Immaculata Magazine Summer 2014 - page 32

I MMA C U L ATA MA G A Z I N E * S UMM E R 2 0 1 4
Think. Explore. See connections between
subjects. Discover your higher purpose.
Moya Kaporch Dittmeier ’81, Ed.D., had
these opportunities as an English and Education
major at Immaculata. She thought she wanted to
teach high school English, which she did for 13
years. But the Catholic liberal arts education she
received at Immaculata eventually inspired her to
say yes to something different.
At Immaculata, Dittmeier took a liberal arts
class called Integrating Colloquium, “which
would make any college student shudder, I think!” She preferred studying
English and French, and she didn’t yet understand what biology, for
example, had to do with languages.
“I can still remember sitting with my friends in the dorm and saying,
‘This is crazy, what is this course doing, and why do we have to take it?’” she
said. “But somehow, by the time that class ended, it really confirmed for me
the value of education, and not just education in what I loved, but in a wide
range of subject matter, and how that ties into the larger world.
“And I feel for the students today who don’t have that, because they don’t
know what they’re missing. And I wonder what that will do to our society
at large.” She added, “I know there are some questions about whether or not
students will intend to study at a liberal arts school in the future, or whether
they would like something that perhaps would be more streamlined in terms
of professional development.”
But Dittmeier appreciates how her liberal arts education prepared her for
all of life, covering multiple areas to help develop “a sense of empathy and
compassion, and a sense of being a citizen in the world, not just in charge of
your own professional life,” Dittmeier says.
But the liberal arts aren’t opposed to professional development, and
Dittmeier received guidance in that area as well. Sister Marie Roseanne
Bonfini, IHM, a French professor at the time, told Dittmeier, “You really
should be thinking about higher ed.”
“But that had never crossed my mind,” Dittmeier said, since she was
comfortable teaching English. She taught at Nazareth Academy and then
at the university level. She took a job assisting the president of Holy Family
University in order to help pay for a doctoral degree in writing and rhetoric.
This job introduced her to higher education administration, which became
increasingly attractive to her. She decided to shift her direction, earning her
doctorate in higher education leadership and becoming a vice president at
Holy Family.
When Dittmeier caught up with Sister Roseanne many years later, Sister
remembered their previous conversation and affirmed Dittmeier’s transition.
Immaculata, Dittmeier said, “took a shy, studious young woman and
gave me the confidence to move forward, to be in a classroom, to be in
a higher education setting, and now to lead a nonprofit.”
That nonprofit is the Conference for Mercy Higher Education,
which provides oversight for 17 Sisters of Mercy colleges and
universities. As executive director of the conference, Dittmeier
participates in mission evaluations of each member institution. “We
have teams that visit and ascertain where the college is doing really
well in the area of Catholic identity and Mercy charism, and what we
might need to do to make it even stronger,” she said.
Dittmeier’s work also involves programs that align with the
Sisters of Mercy concern for social justice. In one program, students
look at the U.N. millennial development goals that correspond with
the concerns of the Sisters of Mercy. The students visit permanent
missions in countries where the Sisters work, and they visit the United
Nations in New York, attending sessions during the indigenous
peoples forum. The program challenges students to educate peers on
their respective campuses and take action, whether advocating for a
country or creating a club dedicated to environmental sustainability.
During one program, Dittmeier met a student from a small town
who wanted more exposure to the world. “I saw him really come to
life,” she said. “He just was on fire.” He became more involved in
campus leadership positions, and during his senior year, he assisted
Dittmeier with the U.N. program and became one of the speakers.
Last year, he told Dittmeier he was teaching at an underprivileged
school on a Native American reservation. It was challenging, but “he
feels a particular calling to be a strong male presence in his students’
lives,” Dittmeier said. He is thinking about earning a doctorate in
global higher education.
Stories like this one, which are similar to her own transformative
experience at Immaculata, keep Dittmeier energized. “I want others to
have the opportunities that I had to learn and explore and think.”
Dittmeier sees two unique characteristics of a Catholic liberal arts
education: “There’s a great concern for the person, and the dignity
of that person at all levels of life,” she said. “There’s also a concern
and a great joy in speaking about the transcendence of this life.” She
sees a particular need for discussion about spirituality. “Our students
today are hungry to talk about the life of the spirit. They may not be
as thrilled [about] the church as an institution, but there is a hunger
in them, I think, for a sense of faith, a sense of a purpose outside their
own,” she said. “And I think that’s where higher ed in the Catholic
faith can really fill a key role.”
Moya Kaporch Dittmeier ’81 Ed.D.
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