A New and Different College Arises (Guest: Jacob Imam)

January 12, 2024 01:02:02
A New and Different College Arises (Guest: Jacob Imam)
Crisis Point
A New and Different College Arises (Guest: Jacob Imam)

Jan 12 2024 | 01:02:02

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Hosted By

Eric Sammons

Show Notes

A new Catholic college is starting up this year, and it promises to offer a very different kind of education.
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Episode Transcript

[00:00:10] Speaker A: A new catholic college is starting up this year, and it promises a very different kind of education. That's what we're going to talk about today on Crisis Point. Hello, I'm Eric Samitz, your host, editor in chief of Crisis magazine. Before we get started, just want to encourage people to like the channel. Subscribe, subscribe to it. Do all the things you're supposed to do to let other people know about it. You know what to do, so do it. Also follow us on social media at Crisis Mag. And you can also subscribe to our email newsletter. Just go to crisismagazine.com and you'll find a place where you can sign up for our email newsletter. Let's get right into it. So our guest is Jacob Imam. He was born into a muslim home, converted to Catholicism under the guidance of his godfather, Walter Hooper, who was C. S. Lewis's personal secretary. That's a nice connection. That's a very nice connection. He graduated from the University of Oxford as a martial scholar with his master's in doctorate, writing his dissertation on theology and economics. And he is the founder and vice president of finance for the College of St. Joseph the worker, which is what we're going to be talking about today. Hello, Jacob. Welcome to the program. [00:01:12] Speaker B: It's great to be with you. Thank you so much. That was a mouthful of an introduction. I'm sorry you had to do that. [00:01:17] Speaker A: Yeah, that's, you know, a founder of college needs to have a pretty good cv, so I'm glad that there was something there. [00:01:25] Speaker B: Great. [00:01:26] Speaker A: Exactly. But I said this before we got on, but I want to tell everybody that I don't think I've had so many people before a podcast. Tell me how excited they were about the podcast. I usually don't even advertise ahead of time. It's just friends, people in our homeschool group here, their kids are already looking at the College of St. Joseph the worker. They're very interested in it. I've been hearing talk for months now, I guess over a year now about it. So people are very excited. So I'm excited for this. And I think a lot of people are as well. But before we get into details of the college, why don't you tell us a little bit about you? Because as the founder, there's not many people who found a college. And so what kind of brought you to the point where you thought, hey, this is a good idea? This is something I'd like to do, kind of your own story of getting to this point. [00:02:14] Speaker B: Well, thanks so much for asking about that I had a background in finance a little bit, and certainly that's what I ended up writing on. But I always knew the academy was going to be home for me. And so when I was working in DC and visiting a friend at some point who was in admissions at a college, a university in the south, we were chatting and he was saying how much he was kind of regretting his job, and his conscience couldn't really handle it anymore because he was welcoming students into this early life of debt and all for an education that he didn't really think was worthwhile. And so thinking about this, I'm about to start up on my doctorate, and I was kind of seeing myself in his shoes. Do I really want to be operating within a university that is perhaps morally questionable and certainly sending off students limping off financially into really what should be some of the better years of their life? And so that was a big motivation to start thinking about something else. And our minds quickly went to the trades, and no small part because, well, if it's good enough for Jesus, it's probably good enough for us. And also you get paid to train in the skilled trades. And so if there was a way that we could perhaps unite together the intellectual life with the life of manual labor, calling the bluff on this divorce that our culture has taught us between the head and the hands and marrying them together again, that we might have a model that both simultaneously forms good Catholics in the intellectual tradition of our faith while also forming their hands to do good, serious, dignified work modeled after the life of our Lord. And so we tweaked with that model for a little while and got some better minds on it than mine. And now we're off to the races. [00:04:21] Speaker A: Yeah, it's interesting you brought up the elephant in the room in the first question. That is debt. And when you talk about college today, that has to come up is debt. I know my own story is when I went to get my master's in theology at Franciscan, this was in the mid 90s, before I got married, but I got engaged, and I was going through the program, and I was getting some debt, and I was, like, being uncomfortable because I was engaged, I was going to get married. And I thought, if I finish the degree now and get married, I'm going to start off marriage with a huge debt that I have no way to pay back in a realistic fashion. And I just went to my now wife, my fiance at time. I just said, I got to quit. I can't do this right now. It's just because I just put myself behind the eight ball, because I remember I talked to another person, like, in the program, and he was like, on food stamps with his wife and stuff, program going, debt. And I just thought, I'm not saying what he was doing was immoral, but I felt like there was some morality issues there, for me, at least, going into that debt. And so I just was like, no. And I went off and got a job, then later finished the program through distance Ed, which was a lot cheaper and allowed me to do it. But so I'm glad that that was one of the first things that comes up, because it is an issue. And we'll talk a little bit later about, of course, St. Joseph the worker college. St. Joseph the worker and its cost structure and all that. But what would you say, though? I want to keep it a little bit big picture. [00:05:49] Speaker B: Great. [00:05:50] Speaker A: What would you say in modern America, 2024 America, somebody graduates from high school. Most people, most kids today, they go to high school, they graduate from high school. What would you say is the purpose of education beyond high school? [00:06:05] Speaker B: Yeah, it's a great question. It's a million dollar question. It's not a question that we ask. I mean, everybody will say it's to get a nice job. Right? Right. Or to join an elite class in other cases. Really, the whole point of education, whether it's higher education or lower education, if you want to call it that, is the formation of virtue, to know the truths that make life most human, so that they might be your guiding stars in your life to form the contemplative virtues, the intellectual virtues, that they might then lead you into the active life again, into the life where you put on the moral virtues. That's the point. I mean, that's the point of life as a whole is actually coming into union with the holy Trinity. And so really, the joy of higher education in particular, is to get into the subtleties and the more dynamic truths that really do have a ripple effect on the rest of your life and of society. When christians first founded the universities, and