‘Con-Cur’ at Mundelein: A Community’s Journey in Radical Educational Reform

By Willow Tomkovicz


This post is part of the WLA blog’s 2022 series written by guest writers. These writers are graduate students in the Public History program at Loyola University Chicago. Each visited the archives during Fall 2021, delved into the collections, and wrote about a topic not yet explored here. We are excited to share their research and perspectives!


Figure 1: Con-Cur Flyer

During the tumultuous 1960s, Mundelein embarked on a curriculum reform experiment that the Chicago Sun-Times called both “perilous and courageous” [1]. Through the Conference on Curriculum, or ‘Con-Cur,’ the students issued a series of proposals to radically alter their education with input from the “TOTAL Mundelein College Community” [2]. Led by the determined co-chairwomen Sister Kathleen O’Brien and Sister Cathleen Stieber, students made their voices heard, successfully securing lasting change [3]. On the whole, this momentous event in the college’s history brought together the entire Mundelein community to ensure each student could “realize her potential as a human being” through an education rooted in “openness, creativity, and the freedom to inquire” [4].   

In 1969, students’ long dissatisfaction with Mundelein’s “general education program” bubbled over [5]. Culminating in the creation of the Curriculum Committee, students proposed that “the college community meet together for a three-day conference […] to discuss and explore the components of the kind of integrated and open education” they deemed essential [6]. The conference required an immense amount of planning; as a result, a Steering Committee comprised of students, faculty, and administrators was created to ensure the conference’s success [7]. Overall, they set out to “not only expose their dissatisfactions, complaints, and frustrations, but also to concretely determine the directions Mundelein will follow” [8]. 

Figure 2: Kathleen O’Brien, BVM, left, and Cathleen Stieber, co-chairwomen of Con-Cur

To come up with specific proposals, task forces were established. The main goal was the discontinuation of the Basic Studies program, to be replaced by a “general education component which would be offered, but not required,” leading students to “assume responsibility for their own education and determine their own goals” [9]. Additionally, students desired a new program “in Black studies taught by Black instructors,” and new non-departmental majors [10,11]. Students also desired an overhaul of the advising system, faculty load and course offerings, a new academic calendar, a descriptive course bulletin, and an experimental college [12-16]. Likewise, the Creditation of Academically Relevant Experience (CARE) task force proposed granting students credit for independent study and “previous learning, experience, or productivity” [17].  

Figure 3: Coffee breaks and more discussion between student and faculty: L-R, Student Trish Riordan; and faculty members Gerald Honigsblum, Albert H. Miller, Dr. Ann Matasar, and Miss Silvia Hatjek

Con-Cur finally took place January 15th, 16th, and 17th in 1970. With over 300 members of the Mundelein community in attendance, including 251 students, 76 faculty, and 17 administrators, the conference was a success [18]. During the conference itself, keynote speakers addressed the conference and break-out groups took place to decide upon each proposal [19]. The shorthand for the conference itself, ‘Con-Cur,’ was chosen deliberately to “invoke the idea that all parties must concur on what needs to be done” [20]. Importantly, all recommendations were accompanied by implementation deadlines to make them become reality [21]. Consequently, a committee was formed consisting of deans, faculty, and students “to coordinate and implement the work of the Con-Cur task forces” [22]. 

Figure 4: Front Cover of Mundelein Today Vol 12. No 3, 1970

As the conference concluded, students recognized that their job was far from over. In a letter to the administration, co-chairwomen O’Brien and Strieber declared that the “ongoing operations of Con-Cur” must continue and that Mundelein had the duty to see these changes through [23]. In response, at the Faculty Senate Executive Council meeting in February, it was announced that college president Sister Ann Ida Gannon had “approved all the recommendations of Con-Cur” [24]. That spring, the consensus of the Curriculum Committee was that “the recommendations were being implemented and there was no need for the committee – so it was dissolved” [25]. 

The community’s response to Con-Cur was positive, with faculty, administrators, and students taking pride in Mundelein’s commitment to listening to its members. Among the faculty, English professor Sister Jean Kellogg praised how students now possessed “freedom and self-determination to a far greater extent than is common at most colleges today” [26]. Sister Marianne Littau happily proclaimed “My immediate response to Con-Cur is ‘Hurray’!” [27]. Assistant History Professor David Orr also was impressed, stating that Con-Cur highlighted “Mundelein faculty’s commitment to continuous reevaluation” and was “a good experiment. I think it worked with most students” [28]. Student Cathy McLeod recalled that she felt prideful to be “a fair arbiter of what should happen, to be an equal participant in what was happening” [29]. Likewise, student Wandria Harris felt Con-Cur taught them “about compromising for the common good while still keeping their individuality” [30].  

