In 1975, a new Christian university was born on the east coast of Canada. With big dreams, this new school sought to fill a hole in Canadian higher education. After a difficult first decade, a clearer vision emerged in which the university developed an emphasis on providing a quality educational experience by creating a rich community life and travel-based, shared learning experiences.
The unique characteristics that make up the heart of the community at St. Stephen’s University have been formed and developed through all of its years of existence. From the beginning, the hopes and intentions of faculty, staff and board members have joined together with the gifts and experiences of the students who have become a part of SSU. The result has been the creation of a distinctive flavour of life together. All the hardships, challenges and joys of this shared life, by the grace of God, have shaped the community in ways that have sometimes been different from and in many ways richer than those that might have been foreseen.
A key example of this grace has been the gift of being small. At any given time, we have never had more than a hundred students studying at SSU. While there are certainly challenges with being Canada’s smallest university, our small size has enabled us to develop a learning environment in which authentic and caring relationships are central. Whether travelling together, working together in the kitchen, or discussing ideas in the classroom, students push past the natural differences of personalities and viewpoints and experience a taste of “unity in diversity.” Similarly, students have opportunities to develop relationships with staff and faculty not only in the classroom, but at mealtimes, community events and during shared travel experiences.
A phrase which has become very important to us in recent years is our desire to nurture a “fire at the centre” of our community. Just as a hearth is used to represent the centre of the family home, SSU wants the passionate and intentional faith of its faculty and staff to serve as the warm and inviting heart of our community. The presence of God’s Spirit at the core of our life together enables us to become the kind of place that encourages caring, respect and mutual support in spite of the messiness and imperfections that are always a part of relationships.
A Christian vision has always been at the heart of SSU; our vision is for a learning community that embraces ancient traditions as well as the living dynamic of the Holy Spirit in our times. We are not associated with any particular denomination and our staff, faculty and board members have always included people from a wide variety of faith traditions.. We understand that everyone’s journey is unique, and we welcome students to journey with us wherever they currently find themselves. Honest and thoughtful struggle with our doubts and beliefs is a part of any healthy intellectual or spiritual growth, and we want this to characterize the transformation that is a part of this academic experience.
And so, as a Christian university:
The Mission of SSU is to prepare people, through academic and personal development, for a life of justice, beauty, and compassion, enabling a humble, creative engagement with their world.
This handbook serves as an introduction to those near and far who want to know what kind of community SSU strives to be. It represents a history and a vision, ideals and realities, agreements and compromises on differences. It represents the kind of community that those who are and have been a part of St. Stephen’s University are committed to work and sacrifice for and through which we hope to receive a taste of God’s blessing that we increasingly learn to share