it was the catholic church that founded the first universities, they did so specifically to teach priests to preach the gospel more accurately, more thoroughly, more holistically, so that the gospel might truly take hold of people's hearts and transform society. I mean, I'll give out a quick example. Is that to be able to understand when we see something like the aryan crisis in the fourth century and beyond that, that was not just some sort of intellectual itch that needed to be scratched amongst theologians that had wide ranging political ramifications insofar as you're trying, as Constantius as the emperor was trying to demote Jesus so as to promote himself, that the temporal power might seize upon religious rituals, spiritual insights, so as to have a better control of the population, to have another technique or tool in his toolbox of social control. This is something that is true about the very person of Jesus. That also has an implication in how we live today. That's some tough stuff. And that takes dedicated, serious time being formed in the faith so that we might be able to proclaim and live it. Well, yeah. [00:08:48] Speaker A: Wow. I mean, I didn't expect it to take this route. And I like it though, because one of the things about modern education, if you look at kind of how modern education started, particularly in the 19th century germans, and then here it seems, and I know sometimes I might sound a little conspiratorial. Well, just in general, I know I sound like that, but I might sound a little conspiratorial when I say it does seem to be a system for control. And I don't mean like soviet union control necessarily, although that is a danger always. I mean, just like we will make good cogs of the machine, we will make sure that nobody will go. They will, they will be trained so that they can, I think somebody. How do they put on something like, schools don't teach, they train or something like that. The point is they're basically just saying, okay, you do this, you do this, you do this and you will be a good citizen. And so what happens, though, is when the powers of B are doing things that are fine, that's not a big deal. When the powers that be are not, which I think we probably agree. Most people watching this would agree. They're not really these days. [00:09:59] Speaker B: Absolutely. [00:10:00] Speaker A: That becomes a real problem for everybody. You're tying it into the aryan crisis of the idea that the powers that be want to control the populace. A lot of that is education. And so kind of going against know, having that. Now, the one thing I want to say though, and this is where I think we're getting into the college of St. Joseph the worker, and that is, this all sounds well and good. And I, who has said this myself, and I kind of kicked myself and realized I shouldn't say it like this, but I will say it like I've heard it said and I've said it myself. That sounds all well and good, but I need food on the table for my kids, right? I need to be able to support my family. So I have my theology degree or my catholic studies degree. And I feeling like I know how to think. That's fine. And I know the true liberal arts colleges will argue that being able to think will give you a good job. And I've come to the conclusion I think they have a lot. There's a lot of truth in that. But at the same time, I got to put food on the plate, on plates of my kids, more importantly, and my wife than my own. So this is where I think we see. This is where we're talking about something different. The college of St. Joseph's worker. So tell me how you went from. Okay, we want to train people how to think, how to really see things, see reality, how it really is, how God. And, okay, I'm going to teach you how to pick up a hammer. What's the connection there between those two things? [00:11:26] Speaker B: Yeah, they're actually integral to one another. But I'll start off in a way that's going to seem as if they are more separate than they are. So just forewarning. One of the things I heard that line, the one you just said quite a bit, and I had that same hesitation, namely the line that the liberal arts do enable you to think more critically. That will make you more enticing to employers like you. I agree. There is plenty of truth in that. But all of a sudden, you utilizing the liberal arts for purpose, that they were not designed for the liberal arts, are to teach you the truths that make life most human, to free your soul, to be able to think about the world well, to understand it well, and to approach it well. It doesn't deliver you technical knowledge like computer programming. It doesn't offer you technical knowledge like accounting. Say, it's not meant for that. It's not designed for that. And so is to be able to separate a very practical track, which is still essential. Putting food on the table, to separate it. We almost, I think, free up the intellectual tradition a little bit more to be what it truly is, that these are just truths that are good and in and of themselves. To be a vector for my entire life, but not to earn me want that hand. They are purposefully separated. Now, on the other hand, we know from St. Thomas Aquinas well, amongst many others, that the material needs of our life have to be met in order for us to be able to lead a virtuous life. If you are starving and destitute, you are not setting yourself in the occasion of virtue. That's the idea. And to neglect the material aspects of yourself to the point where you are starting to find it difficult to lead a life of virtue means that you are actually prioritizing something else above God, because at the end of the day, this is for our intimacy with Jesus Christ in the holy Trinity. And so the material life is actually very essential for the life of virtue. Also, I can mention that I think there's that connection between the liberal arts as something that's important and good in and of itself, and that you'll get a job later on and that you can't really put a value on the liberal arts as a result of that is something that I do agree with. I would just say that if you can't put a price tag on the value of the liberal arts education, then you probably shouldn't stick $100,000 price tag onto it. [00:14:21] Speaker A: There is a price tag. [00:14:23] Speaker B: Yeah. And so I think that if there's a way in which we can really understand how the moral virtues and the intellectual virtues, how the active life and the contemplative life really do nurture one another, then we should be able to create a system and a model that represents that more fundamental. Catholic anthropology. [00:14:47] Speaker A: Okay, so obviously, your typical secular colleges today fail miserably on the count of teaching people to think, teaching people to see the world. They might be good in certain aspects of teaching. To be a computer programmer, absolutely. Be a doctor, something like that. What about, though? Obviously, when you start a new college, you're saying that there is a need for something that's not being met. Why would you say that good schools, like a franciscan university, Ave Maria, benedictine college, that do have programs of specific trades for, like, I know, we wouldn't, like accounting or computer program or whatever the case may be? Why would you say, what is College of St. Joseph doing that is kind of different from what they're doing as far as teaching? Is it just what you're teaching, the trades you're teaching, or is it something else? [00:15:42] Speaker B: Yeah, it's a good question. And I don't want to say anything negative, because I really