Robert J. Butler
Professor, English Department
As a teacher, magis always begins with, but is never restricted to, formal academics. It is critically important for me to spend more and more of my time preparing classes and studying my field so that I may offer stimulating, challenging courses. But it is even more important for me to work hard outside of class with my students so that they can meet these challenges and get the full academic benefits of these courses. This involves working with them on an individual basis and also making available to them trips to local, regional, and national museums, art galleries, and theatres. Extra work? Yes – but the rewards are incalculable.
But the Jesuit concept of magis extends well beyond conventional academics, demanding that we apply our knowledge and skills to meet the needs of marginalized and underserved people who populate the world beyond the academy. This has led me to teach regularly for the Consortium of the Niagara Frontier, a degree-granting program offered in area prisons. The Consortium has been jointly sponsored for nearly forty years by Canisius, Niagara, and Daemen. In prison classrooms, education becomes much more than a mechanical process of accumulating grades and securing a diploma – it becomes a transformative experience for both students and teachers. Last year alone, 15 Consortium students earned life-changing associate and bachelor degrees from Canisius. I am proud to be a faculty member at a college that has given such staunch support to such an extra-ordinary program.
The commitment to magis can be seen at Canisius in so many other ways as well. Campus Ministry and several other college organizations have for many years offered a broad range of social service activities which do, indeed, ask us for more than our formal academic work requires. But these activities make our learning humanly meaningful by using it to serve others. When our students tutor inner-city children or sacrifice vacation time to take service trips to Appalachia, the South Bronx, Central America, and India, they learn that providing more for others enables them to make their education a living experience rather than a mere routine. They then discover the powerful connection between the concepts of magis and cura personalis. For in giving more of themselves, they become whole, caring persons who can truly make a difference in our troubled world.