Joe Rutten Joins Benedictine Institute for Leadership, Ethics and Social Justice

July 14, 2017

A trip to the Grand Canyon is on the academic calendar for new students entering Mount Marty College (MMC) as freshmen in Fall 2018, thanks to a new focus on the college’s Benedictine Institute for Leadership, Ethics and Social Justice, which will be led by long-time Sioux Falls Catholic leader Joe Rutten.

Joe Rutten, Benedictine Leadership Institute, Joe Rutten

Generously supported by an endowment established in 2001 by the Benedictine Sisters of the Sacred Heart Monastery, the Grand Canyon trip will help students do more than explore one of our nation’s natural treasures. It is part of the first-year component of a four-year Benedictine leadership experience that helps students explore the peaks and valleys of life and define what it means to live a life with meaning. 

Rutten has been chosen to direct the institute, which will take full effect in the fall of 2018. The mission of the Benedictine Institute is “to develop leaders who serve the common good by practicing ethical decision-making values rooted in the sacredness of the human person and all God’s creation.”

“Supporting the Benedictine Leadership Institute was an opportunity for us to put a concerted effort toward sharing our Benedictine values with the vision that the sisters had when they first opened Mount Marty, to continue on in the future through the students,” said Sister Maribeth Wentzlaff, prioress of the Sacred Heart Monastery. “Topics such as leadership ethics and social justice — these are things that students don't necessarily take time to think about in their daily lives, so this institute will help them to stop and to see the world in a different way through a Benedictine lens.”

The Sacred Heart Monastery’s endowment of the Benedictine Institute has made the program possible and allows students to participate in all aspects, including the freshman year trip to the Grand Canyon and a sophomore year trip to the Great Smoky Mountains, at no additional cost above their tuition. The trips will complement classroom engagement for students as they reflect on “Who am I?” through a Benedictine leadership focus and explore what it means to be a human person in relationship to the Creator, Christ, community, and career.          

“Mount Marty is a Catholic, Benedictine college. It's part of the air we breathe and a part of the curriculum that we’ve always offered,” said Rutten. “The Benedictine Leadership Institute will build upon that tradition.” 

Prior to his new role at MMC, Rutten served for five years as director of faith formation at the Cathedral of St. Joseph in Sioux Falls. He served the Sioux Falls Catholic Schools as the director of the Institute of Religious Studies for seven years and taught ethics and theology at O’Gorman High School in Sioux Falls for 10 years. He has also served for the past five years as executive director of the Catholic Men’s Business Fraternity, a position he will continue to hold. Rutten holds a Master’s degree in theology from the Augustine Institute and an undergraduate degree in Catholic Studies from the University of St. Thomas. In addition to his duties as director of the Benedictine Leadership Institute, Rutten will also join the MMC faculty as an assistant professor of theology. 

Through the institute, undergraduates will take one Benedictine leadership course per academic year, for a total of ten credit hours during their four years at MMC. Each course will incorporate an off-campus experience, including trips to national parks and community service projects, to apply and explore Benedictine leadership theories taught in the classroom in the real world. 

The core of leadership exploration and experiential education fits MMC’s holistic view of education and the college’s focus on Benedictine values, according to MMC Vice President of Academic Affairs Dr. Jane Wood. Students of all faith backgrounds can benefit from the program, which augments MMC’s Catholic roots to explore the world’s greatest thinkers, leaders and theologians, such as Aristotle, Shakespeare, Plato and more.

“At Mount Marty, education is about the whole person,” said Wood. “Our faculty are committed to rigorous intellectual inquiry, including probing students to think about their responses to life’s great questions and then incorporating their responses into the process of creating a life of purpose and meaning.”

 According to Wood, the institute goes beyond the college’s responsibility to help students prepare for a career. The institute helps students prepare for life’s challenges at both the personal and professional level. 

“We are preparing students for work and life that we can’t even imagine,” Wood said about the fast-paced evolution of technology in today’s world. “The institute is our answer to the questions — ‘What does it mean to craft a life of meaning? What can we give students to support them in their life’s journey?’”

Rutten says that Benedictine Institute will raise up ethical, virtuous leaders to enter every professional field.

“When we send graduates out, we want them to have been formed in a Catholic Benedictine environment,” he said. “Who wouldn't want to hire that person? Who wouldn't want that nurse taking care of their mother, or that teacher teaching their kids, that business leader working in their community? Whatever it is that a student does professionally, they will have been trained in virtuous leadership for the twenty-first century.”


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