do admire franciscan university and Ave Maria and all the hosts of the other Newman guide schools. I just think that from my experience in business, that disruptors are needed to be able to set a new course up from time to time. Once you've done something well for so long, it's hard to change a course, and so new institutions are sometimes needed. I would say this, also know we're enjoying the octave of epiphany right now, and we just had another little baby. And so it's been fun to kind of reflect on why Jesus came in the form of a child, and obviously paramount. And all this is that he comes the greatest as the weakest, the most is. That is paramount. But I think there's more to it, too. And I think any parent knows that there's nothing more disrupting to your customs and habits and routines than a little child coming into your. So there is something that's disruptive about Jesus that's foreshadowed in the very presence of him as a child. And of course, he does come to overturn the reign of Rome. He comes to overturn the money changers tables, to overturn Satan'sin, and death. But his disruption is not first and foremost driven out of condemnation, but out of love. And disruption, at its best, is always driven out of love. I hope that that is what it is for us as well, is that we are looking at this next generation and saying, I think we just love them so much. We want to do better for them. I mean, we want to treat them as our kids, as many of them actually are, too. So I would say that, too, is that we are not trying to cast judgment on other institutions. We're really just focusing on a different vector on the next generation, what we might be able to do for them. [00:17:49] Speaker A: So, first of all, congrats on the new child. [00:17:51] Speaker B: Thank you. [00:17:52] Speaker A: You don't look anywhere near as tired as you should. [00:17:56] Speaker B: God bless you. Thanks. [00:17:57] Speaker A: I know how that does disrupt you. And by the way, as you have kids, as you get older, that getting up middle night gets just a little bit harder. But it's all worth it. I mean, 100% worth it. A little bit more the next day, I guess, is the best way to put it. The older you get. Okay, so why don't we get now into some specifics about the college of St. Joseph, the worker, why don't you just give me, like, the elevator pitch that you would give to a parent who's, let's say their son is a junior in high school and he's expressed interest. And so let's say the mom comes to you and know, why should my, what's, what's attractive about the College of St. Joseph to work at, particularly knowing a new college always has its risks involved, its unknowns, I think is probably the best thing, as opposed to going to a college, been around for 50 years or something like that. So what's kind of your elevator pitch to that mom? [00:18:57] Speaker B: Yeah, it's a great question. I would say, first and foremost, that what we're trying to do, which is to simultaneously train students in the catholic intellectual tradition to earn their BA degrees as well as in the skilled trades, carpentry, HVAC, masonry, plumbing, electrical, so as to earn their journeyman status is something that is particular. We are not just a trade school, and we're not just a degree granting institution. We are a dynamic combination of both. And so really we do fit a particular type of student that is intellectually inclined, that is academically promising and advanced. I would say as well, we really take that higher education part seriously, but also someone that knows that he loves working with his body and wants to see a tangible difference in the world as a result of the fruit of his labor. So many of us are stuck behind computer screens for our day, the day. And I think that part of the age of anxiety that we're living in is contributed to through not being able to see our work as truly efficacious. If you're a student that's really wanting to know that you're making a difference in the world, that you are physically actually building up our culture in a different way, then trades should be a serious option for you. If you are not as intellectually inclined, then I would say that trade school should be a serious option for you. But if you are in love with the dynamic, philosophical, theological truths of our tradition, that you want to take serious time to study them and to receive them from our tradition, and you're looking forward to being a husband and a father one day, then this is a pretty appealing, this should be a pretty appealing option for you. I would say that we know about the problems of higher education elsewhere. Those are risks that are knowingly taken by people today, namely the culture of extending adolescence, the crippling financial situation that they promise, and with a handful of exceptions, of universities, it's also an intellectually compromising environment as well. And so those are known risks for us. They are unknown. But what you certainly do know, at the very least, is that the training and the trades are going to make you a very enticing employment option to so many today. That the trades have this desperate quantity problem, that there are three people retiring out of the trades for everyone that's entering in, that there are 500,000 unfulfilled job prospects right now in the trades right now, and that number is only growing, that there's a serious quantity problem. And so to be able to fill in that quantity problem, you're going to be paid very well. But what we're trying to achieve is not just a fix to the quantity problem. Our fix is to the quality problem. If you have a quantity problem. You do have a quality problem. That's just inevitable. And we want to raise up good catholic men that are formed well in the faith, that are formed well in their vocational skills, that they might be good leaders of men, both spiritually as well as temporally. And I think that's a promise that's very enticing. [00:22:46] Speaker A: I tell you a need for this. I own some real estate, and getting people to the contractors for work is one of the most difficult and frustrating things because first of all, just finding them, like you said, three out for everyone in. I believe that because I see that directly. But then finding quality people. [00:23:10] Speaker B: I'm not. [00:23:10] Speaker A: Talking about quality work because you need quality people. They will do quality work, but they will also show up. When they say they're going to show up, they will give you the job that they say they're going to give you all of those things, because so many times you just get where they don't show up or they do a haphazard job, or they can't run a business. Sometimes it's not even like they have bad motives or anything. They don't know how to just run a business where they're like, okay, I set up these appointments. I show up when I say I'm going to show up, I balance the books. I do all that type of stuff. All right. Make sure I get somebody who can balance the books. All those type of things, it's just haphazard. They have a great skill, maybe in carpentry. Let's say they're excellent, but they can't do anything other than that. The need, I think, is, my goodness, it's out there. I know. Now, what is the actual program, then, for a student? Now, just to be clear, for people who are listening to this right now and stuff like this, we're doing this in January, 2024. Your first semester starts in fall of 2024. [00:24:20] Speaker B: That's right. [00:24:20] Speaker A: And so what is the program like? How long does it take? What is the basic overview of