.  These programs have been adapted from the Catholic Leadership Institute to reflect the distinctively Salesian character of our institute.


    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.

    Junior LEAP & BEIT Calendar 2018-2019

  • B.E.I.T. Sessions


    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 BEIT Calendar 2018-2019

  • B.E.S.T. Workshops

    During their Senior year, students in our Ryan Leadership Institute participate in two programs that focus on the learning and application of practical skills. 


    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 ... how to create a proposal and/or make a formal presentation
    ♦  personnel ... how to market oneself, conduct interviews, and/or complete performance appraisals
    ♦  communications ... how to engage in active listening, interact with different generations, and/or craft public relations
    ♦  groups ... how to conduct efficient meetings and/or navigate a corporate culture
    ♦  finances ... how to create an operating budget and/or review a financial statement
    ♦  events ... how to plan, promote, and assess activities

    Senior B.E.S.T Workshops 2018-19

  • D.O.I.T. - Senior Service

    D.O.I.T. - As the acronym implies, leadership students are required to take an active role in a campus organization of some kind (e.g., team, club, committee, etc.); alternatively, students may design and execute a unique project on campus.  The purpose of these "service" projects is to put into practice, for the benefit of the campus community, the valuable tools learned in their junior year during retreats and sessions.

    senior project proposal form

  • RLI History

  • Students in the Program

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, 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 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 in an annual journal entitled On the Wings of Truth.

    Timetable for the Spring 2019 semester

    Monday, January 14
    Registration for the "Independent Study" course

    Monday, April 8 due by 5:00 p.m.
    Draft of thesis to be submitted electronically to the Salesian Center for evaluation by Review Committee

    Tuesday, April 9
    Thesis distribution to Review Committee

    Monday, April 15
    Review Committee submits its evaluations of each thesis. After we score the results, two semi-finalist theses are sent to Review Committee.

    Tuesday, April 16
    Review Committee receives the top two choices, one each group has already read.

    Monday, April 22
    Selection of thesis winner is conducted by Review Committee @ 12:30 lunch

    Friday, April 26
    Students undertake revisions of the thesis in view of the final submission and eventual publication

    Sunday, April 28
    6:30 p.m. - University Center
    Honors Colloquium, during which each thesis is presented by the author

    Saturday, May 11
    Final version of the thesis to be submitted to the director of the program as well as to your faculty advisor  

    Friday, May 17
    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 28, 2019, from 6:30 to 8:45 pm.

    View previous thesis award winners

  • 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
    • Monday 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

  • 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  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.