“The Quest” is a documentary-style miniseries produced by the University of Dallas and distributed by EWTN. After the premiere of its first season last year, its second season is currently in production. The program is a way for UD to share its mission with those who are not enrolled at UD.
“What I love about ‘The Quest’ is it’s a way of sharing what we do at the university with a broader audience, and it’s really well done, it’s beautiful, it’s got the marks of excellence that are expressions or fruits of the education that we provide at the university, and we’re principally nurturing the mind and the heart of a much wider audience, and doing so with our own faculty and images drawn from our own campus,” said Dr. Jonathan Sanford, president of UD.
Dr. Shannon Valenzuela, manager of liberal learning content and adjunct professor of English, is the writer and director of the series. She is also the narrator of the series and assists in the role of producer.
“‘The Quest’ is important because it reminds us that we are all here for a reason,” said Valenzuela. “Every one of us has a purpose, and God doesn’t create extras. He calls each one of us to cooperate with His grace and to participate in His plan of salvation. It also reminds us that the way is hard, and that we can draw courage from the stories of Sacred Scripture, the lives of the saints, literature, and history.”
The idea that started “The Quest” began with University of Dallas Productions. The group began producing long video courses meant to provide learning opportunities for people who wanted to continue their education but did not necessarily want to attend UD and get a degree. The team centered its efforts on building educational videos focused on the human person.
Valenzuela was brought on in 2019 to assist in finishing the second of these video projects as well as help build the third one.
Valenzuela said: “There was interest in seeing if we couldn’t take that idea and maybe bring it to an even larger audience. So when we had the idea that maybe we might take it to a distributor like EWTN — essentially network television — we realized we needed a different kind of format. Taking it to TV is a little bit different than doing just a video course.”
The team repackaged and redesigned the product, using themes from the third video to build a five part miniseries. Valenzuela and the team pitched the series to EWTN and it was accepted and put on the network.
The first season of “The Quest” aired in November 2021, with an episode premiering during alumni family weekend the preceding October.
Valenzuela said, “The first season is about how we discover our purpose and live it with courage, and the second season is on the Way of Beauty as a means of sustaining us on our journey through this life and drawing us closer to God.”
The series is built around interviews with faculty and topped off with a central narrative, in the fashion of an educational documentary.
Valenzuela said, “It has a documentary-style feel to it, but it’s definitely educational in the spirit of the best liberal arts tradition that we have here.”
The series is targeted toward anyone who is truly interested in thinking deeply about their faith and their purpose in this life. Whether families with high schoolers or college kids or those in an older generation, the series speaks to anyone who is striving to discern God’s vocation for them.
Valenzuela said, “The series speaks to our deep desire to be a part of something so much larger than ourselves, and to know, with deep certainty, that we are loved.”
Sanford said: “It’s an invitation to enter into the University of Dallas, while at the same time a gift from the University of Dallas to those individuals who may never have stepped foot on our campus. We’re able to share these things because they’re non-scarce goods. Good, truth and beautiful are not diminished when you share them, in fact, they’re magnified and that’s a special feature of this kind of programming.”
The series is available on EWTN OnDemand as well as its separate website — quest.udallas.edu — which can be accessed via email signup, at which point the episodes can be downloaded and watched for free.