what they will be doing, a student who starts this fall, what will they be doing through the program? [00:24:33] Speaker B: Great. Thanks for asking that. So if you look at an average BA program, it's four years, right. And if you look at an average journeyman program or to work your way up to journeyman status, that's about four or five years. So we've taken what would otherwise be eight or nine years of work, and we've condensed it down in a very rigorous six year program. The first three years are here locally in Steubenville. Ohio, where students will be simultaneously studying theology as well as training in the trades. Starting years four and extending into five and six, we'll be placing them, we'll be placing our students with master craftsmen within our tradesmen networks so that we can place them back into the states that they want to be in. [00:25:25] Speaker A: That doesn't have to be in Steubenville. [00:25:27] Speaker B: No, it does not have to be. And there's many reasons for why that is. But it's much easier to get certified in the state that you want to be in rather than being certified here and then sending you somewhere else. To give you an example, a good friend of mine is a master electrician. He's actually a master electrician in two different states, and he also has a master's in history and just really bright guy. And we thought, well, man, this is the dude that we need teaching electrical for us. And so we bring him up here, and the state of Ohio won't recognize his master's licenses, even though he has two of them. And so there's whole new set of programs and hours and certifications that he needs to achieve to be able to work here. And thank God we're at the tail end of that. But currently in America, it's easier to transfer your license from state to state as a lawyer or as a doctor than it is as a plumber or electrician, which is just so bizarre. But that's the reality that we're facing with. But also there's a positive aspect of it, rather than just a legal consideration, is that we would like to place our students in the communities that they want to be pouring themselves into sooner rather than later. And so starting year four, we will do that. Their education will take an online platform, and then they'll graduate after the six year mark. So that goes in a nutshell. The tuition is $15,000 a year for the first three years, and then for years four, five, and six, it drops down to $5,000 a year. [00:27:06] Speaker A: Okay. And I think most parents who have college age kids know this. That is super cheap. That is very inexpensive. Yeah. Trust me, it is. Okay. Now, obviously, I assume your first class this fall will be all freshmen. Like, nobody's starting two or three years into. You're just, you have to start from, correct? [00:27:27] Speaker B: Correct. Yes. [00:27:28] Speaker A: Okay, so. So for three years, I guess you have about three years to build up your network around the country of where people can go. So let's say a student is in Omaha right now and they want to go to this school. So for three years they would be in Steubenville, but they're like, I want to be in Omaha. That's where my family is. That's my community. That's where I want to build my trade, my practice, whatever. So the ideal would be that by the time they get to their fourth year, there would be somebody in Omaha who would be their, they'd be an apprentice of, that they would work under, and that person would be part of your network. Is that the way it would work? And so they would still take the online classes through the college, but then they would be basically a full time apprentice. Is that correct? [00:28:19] Speaker B: That is correct, yeah. Right now, what we evaluate and how we build up our craftsman network is really looking at two things, the quality of character of the craftsman and the quality of their craftsmanship. Ensuring that they're actually going to be raising up our students in the way that we would like them to go, in the way that we had already been raising them up. So that's something that we're actively working on now. We already have dozens of craftsmen on that list, and so we've been prioritizing and will prioritize where our students are from within that evaluation process. [00:28:53] Speaker A: All right. To make sure you're actually getting students who would be, you know, they would have a craftsman. Now, let's say there's a kid, say Omaha. I don't know why I picked that. [00:29:02] Speaker B: But, yeah, that's great. [00:29:04] Speaker A: And they know, let's say an electrician who's a Catholic, maybe goes to their parish. Can they recommend to the college, hey, can you evaluate this person to become one of your teachers in the future? [00:29:22] Speaker B: Absolutely, yes. Those craftsmen will still have to go through our adjudication process, of course, but absolutely. That example just happened yesterday, actually. Okay. [00:29:36] Speaker A: So now what trades are you starting off with? Are they restricted to certain ones? You mentioned a number of them. You have your plumbing, electrician, carpentry. Are there certain trades starting off that you're saying, okay, we're limiting it to these trades to start off with? [00:29:51] Speaker B: Yes, there are. We have four tracks that we're starting off with, and those are carpentry, electrical, plumbing, and HVAC. The reason why we picked those are really because those are the four trades with the highest capital gains. So we're sure that the numbers could work out best starting there. Masonry will be also a subset that we'll be training our students in as well and looking forward to developing a fifth track at some point. But those four are where we're beginning with. [00:30:23] Speaker A: Now, when a student starts, do they have to declare a track, or do they learn in all four a little bit, or how does that work? [00:30:31] Speaker B: Yeah, great question. I'm very excited about this. So the first year, they do not need to declare, and actually, they won't need to at all until the very end of that first year. And the reason why is because we really want to ensure that our students have a holistic understanding of the building trades. They're not just expert plumbers, but they are seriously dangerous when it comes to carpentry and electrical as well. Dangerous in a good way, I should say. [00:30:58] Speaker A: Dangerous in a bad way for electrical. [00:30:59] Speaker B: Yeah, I'm dangerous in a bad way in electrical. We call that program, that first year program the anatomy of a home, so that you really understand the totalizing logic of a building and how different minuscule parts fit into the holistic building picture. I mean, the number of homes that I have been in, and I'm not even one of these tradesmen that we have on faculty, in our faculty that have just cut through HvaC techs, that have just cut through floor joists, is just incredible. I mean, that is something even I know you should. And then to look over and to say, well, then, what else did they get wrong? That's a big thing. What are all the small things? And so to be able to take a full year and introduce our students into the composites and the structures, the models and the methods within the other trades is a really essential starting place before they start to pick the one trade that they really want to concentrate in. And so I think, especially if someone is comparing us to a trade school, that's where we might have the edge within our trades instruction. [00:32:12] Speaker A: It also helps them if they want to become like a general contractor at some point. They