I am writing this review with several years of reflection, since I graduated in 2003 and stopped working on my Masters a few years later (because I switched careers to Counseling, not because of a deficiency in the MA program).
I genuinely enjoyed my years there and remember them as some of the happiest in my life. I transferred from a huge Big Ten University, and the environment at Franciscan was exactly what I needed. Yes, I didn't get to party maybe as hard as would have at another university. On the other hand, I made very genuine friends who I could trust, talk with in depth, and who still, believe it or not, had a sense of fun and humor. We did have a few wild nights in Pittsburgh and WV, so it wasn't all prayers and mass. There are days where I regret not having the wild time in college that some other people had, but there are others where I don't regret it one bit and am glad I had (I know this is cheesy) a "wholesome" atmosphere and grew as a person. And I liked all the mass and praying. I'm not as devout now as I was then; I've grown into a comfortably more liberal and happy Catholicism, but going through a super religious period in my life was good for me. It gave me a foundation that will always be there and that I go back to often, intellectually and spiritually.
Also, people complain about the town, but from a social standpoint, it was good for me to spend some time in a rusty steel town. I grew up in a wealthy liberal protestant (I'm a convert) family in yuppie college town Ann Arbor, so this experience with conservative Catholics and a rust belt town gave me some real experience with regional, economic, and cultural diversity, and made me a richer person with a broader understanding of the world. So instead of complaining about the town, students should open their eyes and be receptive to the unexpected experiences.
- I was in the Theology/Religious Ed program, and the academics were rigorous. I learned what I needed to learn for the job I wanted, and felt as if I was well formed for my career as a Catechist. The Catechetics faculty is outstanding; caring, rigorous, just amazing. They shaped the way I think and who I am. Prior to Franciscan I had been a bright, but somewhat lazy student; Sr. Johanna was first prof I had who refused to take my BS and excuses and made me shape up and get the As I was capable of. Prof. Morgan once gave me a B+ on a paper of which she said "Any other student, I would have given an A. But I know YOU can do better work." That is the kind of integrity you do not find in many faculty; very often professors just want to please students and pass out inflated grades rather than form them. The professors in Catechetics made me work very hard, earn every grade legitimately, and realize my potential. A lot of professors at a lot of schools, even very prestigious schools, coddle their students and don't take risks to form them like that. So that was awesome. I would rather have a B+ that I worked my tail off for than easy As.
The Franciscan Friars were also excellent professors. Very rigorous, and very interesting.
- I had a job immediately upon graduation, teaching religion at a high school in Pittsburgh, and Franciscan was vital in me getting that job. No, I didn't make a lot of money, but it was what I wanted to do and I loved it. I later moved out to Connecticut and immediately got another job as a High School Catechist, based on my Pittsburgh and Franciscan network. Eventually my teaching jobs led to a graduate degree at Fordham and my current, super-awesomest-job-ever working at Fordham. I also met my husband through my Catholic High School job :) So for me, Franciscan led to good things. I know other people for whom it had led to good things, too.
- Pittsburgh is nearby, and it is one of the most amazing, most real, most friendly and fun cities in America. I currently work in an office in NYC, in Manhattan, right across from Central Park. But I miss Pittsburgh every day.
- This is not the school for you if you want to party all the time. Duh.
- I would have liked more disagreement and really rigorous, even need I say, heretical debate. But on the other hand, the faculty and student body were no more narrow minded towards opposing views than my super liberal profs at the Big Ten school I went to first. It is shame, but universities in general need to tolerate more real, substantive disagreement and debate and yes, even heresy.
- Some of the lay male professors - not all, but some - have machismo issues. And there are certain professors (who will not be named) who are pop theologians, and basically their classes are their mass-market books in lecture form. The lesser known professors, and the Franciscan Friars, tend to be the best by far than the big names. However, this is true of any university. I have a friend who went to Columbia that told me when she took a class with a rock star researcher and publisher in her field his class was, literally, videos of him talking. So this is not unique to Franciscan. But it is something to be aware of.
- Don't marry someone you meet here. Or at the very least, give it a few years post graduation. Franciscan is a social hot house; the spiritual life and experience is very intense. The intensity will help you grow immensely as a single young adult. It will even prepare you for marriage. But you will change a lot after you graduate and leave; your spirituality will mature, or drift away, or even drift away and come back. This is NOT a place to chose a spouse or lock yourself into a life. Let yourself grow post-graduation a while. I think that is true of any university, but that is exceptionally true of Franciscan.
- The Theology program is more accurately a Catechist training program. It is excellent, dare I say the BEST, for training DREs and High School Religion teachers. It is not as good for training academic Theologians and Philosophers. Go to Notre Dame or Fordham if you want to be an academic.
Or even better, graduate from FUS with a highly marketable Catechetics degree, get a job working for a Diocese or Jesuit high school, and let them pay for you to work on a more academic theology degree at another university (many dioceses offer tuition remission at the local Catholic Universities, and working for a Jesuit institution gives you free/highly discounted tuition at all Jesuit institutions). But don't break your bank getting a theology degree with no career plan at FUS. Get the religious ed component here, get a job, then go get your ivory tower stuff somewhere else.
- It can be expensive for the careers it trains you for. I luckily had parents who paid for it. On the other hand, the cheap housing probably makes up for it; I lived off campus and paid 250 a month for my share of a really nice house with 2 other girls; my brother went to Michigan with in state tuition but paid 1000 a month to share an attic apartment with 2 other guys.
I hope that helps! Overall, I'm glad I went here. Not for everyone, but it was right for me.