New USF Director to Tackle Changes in Catholic Education


USF has appointed prominent Catholic scholar Michael Duffy to direct its Institute for Catholic Educational Leadership (ICEL), as the university looks to expand the institute’s role in tackling new challenges in Catholic education. 

The institute’s groundbreaking Catholic Educational Leadership program, established in 1976, was the first of its kind in the country, creating master’s and doctoral degrees specifically for Catholic school leaders. The institute also organizes local and national conferences to bring leaders together, as well as fosters the exchange of ideas by publishing scholarly work.

“I’m really excited,” said Duffy, who was the longtime director of USF’s Joan and Ralph Lane Center for Catholic Social Thought and the Ignatian Tradition and also served part-time as ICEL’s interim director since 2014. “There are many opportunities for building upon the 40-year history of ICEL and moving the institute ahead. By addressing the social reality Catholic schools are facing, ICEL can design courses, workshops, and other programs to equip and support faculty and administrators working in these schools.”

Duffy’s appointment comes at a time when Catholic primary and secondary schools across the country are facing challenges like school closures, decreased funding, and shifting enrollment, as well as broader questions of squaring Catholic identity with a more secular student body. 

“The question is how do we stay committed to supporting urban Catholic education?” Duffy said.

Catholic education has a track record of lifting children out of poverty and getting them into higher education, said Duffy, who earned his doctorate from USF’s Catholic Educational Leadership program and taught a social justice course at the university for 17 years. 

“Pope Francis has said that the mission of Catholic education is the education of the poor, so we want to really focus on that,” Duffy said.

The institute will also examine how public policy will affect Catholic education and how ICEL can influence those debates.

School of Education Dean Kevin Kumashiro intends to expand faculty and staff positions at the institute, as well as develop collaborations between the institute and the university as a whole.

“Catholic education is undergoing dramatic changes locally and globally,” Kumashiro said. “ICEL can respond to these challenges and opportunities by preparing leaders and scholars, raising public consciousness, and impacting public policy with greater scale and significance.”

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