know if their expertise is in carpentry or something like that. They know, okay, what to look for in a good electrician. [00:32:23] Speaker B: Absolutely. [00:32:23] Speaker A: They have a basic understanding. I wouldn't know. I mean, I wouldn't know what a good electrician is because I know nothing about that world. But they would at least know, okay, this guy knows what he's talking about, because I know enough to be able to evaluate an electrician and work with him and things like. Absolutely. Okay, so those first three years, they're taking classes in theology and Catholic. And actually, this takes me back to a question I haven't asked yet. You're in Steubenville. The first thing people want to know is, what's your relationship with Franciscan University of Steubenville? Is there a relationship? Obviously, you have a ton of theology professors and people, great people. I mean, you got your Scott Hahn, your Mike Sorillos, all those people there. Do you have a relationship with them? [00:33:07] Speaker B: We do things. We got, it might sound at least contentious being in the same small dilapidated rust Belt city, but there's no tension at all. They're good friends of ours. We go to mass with everybody that works up on campus there. So this is a very friendly relationship. We have an official partnership with them as well. So our workshop actually is available to franciscan university students. They've already started to utilize. It's been really wonderful to see what they're building and then their library is our library. And then there's an ability to share faculty as well. And so we look forward to that. And Scott Hahns, one of our advisory board members, John Bergsma, will teach an Old Testament class for us and we'll see how many other professors go both ways. But it's a very friendly relationship that we have. [00:33:59] Speaker A: So a student, okay, freshmen, first semester, they're taking a theology class. Are they taking the theology class on Franciscan's campus or on, I don't even know what your campus, your building is. Are they with franciscan students in the class or is it just college of St. Joseph's students in their theology class? [00:34:17] Speaker B: Yeah, great question. No, it is in our academic building that our students will be taking courses primarily from our own faculty. But just with the professor share just again demonstrates a friendly relationship that we can go up there, they teach classes. They can come down here and teach classes as well. [00:34:36] Speaker A: And they get a library card at the franciscan library. [00:34:39] Speaker B: And they do get a library card at the franciscan. [00:34:41] Speaker A: That's huge because the library's got everything that comes to catholic studies and theology. I could live in there. My family knows when I go to visit Studentville, I might get lost in the library, just leave them, go until it's time to. And as a guy who's lived in Soonville before and my kids live in your, what is your academic building? Where is it? [00:35:04] Speaker B: Yeah, great question. So we're in downtown Soonville. Downtown Sumville was once a very vibrant town. I mean, was competing with Pittsburgh at one point for kind of being in the metropolis of the area. And then when the steel industry went up and left to China and industry, it just became a ghost town. And so really two thirds of the storefronts are boarded up down here now there has been this wonderful and a very exciting revitalization movement here in downtown. A lot of energy and a lot of hope with young catholic families starting new businesses here. And so we are smack dab right in the middle of that. So we have our workshop on the corner of third in Washington. For anybody that does know Stevenville, that our academic building is one block away up on Washington. And then throughout the downtown area we have houses for our students to live in, all within close proximity to the workshop and to the academic building. [00:36:12] Speaker A: I got so many questions. Okay, so I just want to make one comment because I know people who have visited Sueville like in years ago. Okay, so I lived in Sueville in the, went to school there and downtown in the 90s was just a pit. There was nothing. I mean, it was like somebody said you could have a picnic in the middle of the streets there and nobody would ever disturb you because it was just like either dead or just, and just was awful. And I go back now and it's amazing. Yes, it still has to go places. But I got to give a shout to my very good friends Mark and Gretchen Nelson, so much to revitalize that town and others. And I don't want to act like other people haven't done as well, but I just know Mark and Gretchen Nelson's have done so much. That town, the downtown particularly, is so different now than it was 30 years ago because the reason I say that is because it still has a reputation. And I can see a parent being like, my kids live in downtown, something like that and I don't live there anymore. So I can't say exactly, but I just know when I go, I'm like, wow, this is a lot different than it used to be. It still has a ways to go, but it's very good. So that was, my next question was about housing then. So student comes from Omaha because that's where all your students are going to come from. Now where do they live and is that included? We already mentioned it's $15,000 year the first few years. Is their housing included in that? Is food included in that? And where are they actually living? [00:37:40] Speaker B: Yeah, great question. First of all, you're right to mention Mark Nelson. We all call him the king around Nelsonville one. So housing is an interesting model for us. Just to kind of cut to the quick of it. Our students will be paying their utilities and upkeep on the house, but there's no normalized rent on it in the same way as you might be renting from somewhere else. Our students, we tell them to budget something like $150 a month instead of the usual $550 or more a month. And the reason why we're doing that, and we're really having them take care of the cost. That just takes care that you need to have to take care of a home is that we want to get them as far out of this age of adolescence as possible. We want them to take responsibility for the things that they're utilizing. So we're trying to make it as cheap as possible so that they. And have them pay directly for the cost of upkeep, that they might know that they have some form of ownership over it. The catholic tradition loves to say that ownership stems from use before it becomes some juridical mapping, and we want our students to realize that and enjoy that and have the pride of ownership as much as they can while they're there. So that's why we have it so cheap. [00:39:00] Speaker A: In terms of the houses. Does the college own the houses? [00:39:03] Speaker B: The college does, yeah. So one of those things that they'll have to pay later, that they won't have to pay for us is taxes, because we are a 501, so we get out of property taxes, but that will be a surprise later for them. And then in terms of food, that is something that they will have to take care of on their own. There's a new grocery store in downtown Steubenville. It's one of the new businesses that have come on board. [00:39:29] Speaker A: Where is that? [00:39:29] Speaker B: Right on Fourth street. So if you know, McCauslin's not. Mcaslin. Sorry? McCauslin. It's very close. Flower shop. It's taken over that building. [00:39:40] Speaker A: Okay, great. I didn't know that. [00:39:42] Speaker B: It's a very interesting model of