Earlier this month Brian Corbin, an alumnus of The Catholic University of America (CUA), began his new role as senior vice president for social policy at Catholic Charities USA. “My job is to help shape the Catholic Charities’ social policies and to be chief liaison between our agencies and Congress and the administration,” Corbin explained to The Cardinal Newman Society in a recent interview.
In his new position, Corbin said he sees how all his studies and experiences are coming together as a culmination of years of preparation.“ This is incredible,” he said, “this is what I’ve been training for or hoping to do and I’m thrilled to be part of it.”
Corbin, who received his undergraduate degree from CUA 1984, went on to share how his experiences with Catholic higher education have shaped his work.
“A Catholic university really opens up vistas on understanding the Church, the Church life, the Church intellectual history, the Church in history, and the role the Church has played in the intellectual life of the world,” Corbin related. It allows one to “dive in deep” to understand how the liberal arts, theology, philosophy, and the humanities “make you an excellent citizen of the world,” he continued. “Only a religious school can do that.”
The time Corbin spent studying philosophy and public policy at CUA provided him with tremendous formation through priests, religious, and lay professors as well as “incredible” internship opportunities. Corbin recalled, “I got to know the intellectual tradition of the Church and its engagement with the world on an intellectual, philosophical, human reasoning perspective.”
For Corbin, the most impactful moment occurred when writing his senior thesis. Through his research, he saw theology, public policy, and philosophy come together, which made him get “really excited.”
One of the strengths of a Catholic university, related Corbin, is how the institution’s liturgical and spiritual life assists in the integration of the “mind, body, and spirit” of its students. In addition it gives students a place “to explore and some really good people to guide you in your journey.”
Such people, he continued, “lead you in the path to integrate what you’re learning, what your physical being is telling you, and your spiritual quest for God” and “help you through those moments of doubt, crisis, darkness, as well as joy and happiness.”
According to Corbin, students can certainly be “good and faithful” at another type of institution, but a Catholic college is the best choice if “you really want to find your faith and deepen it.”
Corbin, who had planned from an early age to study philosophy and public policy as well as earn advanced degrees, was drawn to CUA’s strong philosophy program and D.C. location. He was also drawn by the potential to take graduate classes as an undergraduate.“ To be in a Church organization in Washington with a strong philosophy background and a graduate school, CUA was just a no brainer for me,” he related. “It was one of the best decisions I ever made.”
After completing his CUA studies, Corbin brought his knowledge to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology where he pursued a doctorate in international political economy. Being at a secular institution, he said, “I thought for sure that people would kind of snicker at me because I went to Catholic U,” he remembered. Instead, he described how non-Catholic and non-religious professors recognized the value of being formed within the Catholic intellectual tradition and encouraged him to speak up and use his knowledge. That experience served as a moment of affirmation, he recalled.
“Engage in the world. They might attack you, they may not like it, they may disagree with it, but they want to engage so let’s engage,” he asserted. “That to me opened up a whole new world.”
In addition to his work with Catholic Charities, Corbin taught at Walsh University in North Canton, Ohio, for 10 years as part of the University’s theology and business faculties. Corbin related his practical approach to interested students by describing how the Church runs institutions and addresses issues such as corporate responsibility, poverty, labor unions, and company management. “We have the practice and we have the theology,” he explains to students.
Corbin’s work with Catholic Charities started at age 16 when he became the youth representative to Catholic Charities Maine and the state’s Catholic Youth Organization Respect Life coordinator. He recounted how that experience “opened my eyes to the incredible work of the Church in the field in charity and justice and how our life message was incredibly thought through and also we were committed to it.” He continued, “Our sleeves were rolled up, we got our feet dirty, our shoes were dirty. We actually worked in the world; we help take care of people’s lives, no matter who they are.“
“Yes, that’s what I want to be part of,” he said.
The Catholic University of America and Walsh University are both recommended in The Newman Guide for their strong Catholic identity.
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