Trinity College, the small Catholic women's college in Northeast Washington, inaugurated a new president yesterday who said the school should no longer train women to "fit in" but to change women's roles in the church and society.
Sister Donna M. Jurick, the new president of the 85-year-old liberal arts college, also called for curriculum changes to stress a "women's perspective" in history, literature, and politics.
"The women in our colleges today are not and will not be participating in either church or society in the same way as their mothers or grandmothers," Jurick declared at a ceremony in the college's Byzantine-style Notre Dame Chapel.
"Instead of making the assumption," she continued, "that in order to 'make it' . . . women must learn to 'fit in,' we need to ask what contributions women might make in altering their very modes of being in church and society . . . . We must not be afraid to ask questions."
Jurick, 42, took over as Trinity's president last July after Sister Rose Ann Fleming, who headed the school for six years, resigned because of ill health.
This fall Trinity's enrollment dropped by 5 percent to 663 undergraduates and 95 graduate students. The school expects to run a deficit for the second year in a row.
But Jurick said she was optimistic about Trinity's future if the college keeps its identity as small, Catholic, and female but adapts to women's new roles.
"If we give up the kind of distinctive character we have," she said in an interview before the ceremony, "then we just blur into what everybody else is doing. But we must do more and more to put women in leadership positions in society."
Trinity, which is located near Catholic University but is completely independent from it, reached its highest enrollment -- about 1,100 -- in the late 1960s. As most all-male schools became coeducational, Trinity's size dropped rapidly around 1970 along with that of most women's colleges. But it stabilized in the middle of the decade and then rose gradually until last fall's decline -- a dip that has taken place at many private universities, where costs are much higher than at state schools.
Four years ago the school sold a 25-acre tract of land across Michigan Avenue for town houses for $3 million to shore up its faltering finances.
Jurick said about 90 percent of Trinity's students are Catholic and about 8 percent are black.
This fall's freshmen had average scores on the Scholastic Aptitude Test of 487 in verbal and 497 in math, slightly higher than freshmen at the University of Maryland but a notch below those at Catholic and American universities.
Jurick, a member of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, which sponsors Trinity, went to the college from the University of Denver where she was an assistant professor of speech communications. She holds a doctorate in communication theory from Ohio State University, and previously was a high school English teacher and director of internal communications for the Catholic diocese of Columbus, Ohio.