that, actually. It's all from local farmers. So farmers can drop off their meat, their milk, their butter right there in downtown. So instead of a farm, the table restaurant, it's farm, the shelves, grocery store. [00:39:57] Speaker A: Okay, interesting. And there is a kroger right up the hill, too. [00:40:00] Speaker B: And there is a kroger right up the. So with an excellent cheese section. [00:40:04] Speaker A: I would say somebody sounds like he's been there. [00:40:07] Speaker B: Yeah. [00:40:11] Speaker A: This is something a little different, I think, because a lot of times when you go off to a typical college, it's like their freshman year, it's very little transition from home. I'm assuming they're in a home where their parents kind of made their meals and did everything like that for them. I know not all kids come from that, but, like, a lot of them do. And so you go off to, like, let's say franciscan or a state school or something like that. In the freshman year, usually you were required to pay for the food, the room, and board, and basically everything's made for you just show up, you eat, and you go back to your dorm, whatever. So in this model, it sounds like they will be living in houses with a kitchen and all, everything they need, and they will be responsible for feeding themselves. So going to doing their grocery shopping, fixing it, and eating it. [00:40:59] Speaker B: That's right. [00:40:59] Speaker A: Okay. I think that's very important to note because. Okay, I can say it. You can't say that, but I'll be blunt. A lot of kids aren't able to do that, even at the age of 18, and they need to be able to do that. I mean, my wife was very good about making sure all my kids, boys and girls, when they graduate, okay. That you can at least cook a few meals. [00:41:20] Speaker B: Right. That's great. Yeah. [00:41:21] Speaker A: You have to do that. Okay, so that's very interesting. And so they would need to budget that. So their 15,000 does include rent, essentially classes, but not food and not utilities and upkeep. So let's say. [00:41:36] Speaker B: That's right. [00:41:37] Speaker A: They are having a fun game of foosball or something in their apartment and the house, and they get too excited and they punch a hole in the wall. [00:41:49] Speaker B: Yeah. [00:41:51] Speaker A: These are like, questions I think people want. What do they do at that point? I'd be guessing that some of them be inspired. They want to fix it themselves because they're in school to do stuff like that. But what is kind of the model, what they will do in those situations? [00:42:07] Speaker B: Yeah, that's exactly right. You call up us and you let us know that you punched a hole through the wall, and then we say, all right, go fix it. And if they don't know how, that's kind of on us, isn't it? Because that's exactly why they're here. [00:42:20] Speaker A: They do it the first week of school. It's okay. [00:42:22] Speaker B: Well, man, they got excited fast. [00:42:25] Speaker A: Exactly. [00:42:26] Speaker B: Yeah. The way that we would handle that is that within the maintenance fees that we have, which are minimal, that that's where we would take it out of to be able to fix it. But also that we would use that as a teaching opportunity, too, for our. [00:42:41] Speaker A: Students, because in real life, that's what you do when all of a sudden your kid punches a hole in the wall. You got to get fixed. You either pay somebody to do it or you do it yourself. So that's what it really is. Like. Now, are there ras or anything like that in these situations? [00:42:56] Speaker B: Yeah, that's a great question. This is one of these places where as we move ahead in time and see what works best, that we'll evolve and adapt. The idea that we're starting off with is having a professor parent so that one member of faculty or staff actually would come over weekly and check in on students and that they would be the first point of contact for those living in a particular house. So we'll see. That's what we're trying out first. And these are one of these things. As you ask, what are the risks? We're trying to be as open handed as we possibly can with the things that we're starting with and saying this is what we think will work. Well, we've looked at a number of different models. We've asked a lot of questions of how they work, but we'll see how it works best for us. And we think that that's a pretty good model and that's why we're starting off with it. [00:43:46] Speaker A: Now. Starting off the first year coming this fall, how large do you expect, assuming you get all applications and everything and you get qualified people and stuff like that, students, how large would that opening class be? [00:44:00] Speaker B: Sadly, it's a small class to start off. It's 30 students, and that is a restriction purely because of housing. What we've been able to prepare. As many people have probably heard, houses in Steubenville are very cheap, but that doesn't mean that they're necessarily moving ready. And so we've been taking a lot of time renovating them, getting them prepared for students. And so that's why we're starting with 30 at maturity, we'd love to move up to 100 per year. Applications are rolling in now. They're also open if anybody would like to apply. We already have quite, I'm not actually sure what the number is, but far more than 30 who have applied thus far. And so we'd love to be able to welcome more in the future. [00:44:42] Speaker A: Yeah, and I'll put links into the college's website and stuff so people can know exactly where to go and learn more. So you hope to have 30 to start off and your thought is at some point grow up to 100, correct? [00:44:56] Speaker B: Yes, that's right. [00:44:57] Speaker A: And hey, you'll have 30 people you're training to help fix up those new housing places you get. [00:45:02] Speaker B: Yeah, it's pretty slick model, isn't it? [00:45:04] Speaker A: Yeah, I know, exactly. They got to do it somewhere. So now taking a step back again. Now, freshman year, they're taking classes in your academic building from professors that are part of your program and maybe a few shared with franciscan. Now, the trades they take to start off with will they be like on day one or within the first semester? We'll say, will they be getting their hands dirty and actually creating things and doing things? [00:45:31] Speaker B: Great question. Thanks so much for letting me add this in. So the first year, it is a very rigorous, over 20 hours a week in our workshop getting that introduction into the major construction building trades. No, during that time, these are not paid job sites. This is time in the classroom, getting trained, studying the anatomy of a home, starting from site review to finishing touches. Now, during that, there's a number of reasons why we do that is that, first of all, a job site is the usual place where people get trained. But it also means that it's hurried, that it's rushed, and that it's not systematic as well. And so we want to take that time. This is a decision that our president, Mike Sullivan, master craftsman himself, really prioritized, saying that we need that dedicated time to teach our students in the workshop before we send them off into the workshop. Because on average, and you'll have tradesmen tell you this, that new apprentices cost them at least a dollar an hour, that they are so inefficient that they are costing them money. And so we would love to spend that first year training them up so that as soon as that they get to a job site starting year two, they're productive on a real site. So our