St. Joseph’s College’s special relationship with the U of A
This unusual yet symbiotic relationship has existed since Henry Marshall Tory, the U of A’s first president, asked Edmonton’s Catholic community to create an affiliated college on the university campus to fill the pressing need for Catholic post-secondary education in the province.
In 1926, St. Joseph’s College was born and its classic red-brick architecture has graced the U of A’s main street across from the Dentistry/Pharmacy Building ever since.
“Academically, St. Joseph’s College functions as a unit within the Faculty of Arts,” said Father Tim Scott, president of the college. “In every other sense it is independent.”
Scott says that the courses taught at St. Joseph’s are U of A credit courses, available to all undergraduates in any program; however, the college offers only a minor in Christian studies.
“If you are a science student you might take Denis Lamoureux’s popular science and religion class,” said Scott. “If you are an education student and you’re planning on teaching in the Catholic school system, you will want to take a couple of courses at St. Joe’s in order to qualify you to work in a Catholic school. If you are a nursing student, there is a course on bioethics here that covers the ethics requirement for a nursing student.”
All told, Scott says every year there are upwards of 2,100 students either taking any of the 60 courses offered at the college, or being taught by St. Joseph’s professors who are working in the relevant units in the Faculty of Arts. St. Joseph’s College is also responsible for running the U of A’s Catholic chaplaincy, which includes a staff of chaplains and priests as well as services every weekend. St. Joseph’s has its own governance structure, board of directors, as well as its own 65-room residency.
And while St. Joseph’s stands as an independent entity, it’s the college’s differing perspective that Scott says is so valuable in an academic setting and, in the end, makes St. Joseph’s College distinctly U of A.
“A university is supposed to be a highly diverse learning environment with different approaches being used to look at different issues,” said Scott. “The huge advantage of having this kind of a college is that it incarnates that precise diversity.”
Scott says St. Joseph’s allows students to study religion, not as an abstract idea, but from within that particular religion’s traditions.
“Lutherans do it; Christians do it; Jews do it; Muslims do it; and so we can bring to that study the whole historical perspective of Christianity, which is a different understanding of the human person, a different understanding of learning, a different understanding of the world,” said Scott.
“You can bring all that to critical discussion with other faculty members. This is what is remarkable; you get all sorts of religious debates around religious questions that are highly relevant in our society today. This is not minor stuff in many parts of the world. Questions of religion are life and death.”