The Graduate School of Theology of the Augustine Institute monitors the academic progress of its students toward the Master of Arts degree and also regularly surveys its students and alumni about their vocation and career placement and goals.
A survey of the 12 graduates of the M.A. in Leadership for the New Evangelization who finished the program in May 2019 and 2020 showed that 6 of the 12 were placed in positions for which the degree program prepared them, regardless of whether those positions are compensated or volunteer. 5 of the placements are unknown, and 1 was non-vocational in nature.
A survey of 156 MA Theology graduates who completed the program between Summer 2018 and Spring 2020 showed that 72 were placed in positions for which the degree prepared them. 58 have not responded to survey, 3 are continuing their education 3 marked ‘other’, 1 is seeking placement, and 16 are in non-vocational jobs.
The ministerial work of Augustine Institute graduates covers the full spectrum of service to the Body of Christ: priest, religious sister, permanent deacon, lay missionary, lay apostolic work, diocesan official, parish ministry (many kinds), teaching, hospital chaplaincy and other ministries involving the corporal works of mercy.
3 in 4 current students are studying part-time, as they balance the demands of family and career with their studies. In addition, 75% of distance education students are concurrently active in the work of evangelization and catechesis, either as full-time employees of the Church or in a volunteer or vocational capacity. Given these important commitments, our students often require a semester or more of leave from the program during their tenure. The rate of completion of the Master of Arts program is approximately 44%.
As part of its ongoing efforts to improve its program, the Institute’s annual plan for academic assessment is approved by its Board of Trustees each autumn. A summary of the School’s Academic Assessment Memorandum for the 2019-20 academic year follows:
After the consideration of student surveys and examples of student work, the faculty agreed that student performance toward the programmatic goal in theology is good, but there were nevertheless several proposals aired for how advances could be made with respect to their knowledge of and habit of referring to Scripture. The faculty agreed to recommit to the work of offering extra-curricular instruction and encouragement to students through the Theology 701 “distance education seminar” page in Canvas.
The conversation on the programmatic goal for evangelization was spirited. The student survey responses and representative essays were most encouraging; a marked improvement from the previous year was noted with respect to the ecclesial horizon of evangelization. The essays demonstrated clearly that the students know and affirm that incorporation into the full sacramental life of the Church is the terminus of evangelization. The faculty discussion focused on the tendency of students to present evangelization as a process, with the consequence being an insufficient presentation of the direct action of the Holy Spirit on the minds and hearts of those being evangelized. The faculty affirmed the importance of guarding against the field of evangelization and catechesis being chiefly a career path rather than the expression of a vibrant witness to the truth of the Gospel. Various proposals were suggested for how the School could assist its students in keeping their commitment fresh.
A consideration of the integrative summaries written by students in the M. A. in Leadership for the New Evangelization impressed the faculty by the improvement of those summaries since they had first been considered some five years ago. There was gratitude that the students expressed themselves with clarity about the importance of the sacramental life and also about the primacy of prayer compared to apostolic works. Even while this praise was general, there were critical notes. It was observed that references to the sacramental life were surprisingly silent about the sacrament of penance. Several faculty members concurred that the students speak well about the importance of virtues such as humility and patience but seem less willing or able to assess themselves with respect to faith, hope, and charity. The suggestion that emerged from the discussion was for faculty to discuss the importance of what has been called ‘religious reading,’ that is, the slow, steady consideration of Sacred Scripture and of spiritual classics such as The Imitation of Christ, the Introduction to the Devout Life, and the writings of the Spanish Carmelites. Those discussions, the faculty also agreed, should result in concrete improvements in the way the faculty recommend spiritual books and Bible reading to the students.