students will start to be able to have these work scholarships, these study and work opportunities on job sites starting year two. And it's at that point that their tuition will be offset by what they're bringing in. So the only money that our students need to have coming in is for that first year, second year, you should be able to take care of it with what you are earning on actual job sites. Continue your training there. [00:47:21] Speaker A: Yeah, I saw on the website, go to the website, people. There's a great chart that shows each year, like how much you have to spend. And it puts in the tuition, of course, and then obviously have your cost for food and things like that, and just expenses you have for life. And then how much you're going to make in the first year, it's nothing because you're just in classes. But then it's a little bit the second year, I mean, a little bit in the sense of you're not a full time tradesman or something like that. And then each year, and I remember, I think the 6th year, I think, and these are estimates of how much you're going to make because obviously nobody can say sure, but I think you estimated it was like $56,000 that they could make in their 6th year. So they're technically still in school. They're paying their $5,000 to you guys for their online classes, and they're potentially making 50, $60,000. I mean, that is very radically different from the typical model where you've spent four years in a college. You make a ton of money. You might be making $60,000.02 years out, maybe not. Especially if you have a Cathy degree. [00:48:22] Speaker B: Yeah, exactly right. [00:48:24] Speaker A: You'd probably not. But you've got all this debt and everything like that, so that really works out. Now, I hope you don't mind if I just keep asking questions. Please. Okay, great. So another thing that's big. This is overemphasized to its detriment in a lot of secular schools and other schools, but I do think it's important, and that is campus life. So you go there, and campus is a little bit of a stretch because you have an academic building, a couple of buildings, and you have housing down the street and stuff like that. What is, though, like, kind of campus life or city life? Steubenville life for a student at the College of St. Joseph, the worker? [00:49:03] Speaker B: Yeah, this is a great question. There's a number of different ways to answer this, and I really appreciate it. The first thing that I would say is that we're quite a spartan model, and we're spartan model for two major reasons. One is financial, the other is philosophical. And then the financial one is like, this is how we're able to get to such a low price point is by not having the elegant, well manicured campus life that we are totally integrated into downtown, and that saves our students a lot of money. [00:49:35] Speaker A: You're not building football stadium, is that what you're saying? [00:49:37] Speaker B: No. Yeah, no football stadium. The hammers, we would be called St. Joseph. [00:49:43] Speaker A: There we go. [00:49:46] Speaker B: The other reason, philosophically, is that, again, kind of going back, and. I'm sorry, the harp on this, we really want our students to grow up. We don't want to have everything just handed to them. Where the place where you study is a place where you socialize, where is it the place that you eat? Where is the place that you do your laundry and you live? That kind of uni force of everything's provided for you right here does create, in its own model, a certain type of bubble that we would like to avoid so that our students are integrated into a town where there will be people older than them pouring themselves into them, that there'll be people younger than them that they can themselves pour into, that they are not taken out of a vibrant and holistic community just to be with people in their age group, apart from separate certain occasions or hours a day. So that was a really purposeful decision on our part. And the other thing is that I would love our students to create these traditions on their own, to use their own creative juices to come to it. Now, of course, there are things in downtown Steubenville that are happening all the time. We have these theatrical performances not only at bookmarks, but we're starting. The Steubenville Theater Company has just started off, and there's the first Friday festivals where the whole street, fourth street, shuts down the first Friday of every month. And it's this exciting, wonderful time where there's vendors and bands coming to play. So there's plenty of things to do in downtown. And we have a calendar that we've created where we list all these things, but we really hope that their student life will actually be city life. That's our goal. [00:51:32] Speaker A: Okay. So, I mean, what you're saying is, and I think it's something for parents to consider for their kids and the kids that consider, I call them kids just because I'm old. They're adults. When they get there, they're going to be adults. I mean, they're at least 18, and so you're going to treat them more like adults than the typical colleges. Is that basically what you're saying? [00:51:52] Speaker B: That's what we're hoping to do. [00:51:53] Speaker A: So they're going to live in a house. They're going to have to feed themselves. They're going to have to have some initiative in finding their social life. Now, one thing I want to say, I'm going to say this probably because you're not allowed to say or whatever, but my guess is that your class will be. You'll have more applications from men than women. I'll just put it that way. [00:52:16] Speaker B: That's right. [00:52:17] Speaker A: My guess is it's going to be predominantly men because of just the nature of what you guys are offering. But I want to say this to all the young men who are considering it. There is the opposite balance at the very close by Franciscan University of Steubenville. So if you're worried that you might not be able to find a lovely young lady is. Is. Has a similar interest to you, that will not be a problem, I do not think, in studentville, Ohio. So just to kind of let that be out there for the guys, I'm going to be in class with a bunch of guys. How am know that's not going to be an issue? [00:52:55] Speaker B: That's true. And this is not a good pickup line. I would not recommend this, but seeing a guy who can afford a house and fix it up is pretty enticing to a young lady. [00:53:05] Speaker A: Absolutely. Yeah, exactly. I think the young ladies at Franciscan are excited about the college coming. Some guys who can do stuff with their hands, stuff like. So. Okay. So I'm trying to think. Is there anything else? You mentioned a couple of things I noticed board advisors you have. Scott Hahn is on it. Who are some other people who are kind of involved. So people know the type of people who are enthusiastic about this project and actually giving you advice on how to do things. [00:53:32] Speaker B: Yeah. Cardinal Burke is probably our most prominent advisory board member and somebody who's adhered to many of us in this age in the church. Matt Fradd, a good friend of mine and popular host of pints with Aquinas, is helping us out as well. We have a smattering of colleagues in business and friends from a wider standpoint. Our own local apostolic administrator, not technically, I suppose. Our bishop is on our spiritual advisory board, our friends of Marcolini's in DC. It really is coming from a very orthodox catholic trajectory, and they are trying to lead us into the. And keep us on the straight and narrow, I would