Assuming the good will of the other

Welcome to Chalk Talk, the Loyola University Maryland academic affairs blog! Today’s inaugural post focuses on a teaching of St. Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Society of Jesus. Our university was founded in 1852, but the Jesuits and Jesuit universities have existed for over 450 years. Throughout their history, the Jesuits have valued civil discourse through intellectual conversation and debates.

The enduring Jesuit charism permeates our campus in innumerable ways, including through our mission, values, and new strategic plan. More on all of this as the year unfurls, but today, I focus on the new beginnings that the start of an academic year promises.

Among the many lessons from St. Ignatius, perhaps the one most important to me, is that each of us is to begin with an assumption of the good will of the other. This assumption of good will is part of what is called the “presupposition” in the annotations to St. Ignatius’s famous Spiritual Exercises.

In interpersonal interactions where competing interests quickly surface, assuming the good will of the other can seem impossible; yet I believe it is not only what I am called to do, it is what will result in the best outcome not only for me, but for all. Presuming good will means one begins with authentic listening, uses encouragement, and is aware of the importance of context, asking questions rather than making assumptions As we begin the 2017-18 academic year, I invite you to consider how St. Ignatius’s presupposition could enrich your academic and personal experiences.

Perhaps you have your own take on this teaching, perhaps you have other quotes from St. Ignatius or other Jesuits that inspire you. I invite you to join the conversation by leaving a comment below or writing to me at

~ Amanda M. Thomas, Ph.D., interim vice president for academic affairs

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