‘Con-Cur’ was an important moment in Mundelein’s history, a time when the community came together to decide upon the direction the school would take in the future. Through the hard work and dedication of students, faculty, administrators, and alumnae, the Mundelein community succeeded in bringing reforms to their curriculum and educational mission. This example of collaboration and listening to student’s wishes has important meaning for current students. With Black Lives Matter protests, the push for fossil fuel divestment, and new ideas for curriculum, students today are also looking to better their institutions, and Con-Cur represents a shining example of how to communally effect lasting change.  


Willow Tomkovicz 

I am a graduate student currently enrolled in Loyola University Chicago’s Masters in Public History Program. My scholarly interests include 19th and 20th century America and the history of the modern Middle East. I aim to pursue a career where I work to engage the general public with history each and every day, hopefully at a museum, historic site, or through archival work and research. Outside of my passion for history, I am a stained-glass artist who designs windows and lampshades.


Endnotes 

[1] Women and Leadership Archives, Loyola University Chicago. Mundelein College Records. Box 238. Folder 14. “Mundelein sets out to revamp its curriculum” by Larry Weintraub, Chicago Sun Times. Jan. 21, 1970. 

[2] Women and Leadership Archives, Loyola University Chicago. Mundelein College Records. Box 238. Folder 14. Faculty Senate Meeting, Nov. 20 1969. 

[3] Women and Leadership Archives, Loyola University Chicago. Mundelein College Records. Box 238. Folder 14. Faculty Senate Executive Council Meeting. Feb. 17, 1970. 

[4] Women and Leadership Archives, Loyola University Chicago. Mundelein College Records. Box 238. Folder 14. “The Curricularizing of Governance: A Treatise Inquiring into the We Came, We Saw, and We Conquered Phenomenon” by Sr. Cathleen Stieber.  

[5] Women and Leadership Archives, Loyola University Chicago. Mundelein College Records. Box 238. Folder 14. Con-Cur Flyer. 

[6] Women and Leadership Archives, Loyola University Chicago. Mundelein College Records. Box 238. Folder 14. Faculty Senate Meeting, Nov. 20 1969. 

[7] Women and Leadership Archives, Loyola University Chicago. Mundelein College Records. Box 238. Folder 14. Letter from Sr. Kathleen O’Brien to Sr. Ann Ida Gannon. Nov. 27, 1969. 

[8] Women and Leadership Archives, Loyola University Chicago. Mundelein College Records. Box 238. Folder 14. Con-Cur Flyer. 

[9] Women and Leadership Archives, Loyola University Chicago. Mundelein College Records. Box 238. Folder 14. Task Force on General Education. 1970.  

[10] Women and Leadership Archives, Loyola University Chicago. Mundelein College Records. Box 238. Folder 14. Black Studies Program Proposal. 1970. 

[11] Women and Leadership Archives, Loyola University Chicago. Mundelein College Records. Box 238. Folder 14. Task Force on Non-Departmental Majors. 1970. 

[12] Women and Leadership Archives, Loyola University Chicago. Mundelein College Records. Box 238. Folder 14. Proposal for Advising Program. 1970. 

[13] Women and Leadership Archives, Loyola University Chicago. Mundelein College Records. Box 238. Folder 14. Task Force on Course Offerings and Faculty Load. 1970.  

[14] Women and Leadership Archives, Loyola University Chicago. Mundelein College Records. Box 238. Folder 14.  Calendar Task Force. 1970. 

[15] Women and Leadership Archives, Loyola University Chicago. Mundelein College Records. Box 238. Folder 14. Task Force on Descriptive Course Bulletin. 1970. 

[16] Women and Leadership Archives, Loyola University Chicago. Mundelein College Records. Box 238. Folder 14. Task Force on Experimental College. 1970. 

[17] Women and Leadership Archives, Loyola University Chicago. Mundelein College Records. Box 238. Folder 14. Task Force Concerned with the Creditation of Academically Relevant Experience and Independent Study (CARE). 1970. 

[18] Women and Leadership Archives, Loyola University Chicago. Mundelein College Records. Box 238. Folder 14. Attendance Sheet.  

[19] Women and Leadership Archives, Loyola University Chicago. Mundelein College Records. Box 238. Folder 14. Con-Cur Flyer. 

[20] Women and Leadership Archives, Loyola University Chicago. Mundelein College Records. Box 238. Folder 14. “Mundelein sets out to revamp its curriculum” by Larry Weintraub, Chicago Sun Times. Jan. 21, 1970. 