say. [00:54:20] Speaker A: So you are a catholic college, correct? [00:54:23] Speaker B: We are. [00:54:25] Speaker A: And you have, like, ecclesiastical approval, however that works? [00:54:28] Speaker B: I can't exactly. [00:54:29] Speaker A: Okay. Is there anything else? I think. Anything else you think that we didn't cover that we want to mention about the college? [00:54:39] Speaker B: Yeah. You know what? There's so many things that I've had the pleasure of kind of reflecting on with Jesus being in the trades for the last number of years, and it's been really fruitful in my life to think about. One of those things that has kind of taken me a little bit by surprise over time is thinking about within the new evangelization, a lot of people like to talk about, and that the trades have been largely overlooked, that we'll talk about plumbers cussing like sailors and whatever else, and just kind of degrading that for a number of reasons. But to be able to send out a small army of well formed Catholics into the blue collared trades to evangelize to the very first people that Jesus would have been evangelizing on his job sites is a really exciting prospect for me. I think within the age of anxiety that we live in, there's so many ways in which the trades help solve the problems that we're oftentimes seeing both in terms of how transient our society is. The trades are pretty much move proof. You can stay in one locality and enjoy your neighbors and your friends because, well, the buildings just need to be built here. You can't export that stuff to China or to Mexico. There's that, as we were talking about earlier, the ability to actually see a tangible difference in the world as a result of your work, that you find this better understanding of kind of this oblique, what I would call oblique technological landscape that we live in. And few of us really understand how the structures and systems that we depend on for our livelihood actually work. And in the trades, you not only get to know how they work, but you get to build them. I think for these and many other reasons, there's going to be a greater confidence, a greater excitement that we see amongst our students in a very strong way now being well formed intellectually in the faith, to be able to take that moral character and to spread the gospel to a people that we've just not really focused on in the past. So I'm very excited about this aspect. [00:56:58] Speaker A: Yeah, really, I'm with you because I think there's some benefits that we just don't think about for building a, because I've been critical in the past about the new evangelization. I even have a book written called the old evangelization. [00:57:11] Speaker B: Oh, awesome. Great. I'm sorry. [00:57:14] Speaker A: But like, the point is, and I'm not against the people who want to evangelize. And my point is just simply, I think we miss certain aspects of, like, we focus just on. Okay. At my desk job, I talk to somebody else about Jesus. Very good. You should do. [00:57:29] Speaker B: Sure. [00:57:29] Speaker A: But what about the building, the culture, much deeper in the trades, like you said, first of all, just the staying put. I think that's something that we don't realize how important that is and also having that stability of work. Okay, so my undergrad years ago was in systems analysis computers. I was a computer programmer for many years. [00:57:50] Speaker B: Okay, great. [00:57:51] Speaker A: I remember some professor back, this was in the early 90s, said something about, like, well, eventually artificial intelligence will probably take over your job. And we laughed. [00:58:02] Speaker B: Right. [00:58:03] Speaker A: It's not a joke anymore because it's actually happening. I know of people who basically, people can build things now that you used to need a programmer for that. You don't. You just tell AI, here's what I want, and it creates. Had. I had actually, Dr. Gon of Franciscan talking about AI here on the podcast a while back, and I have my worries. I'll say the least. [00:58:30] Speaker B: But whether that's good or bad, the. [00:58:32] Speaker A: Point is, AI, at least anytime, isn't going to be building that house for you now. Yeah, they could get robots to do it, but there's something to say that's way off. But also having an actual person build something beautiful is just something that we all. And beautiful. I don't mean beautiful like an art. I mean like a building that's beautiful. I think that's just something that we're missing. I mean, you see that when you drive down, all the modern buildings are also utilitarian and just ugly, and that has an impact. I mean, what about an old european town where things are beautiful? My hope is that your college will. [00:59:14] Speaker B: Be. [00:59:17] Speaker A: Getting people who will then not only build things, but they'll build beautiful things, which I do think makes an impact. And my sermon is now done. [00:59:25] Speaker B: I completely agree with you. I don't think that it seems extremely difficult to evangelize somebody if you're not welcoming them into a new way of life. Completely to your point. We have to build up new structures, new patterns and orders of our lives so that there actually is a way in which somebody can truly repent of their daily habits and turn to something new. And those physically have to be rebuilt. It'd be great if we built them in a way that didn't make us look like communists. [01:00:00] Speaker A: Yeah, exactly. That's actually my big criticism of the new evangelist and how it's practiced is that it often is just sprinkling on Catholicism onto something that is broken, kind of. We got to go deeper, and I think that's something this college is doing. Now, what is the website? I will link to it, but why don't you tell us what's the website? People can find out more. [01:00:21] Speaker B: Yeah, collegeofstaintjoseph.com is where you can find us. And I would say kind of a last little plug is that if somebody's unsure about whether or not to come, or rather hearing this and wishing that they could do undergraduate all over again, we're doing these short term courses ranging from one week to one month. Everything from intro the home ownership, how they take care of your own house, a crash course of that, anatomy of a course year that we're doing, and as well as timber framing, intro the carpentry, and they all have a theology component to them. So that might be a nice way for somebody to come and get to know us here on the ground. [01:00:58] Speaker A: Yeah, that's great. Now for people who are watching and listening to this right when we come out. Is there a deadline for students who might be interested in fall of 2024? [01:01:07] Speaker B: Yeah, thanks for asking about that too. February 5 is our application deadline so you have the better part of this month to get those in. [01:01:15] Speaker A: Okay, great. And I will link to the website on the show notes so people can go to it anytime. Thank you so much Jacob. This has been great. I'm very excited. I mean I know you guys had some hiccups at the beginning just getting out the door and I'm just like, it's great that it's going to happen and I wish you all the best of luck. [01:01:34] Speaker B: Eric, thank you so much. I really appreciate your prayers and support. It means a lot to us. [01:01:38] Speaker A: Absolutely and I'll keep telling people about it and we'll keep praying for you. [01:01:41] Speaker B: Thank you. God bless you. [01:01:42] Speaker A: Okay, you too. And until next time everybody. God love.

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