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UST’s largest MAFC class in history to start this fall

The UST-Houston Donald S. Nesti Center for Faith and Culture, one of the first U.S.-based faith and culture centers to be recognized by the Vatican, is set to welcome its largest incoming graduate cohort in the fall of 2023. The Nesti Center’s overwhelming applicant response comes as a result of this fall’s free tuition scholarship for the Master’s in Faith and Culture (MAFC) program.

The decision to offer the one-year free tuition incentive followed a year of deep examination into why enrollment for the MAFC at UST was not more robust. Marion Fernandez-Cueto, then assistant director of educational opportunities, did market research, combed through 13 years of application essays, and read student/alumni exit surveys to find that the interest and hunger for the Nesti Center’s degree was indeed growing. More and more people seek to explore the intersection of faith and culture at both an academic and very personal level. MAFC graduates were profoundly grateful for, and enthusiastic about, their experience. So, the reason for stalled enrollment numbers was simply the cost of the degree.

Overcoming a Financial Obstacle for MAFC Students

Now interim director of the Nesti Center for Faith and Culture, Fernandez-Cueto said, “When we determined it really was financial obstacles keeping enrollment low, not lack of interest or curricular flaws, we decided to draw on our endowment to help eligible applicants follow their dream of enrolling in the MAFC.”

Fernandez-Cueto went on to explain, “The Center’s benefactors have been utterly, overwhelmingly generous through the years, and it was their generosity that allowed us to establish the limited-time scholarship earlier this year for students accepted for fall 2023. 

She describes the response to the scholarship opportunity as “overwhelming.”

“As a result,” she said,” we’ve been able to raise our admissions standards and selectivity even while increasing enrollment.” The Nesti Center will continue to consider strong candidates with complete applications (including transcripts) through August 1, 2023.  

Who Is Drawn to the MAFC

Chapel of St. Basil at USTUST’s MAFC aims at deep personal formation and profound spiritual transformation in its students. Although some MAFC students are new graduates and non-Christians, most applicants tend to be mid-life Catholics with well-established careers and significant life experience. They may find themselves at a spiritual crossroads and feel called to take a new step in their faith journey. Some are experiencing challenges in their lives that confront them with hard questions. Others are sensing tensions between the Gospel and certain elements of American culture and are searching for unity of life. They “have had it” with political polarization and culture wars and want respectful dialogue and community with fellow seekers.

Where to Get More Information

You can find more information about the remarkable free tuition MAFC scholarships here.  To apply, go here.

The Nesti Center also offers a certificate in Faith and Culture for those who want the essence of the degree and the cohort experience without undertaking a full master’s.