The long-range dream of the Thomas International Project is for the Thomas International Center to become the nucleus of a new private, independent university, rooted in the Catholic intellectual tradition. This is a brief overview of what such a university might look like.
University Mission Statement,
Key Features, Guiding Principles
Thomas International is a project of cultural renewal that seeks to bring the classical and Christian intellectual traditions to bear on contemporary intellectual life, initially through several research institutes, and eventually through the establishment of an international university with its main campus in the United States.
A key conviction of this project and university is that knowledge is an integrated whole, with sound philosophy and theology providing guiding principles to other disciplines. This approach offers an alternative to the relativism and even scepticism about genuine knowledge of the human good that characterizes contemporary university life, and the dis-integration of academic life into largely autonomous specializations.
The University will begin with a college liberal arts program – in which students will have the opportunity to pursue some of their studies in Italy (at a Thomas International campus there) – and with a graduate program in philosophy. Other graduate programs will be added, depending on resources and local interests. The ultimate, long-term goal is a university that has graduate programs in all the major fields of study, as well as graduate professional schools.
The College of Liberal Studies will be the framework for all the undergraduate programs, and all students will follow an ample core curriculum, since one of the goals of a liberal arts education is to equip people with the intellectual capacities needed to thrive in any area of study. As other undergraduate pre-professional programs are added, e.g., communications and business, they will be integrated into the College as programs rather than being established as free-standing colleges (which tend to drift from, and exist in tension with, liberal education). Care will be taken that even the eventual post-graduate professional schools, such as law, business, and medicine, retain important “liberal” components, rather than focusing only on vocational preparation narrowly understood. The ultimate key to maintaining the unity of the university will be hiring liberally-educated people in all fields.
The university will combine a commitment to classical moral and spiritual ideals with a commitment to academic excellence and to active participation in contemporary intellectual and cultural reflection and discussion. Our desire to “engage” the culture leads us to emphasize excellent scholarship more than many other schools that are solidly rooted in the Thomistic intellectual tradition. This excellence consists especially in meeting high secular standards of scholarship implicit in the various disciplines (e.g., much of it will be publishable in peer-reviewed journals) – although, of course, it will be willing to challenge contemporary disciplinary standards where they are defective, not just on “external” religious grounds, but on the basis of the discipline’s own principles
"So what will make us different is especially the combination of an intellectual framework that reflects the harmony between scholarship and religious truth and a commitment to scholarly excellence that stands on its own, without relying on religion for validation."
So what will make us different is especially the combination of an intellectual framework that reflects the harmony between scholarship and religious truth and a commitment to scholarly excellence that stands on its own, without relying on religion for validation. This approach will be reflected in the active participation of our faculty (and students) in contemporary intellectual discussions. Our hope is that this distinction will be heightened by beginning with a core of scholars who are already well-established in their secular disciplines.
A second area of distinctiveness will be our approach to university teaching. Mass university education today makes it difficult for students to have the kind of tutorial (one-on-one) work that has been an essential component of classical universities such as Oxford, at their best. Our hope is to work out a way of integrating graduate students into the academic life of student residences in a way that will provide first-year undergraduates with regular, one-on-one work on their reading and writing, and then continue this personal attention in upper-division classes with regular faculty.
Why Thomas Aquinas as Our Model?
Aquinas’s thought provided a synthesis of the key intellectual traditions in his own time. Especially important features of Aquinas’s thought were its universality and its unity: it confronted the fundamental questions that face human beings in all times and places, it provided a framework within which various sciences could be integrated into a whole, and it recognized and pursued the essential harmony between reason and faith.
Today, when knowledge seems to be fragmented into hyper-specialized studies, when people often doubt the very possibility of objective knowledge, and when many think there is an unbridgeable gulf between science and faith, Thomas’ thought sets the right direction for a revival of truth in ethics and metaphysics.
Moreover, Aquinas’ natural law teaching and political thought provide a deeper understanding of the nature of the common good and the moral framework necessary for constitutional government and a free society