[21] Women and Leadership Archives, Loyola University Chicago. Mundelein College Records. Box 238. Folder 14. “Mundelein sets out to revamp its curriculum” by Larry Weintraub, Chicago Sun Times. Jan. 21, 1970. 

[22] Women and Leadership Archives, Loyola University Chicago. Mundelein College Records. Box 238. Folder 14. Task Force on Implementation. 1970.   

[23] Women and Leadership Archives, Loyola University Chicago. Mundelein College Records. Box 238. Folder 14. Letter from Sr. Kathleen O’Brien and Sr. Cathleen Stieber to Administrators, Faculty, Staff, Students, Trustees. 1970.  

[24] Women and Leadership Archives, Loyola University Chicago. Mundelein College Records. Box 238. Folder 14. Faculty Senate Executive Council Meeting. Feb. 17, 1970. 

[25] Women and Leadership Archives, Loyola University Chicago. Mundelein College Records.  

Box 238. Folder 14. Task Force on Implementation. 1970.   

[26] Women and Leadership Archives, Loyola University Chicago. Mundelein College Records. Box 238. Folder 14. 

[27] Women and Leadership Archives, Loyola University Chicago. Mundelein College Records. Box 238. Folder 14. 

[28] Fraterrigo, Elizabeth. Interview with David Orr. Mundelein College History Project. Voices from Mundelein: Media Portal. Nov. 18, 1998.  

[29] Women and Leadership Archives, Loyola University Chicago. Hong, Regina. Interview  with Cathy McLeod. Share Your Story: Student Life at Mundelein Oral History Project 2020. 

[30] Women and Leadership Archives, Loyola University Chicago. Mundelein College Records. Box 238. Folder 14. Wandria Harris. “Is the Spirit a’ Moving,” Take Issue Vol. 4, June, 1970 

Images 

Figure 1: Women and Leadership Archives, Loyola University Chicago. Mundelein College  Records. Box 238. Folder 14. Con-Cur Flyer. 

Figure 2: Women and Leadership Archives, Loyola University Chicago. Mundelein College  Records. Box 238. Folder 14. Mundelein Today Vol. 12 No. 3. 1970. 

Figure 3: Women and Leadership Archives, Loyola University Chicago. Mundelein College  Records. Box 238. Folder 14. Mundelein Today Vol. 12 No. 3. 1970. 

Figure 4: Women and Leadership Archives, Loyola University Chicago. Mundelein College  Records. Box 238. Folder 14. Mundelein Today Vol. 12 No. 3. 1970. 

Bibliography  

Aguirre, Robert. Ann Ida Gannon, BVM: A Lifetime of Leadership. Chicago: Ann Ida Gannon, BVM, Center for Woman and Leadership, 2014.  

Fraterrigo, Elizabeth. Interview with David Orr. Mundelein College History Project. Voices from Mundelein: Media Portal. Nov. 18, 1998.  

Harrington, Ann M. and Moylan, Prudence. Mundelein Voices: The Women’s College Experience, 1930-1991. Chicago: LoyolaPress. 2001. Lacy, Tim. “Understanding ‘Strategies for Learning:’ Pedagogy, Feminism, and Academic Culture at Mundelein College, 1957-1991.” American Catholic Studies 116, no. 2 (2005): 39–66. 

Women and Leadership Archives, Loyola University Chicago. Mundelein College Records. Box 238. Folder 14. Faculty Senate Meeting, Nov. 20 1969. 

Women and Leadership Archives, Loyola University Chicago. Mundelein College Records. Box 238. Folder 14. Letter from Sr. Kathleen O’Brien to Sr. Ann Ida Gannon. Nov. 27, 1969. 

Women and Leadership Archives, Loyola University Chicago. Mundelein College Records. Box 238. Folder 14. Steering Committee Meeting. Dec. 13, 1969. 

Women and Leadership Archives, Loyola University Chicago. Mundelein College Records. Box 238. Folder 14. “The Church-Related College in American Society” by Charles McCoy. Dec 9, 1969.  

Women and Leadership Archives, Loyola University Chicago. Mundelein College Records. Box 238. Folder 14. Letter from Sr. Kathleen O’Brien to Sr. Cathleen Stieber. Jan. 12, 1970.  

Women and Leadership Archives, Loyola University Chicago. Mundelein College Records. Box 238. Folder 14. Con-Cur Flyer. 

Women and Leadership Archives, Loyola University Chicago. Mundelein College Records. Box 238. Folder 14. Letter from David Orr to Sr. Ann Ida Gannon. Dec. 1, 1969. 

