In the autumn of 2003, then Provost Dr. John Kozak announced to the University community that he was establishing an award to be conferred annually upon a small group of tenured faculty members who, while engaging in a productive program of scholarship, demonstrated a strong commitment to teaching. Recipients of the award were to be given the title of Vincent de Paul Professor and would recieve a modest stipend, which could be used for (among other purposes) purchasing lab and studio equipment, research materials, and classroom supplies, supporting student activities, and funding professional travel.
Faculty members from across the University competed for the award, and in the spring of 2004, the first class of ten Vincent de Paul Professors was inaugurated. For the next two years, during which time a new Provost was named, eight to nine new members were added to the Society annually, reaching by the end of 2006 a total of 29. During this period most Society members individually conducted their research projects and pedagogical initiatives, although also held were some jointly hosted events to help mentor junior faculty.
At the end of the third year (2007), when the first cohort of Society members was due to step down, the new provost, Dr. Helmut Epp, asked to speak to the Vincent de Paul Professors. Dr. Epp announced that he and President Fr. Dennis Holtschneider had discussed the Society’s future, and agreed that it should continue but that its mission should more closely align itself with the values and goals of its namesake. Dr. Epp set a maximum number of members at 32, but asked that the selection of any new members be postponed for one year while the Society organized itself and reformulated its mission.
Over the next academic year (2007-08), the members of the Society met on numerous occasions under the leadership of Dr. Robert Rotenberg to write a mission statement and to approve governance policies. Decisions were made about procedures for electing officers, selecting new members, and staffing standing and ad hoc committees such as the membership and the special purpose committees. Also established were various organizational policies and practices such as how often the Society would meet (quarterly), when committee activities would be presented and new projects proposed (at the autumn meeting), when reports by individual members regarding their Society-related activities were due (in the spring), and when new members would be inaugurated (at the academic convocation in the fall). Perhaps most importantly during this period, the Vincent de Paul professors began to function as a cohesive Society with a clear identity and the following agreed-upon mission:
Mission of the Society of Vincent de Paul Professors
The Society of Vincent de Paul Professors is an organization of faculty at DePaul University whose goal is to enhance the educational mission of the University in ways consistent with its distinctive values, such as Vincentian personalism, social justice, and service. The Society will promote the ideal of the teacher-scholar by:
- demonstrating in teaching gateway courses in the disciplines, in professional programs, and in the Liberal Studies Program the synergistic relationship between teaching and one’s own scholarship;
- serving as ambassadors within and outside the University to portray DePaul as an institution where teaching and scholarship inform and reinforce one another;
- providing mentorship to junior faculty;
- contributing to University processes of faculty development;
- engaging students in scholarly and creative work beyond the classroom;
- promoting scholarship on teaching that inspires and engages other faculty.
Society members have committed themselves to working together on projects in service to the university to further the mission of the Society. Current projects include supporting an educational mission in Haiti, helping to preserve the archives in the mother house of the Congregation of the Mission in Paris, and increasing the visibility of the more than 30 academic honor societies on campus. A complete list of committees, task forces, and action groups is available on the Society’s website under the "Projects".