For those not familiar with the International Council of Universities in the spirit of St. Thomas Aquinas, or ICUSTA, the organization’s mission is driven by a desire to promote a passion for truth and the complementarity of faith and reason by cultivating the Catholic identity of universities through a dialogue between faith and culture. This mission is magnified on the global stage through international partnerships among universities that hold in common the teachings of St. Thomas Aquinas.
The University of St. Thomas will host the 25th biennial meeting of ICUSTA May 22–24, 2019, in Houston. ICUSTA was founded in 1993 with an original membership of six universities, including UST. Now, ICUSTA proudly hosts 29 members from five continents. UST’s membership in ICUSTA was first approved during the UST presidency of Dr. Joseph “Tip” McFadden, a passionate, life-long advocate of building international partnerships and promoting global education.
McFadden noted three advantages of involvement with ICUSTA. First, the relationship increased student exchanges between UST and sister schools within ICUSTA. The council also provides a platform for international research collaboration and teaching through faculty exchanges. And, it serves as an important global avenue through which UST can strengthen its Catholic identity and support universities worldwide that share its mission.
Dr. Hans Stockton, director of UST’s Center for International Studies, serves as ICUSTA’s local coordinator and will head local arrangements for the 25th biennial meeting. Dr. Richard Ludwick, UST’s president, is serving a two-year term as president of the executive committee of ICUSTA.
ICUSTA also provides online courses that are open to students at all partner universities and opportunities for faculty exchanges. UST has participated in online courses since 1996, when now retired economics Professor Dr. Pierre Canac led the creation of the first fully online course. Dr. McFadden continues that practice through his own online classes for ICUSTA partners.
Dr. Alexandra Simmons Nout, an associate professor in the Biology Department, participated in a faculty exchange that took her to Santiago, Chile, as a guest lecturer. This visit led to opportunities to teach a graduate- level course and to collaborate on a book on molecular biology techniques.
“My experience with ICUSTA was fantastic,” Simmons Nout said. “It is humbling to see how much is out there, but at the same time, you see yourself in others, and it feels good to meet great people who also work hard to improve themselves, their students, their programs and their community. It broadens awareness and consciousness. It broadens the mind.”
It is wonderful to be hosting ICUSTA’s 25th biennial meeting. What’s even more exciting is thinking about where ICUSTA will take us in the future. Technology is increasingly connecting our world, and having an established organization for universities that share a Catholic identity will help us fulfill our mission on a global scale through the next century.
– Dr. Richard Ludwick, UST President
Story by Stephanie Manning