Women and Leadership Archives, Loyola University Chicago. Mundelein College Records. Box 238. Folder 14. “Mundelein sets out to revamp its curriculum” by Larry Weintraub, Chicago Sun Times. Jan. 21, 1970. 

Women and Leadership Archives, Loyola University Chicago. Mundelein College Records. Box 238. Folder 14. Letter from Sr. Kathleen O’Brien and Sr. Cathleen Stieber to Administrators, Faculty, Staff, Students, Trustees. 1970. 

Women and Leadership Archives, Loyola University Chicago. Mundelein College Records. Box 238. Folder 14. Task Force on General Education. 1970.  

Women and Leadership Archives, Loyola University Chicago. Mundelein College Records. Box 238. Folder 14. Task Force on Non-Departmental Majors. 1970. 

Women and Leadership Archives, Loyola University Chicago. Mundelein College Records. Box 238. Folder 14. Task Force on Course Offerings and Faculty Load. 1970.  

Women and Leadership Archives, Loyola University Chicago. Mundelein College Records. Box 238. Folder 14. Black Studies Program Proposal. 1970. 

Women and Leadership Archives, Loyola University Chicago. Mundelein College Records. Box 238. Folder 14. Task Force Concerned with the Creditation of Academically Relevant Experience and Independent Study (CARE). 1970. 

Women and Leadership Archives, Loyola University Chicago. Mundelein College Records. Box 238. Folder 14.  Calendar Task Force. 1970. 

Women and Leadership Archives, Loyola University Chicago. Mundelein College Records. Box 238. Folder 14. Task Force on Experimental College. 1970. 

Women and Leadership Archives, Loyola University Chicago. Mundelein College Records. Box 238. Folder 14. Task Force on Descriptive Course Bulletin. 1970.  

Women and Leadership Archives, Loyola University Chicago. Mundelein College Records. Box 238. Folder 14. Proposal for Advising Program. 1970. 

Women and Leadership Archives, Loyola University Chicago. Mundelein College Records. Box 238. Folder 14. Task Force on Evaluation. 1970.  

Women and Leadership Archives, Loyola University Chicago. Mundelein College Records. Box 238. Folder 14. Task Force on Implementation. 1970.   

Women and Leadership Archives, Loyola University Chicago. Mundelein College Records. Box  238. Folder 14. Con-Cur Recommendations. 1970.  

Women and Leadership Archives, Loyola University Chicago. Mundelein College Records. Box 238. Folder 14. “The Curricularizing of Governance: A Treatise Inquiring into the We Came, We Saw, and We Conquered Phenomenon” by Sr. Cathleen Stieber.  

Women and Leadership Archives, Loyola University Chicago. Mundelein College Records. Box 238. Folder 14. Faculty Senate Executive Council Meeting. Feb. 17, 1970. 

Women and Leadership Archives, Loyola University Chicago. Mundelein College Records. Box 238. Folder 14. Cecilia Bodman, BVM. “The Rationale of Course Selections.” Mar. 4, 1974.  

Women and Leadership Archives, Loyola University Chicago. Mundelein College Records. Box 238. Folder 14. Interview with Sr. Ann Ida Gannon, Take Issue Vol. 4, June, 1971.  

Women and Leadership Archives, Loyola University Chicago. Mundelein College Records. Box 238. Folder 14. Wandria Harris. “Is the Spirit a’ Moving,” Take Issue Vol. 4, June, 1971. 

Women and Leadership Archives, Loyola University Chicago. Hong, Regina. Interview with  Cathy McLeod. Share Your Story: Student Life at Mundelein Oral History Project. 2020. Women and Leadership Archives, Loyola University Chicago. Mundelein Today Vol. 12 No. 3. 1970. Mundelein College Records. Box 238. Folder 14.  


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About Women and Leadership Archives

Established in 1994, the Women and Leadership Archives (WLA) collects, preserves, and makes available permanently valuable records of women and women’s organizations, which document women’s lives, roles, and contributions. The WLA grew out of the need to care for the records of Mundelein College and expanded to collect papers of women leaders and women’s organizations. Collection strengths include the subject areas of activism and women’s issues; authors; education; environmental issues; public service; social justice; women religious; and the fine, performance, and visual arts. The WLA is part of the Gannon Center and Loyola University Libraries and serves a wide variety of users, ranging from students and scholars to the general public. The WLA makes records available at the Archives in Loyola’s Piper Hall, offers remote reference services, presents programs, and provides online resources. Staff include a Director, Assistant Archivist, and graduate assistants from Loyola’s Public History Program.

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