The Strengths and Values of a University
“Whole person education coincides with my vision of the strengths and values of a university,” Budi Widianarko said, reflecting on his recently completed tenure as rector of Soegijapranata Catholic University (2009-2017). “It balances sharpening and broadening the mind, enlarging the heart, and activating the body of students for self-cultivation and good citizenship. It touches the mind, heart, and body, and it contributes to both self and society.” His leadership of SCU was shaped by his desire to share that vision, connect the university to the community, and encourage a new generation of academic leaders.
Early on, Professor Widianarko recognized that his goals could only be achieved if he created pathways for faculty, administrators, and other employees to internalize the university’s core values and develop their own talents and abilities. His approach to introducing service-learning into the curriculum is one example. Community service had a long history in Indonesian higher education, and he felt that service-learning’s principle of reciprocity – in which students learn from community members as well as share knowledge with them – offered a way to modify traditional community service projects to fit contemporary society.
However, he recognized that some faculty members preferred to focus on research and regarded community service as a second-rate activity. “You can combine teaching, learning, and research,” he said, “but I needed a mind shift among faculty.” United Board grants for service-learning projects – focusing on issues such as the environment, health, and urbanization – helped him start the process of changing attitudes. “These projects started to catch faculty members’ attention,” he said, “and the impact and opportunities associated with service-learning became clear. The academic community started to see service-learning as important and promising.”
To make whole person education part of the university’s DNA, Professor Widianarko realized he needed to build up a cluster of leaders. “Cultivating more leaders was part of my mission,” he said, and he relied on programs like the United Board Fellows Program and the Asian University Leaders Program for assistance. Since he became rector, five SCU administrators and faculty members have participated in the United Board Fellows Program, and many of them are now playing leadership roles at the university. “I didn’t need to explain service-learning or other concepts to them,” he said, because exposure and learning through the program meant “that was already in their vocabulary.”
Some leaders avoid succession issues, but Professor Widianarko took a direct approach. “The university is my home,” he said, “and if I didn’t support leadership development and a strong successor, it would be like destroying my home.” Professor Widianarko is now spending two years in residence at Providence University (Taiwan), as SCU’s new rector, Professor Ridwan Sanjaya, takes the leadership reins. Professor Widianarko is enjoying both the experience of spending time on a new campus and the view of home. “It is a beautiful moment for me,” he reflected, “to be at a distance and see that my home is still a good home.”