MAFC Program Inspires Dialogue, Discernment
In the University of St. Thomas Master of Arts in Faith and Culture (MAFC) Program, students benefit from a diverse group of students who bring a variety of experiences, interests and goals to the Program.
The MAFC degree seeks to integrate historical, sociological, anthropological, theological and spiritual dimensions in the American way of life. The Program is designed to form civic community and church leaders capable of assisting others in the integration of personal and communal faith as faithful citizens. The MAFC degree provides working professionals, educators, and ministers with both an intellectual and practical formation program that responds to the demands of living in today’s cultural context as a people of faith.
Before enrolling in the MAFC Program, Sara Kumar was living in Los Angeles, working as an electrical engineer by day and a theater artist, writer and director by night. Facing a crossroads, Kumar felt she needed more time for reflection and discernment before she could shift her focus to pursuing the arts full-time. The MAFC Program provided opportunity for Kumar to combine her desire for personal exploration with her diverse interests.
“I am an electrical engineer who is also an artist, so I have always used art and science throughout my life,” Kumar said. “That’s what the MAFC Program is about − integrating different fields of learning in order to understand the greatest problems our culture faces. In this Program, I can use both my left brain and right brain together.
“As a Catholic brought up with an Indian background, I was struggling the Hollywood environment,” Kumar said. “Before I could write; before I could put myself on stage, I had to understand myself and the different aspects of what makes the human person. After finishing this degree, I feel confident I can pursue into a doctorate or a Master in Fine Arts degree in writing because I feel so aware of who I am, I am not afraid to write about what I believe. The MAFC Program gives me the confidence to achieve that goal.”
After earning a degree in philosophy at the University of St. Thomas in 2010, Noel Rodriguez was perfectly positioned to be among the inaugural MAFC class. The Program is a natural fit with Rodriguez’s special interests in social justice and conflict resolution. Upon completion of the MAFC Program, he plans to pursue doctoral studies.
“The MAFC program builds a bridge from what I learned in my undergraduate philosophy education and has allowed me to develop a more holistic view about some of the most complex issues in our society.
“What intrigues me the most about the MAFC Program was the notion of understanding where my faith and the American culture both meet and where they diverge,” Rodriguez said. “The Center for Faith and Culture and the MAFC Program becomes a stage from which people can interact and dialogue because it embraces the arts and sciences, the principals of Catholic faith and the many different perspectives in our culture.”
A longtime supporter of the Center for Faith and Culture, Catherine Braun was eagerly waiting for the opportunity to enroll in the Master of Arts in Faith and Culture Program. Braun brings her experience in the corporate world as well as a passion for community outreach to the Program. She is the director for the Charis Program at St. Luke’s United Methodist Church and is involved with Christian Hands Working for entrepreneurial Hispanic women. In addition to her own personal enrichment, Braun applies what she is learning in the MAFC Program in her community outreach work.
“After each class, I’m so excited to share my experiences. I call my friend and tell her all about what we were learning,” Braun said. “It has been such a positive growth experience for me; I have been thirsting for this opportunity to put my faith and my love for the country together in a positive arena.
“In my church outreach program, I frequently interact with people who are new to our country,” Braun said. “In the MAFC Program, I am relearning the historical and Judeo-Christian foundations of our country, and I am now confident that I am sharing factual information rather than just sharing my own experiences. I feel empowered to talk about our great country and how individuals have the freedom to reach their greatest potential, and to become the people God created us to be.”
Braun said the self awareness and acceptance of others she is learning in the MAFC program has also made a difference in her professional life.
“I work in investor relations for a very large energy corporation, and we have close to 100,000 employees,” Braun said. “I have found this program has impacted my peers and the people with whom I work because I am consciously making a greater effort to be more humanistic, more accepting, less project-driven. I try to remember that we are all human beings, all come to the table with different experiences. There just seems to be a more pleasant, relaxed atmosphere when we are working on projects instead of being regimented and solely focused on how much we can get done before the end of the day. ”