First female university rector in Lithuania says 'idea of hospitality as missional' key to personal, institutional success

First female university rector in Lithuania says “idea of hospitality as missional” key to personal, institutional success

The Pope and the Pontifical Academy of Mariology have initiated the idea of a Global Compact for Education, putting “patient listening, constructive dialogue and better mutual understanding” at the heart of humanity.

In these tough times of COVID-19, I decided to look at the life of Christian universities, in charge of building-up the foundations for the generations to come.

LCC International University in the sea port Klaipėda, in Lithuania, is one of the most profound examples of this.

The President of LCC International University, Dr. Marlene Wall, is a Canadian, born in Uruguay, who in 2011 became the first-ever woman to become a university rector in Lithuania.

She first came to the country more than 30 years ago to teach the English language, and later witnessed the rise of independence, the fight for democracy and other social transformations.

In her own emotional words, shared with Klaipėda iD: “I have been humbled to share this journey with Lithuanian colleagues and friends in a country with a proud history, heritage and ambition for a great future”.

What is LCC International University?

It’s a private, Christian Liberal Arts university, legally established in Lithuania 30 years ago and funded by foundations in the USA and Canada, along with some state subsidies.

LCC provides recognised bachelor and master degree education in the English language.

Over the years, it has welcomed thousands of professors, students, board members and guests to Klaipėda from all over the world, and today, thousands of ambassadors carry their memories and experiences across the globe.

According to Dr. Marlene Wall, the LCC model is unique in Europe, but it’s very common in the USA.

The university has very modest tuition fees, but it also offers hundreds of thousands of euros each year to students for needS-based as well as merit-based financial support.

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It also helps students to find summer and part-time jobs to make life affordable.

As a Christian university it values a whole of the personality – a student’s intellectual growth and his or her mental and spiritual and physical wellbeing. Values based on Christian principles – such as respect for others – matter the most.

LCC students come from various backgrounds: Christian-Orthodox, Catholic, and Protestant, but also Muslim, Yazidi and atheist.

Students study various disciplines, with each of them taking 4 courses form the Theology Department but also learning business, languages and leadership: leadership that serves, conflict transformation, multicultural perspectives, effective communication, community building and civic engagement, the Christian world view, multidisciplinary knowledge and critical thinking.

According to Dr. Marlene Wall, “at LCC, there is no majority culture. Everyone is integrated – in the residence halls, in the classrooms, on the basketball court, in the lounges”.

“This offers an incredibly unique learning opportunity. It means that we watch the news differently, now that we have friends from Syria and Iraq and Afghanistan on our campus, or now that we share culture nights with our students from Ukraine and Georgia and Armenia and Albania and Kazakhstan.

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“And what beauty when a cultural event that is shared by Russian and Lithuanian students highlights what they have in common”.

Was it difficult to become the Rector of the University in Lithuania?

Dr. Marlene Wall revealed that “in fact, my professional trajectory has been about ‘walking through open doors’, accepting the opportunities that are in front of me.

“I am grateful for each stage of my career. It is only when we look back that we see how these stages are connected, and how one prepares us for the next.

“Becoming the first female university president in Lithuania is, I suppose, an interesting statistic. But I have lived in Lithuania long enough to have admired many female leaders in this country”.

Finally, what is the personal mission of Dr. Marlene Wall?

In her own words: “While I don’t have a personal mission ‘statement’, I do value the idea of hospitality as missional”.

“I often refer to the Catholic priest Henri Nouwen’s definition of hospitality. He says that it is ‘the creation of an open space where a stranger can become a friend’.

“And, he adds, ‘Sometimes it requires an articulate not knowing’. I believe that LCC is that kind of institution. And I try to be that kind of person”.

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It has been a personal honor of mine to have been a professor of LCC International University some years ago, and to meet and learn from Dr. Marlene Wall.

More stories by Novena Brussels contributor Angele Bucyte:

Interview: COMECE Secretary General says Church ready to take EU dialogue to next level

Investigation: Novena survey reveals Pope’s impact on environmental policy with Laudato si’

More on the Vatican Global Compact for Education:

Ecology, inclusion, peace-making, teamwork: Pope give keys for his “global educational pact”

Pope’s “global compact on education”: Francis calls for “covenant” to form “more fraternal world”

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Angele Bucyte

Angele Bucyte is a European economist and professor who has worked for a number of universities and public institutions such as the European Commission and the European Parliament in Brussels. She is a practicing Catholic who collaborates closely with the religious communities in Brussels, including COMECE, the Jesuit European Social Centre and the Chapel for Europe.