SCS Day of Service Puts Spotlight on Homelessness in the Downtown

Over the last few years, the Fall “Day of Service” at the School of Continuing Studies has become a tradition. The entire school community of faculty, staff, and students is invited to commit to a day of direct service for those in need in Washington, D.C. as a way of putting into practice our Jesuit values of being People for Others and living a Faith that Does Justice. In addition to the good that results for vulnerable persons from these service activities, the occasion of coming together as a school community in the midst of the holidays tends to be festive and enjoyable for participants. One senses a shared gratitude in the room about being together in service for others, alongside friends and family who are all awaiting the much anticipated holiday break. The hours-long convening on a Saturday is also an important moment to pause and acknowledge that the season’s joys and celebrations are not shared by everyone, particularly persons marginalized and excluded in our society who long to be included and dignified.

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SCS Day of Service in December 2019 brought together faculty, staff, and students to learn about homelessness and engage in direct service

This year’s Day of Service was especially memorable because it built on the foundation of prior years and also deepened the meaning of the experience. For the first time, the event was co-sponsored by both a student group and a campus partner organization. The Red Cross Group, an association of SCS students committed to providing compassionate care for those in need, promoted the event to fellow students and helped collect materials, like handwarmers and gloves, for preparedness kits for individuals experiencing homelessness to prevent hypothermia. Campus partner, the Center for Social Justice Research, Teaching, and Service (CSJ) co-sponsored the event and provided crucial administrative and educational support. CSJ’s Jesuit Volunteer, Brianna Ledsome, who coordinates Homelessness, Outreach, Meals, and Education programs, prepared information for participants about the reality of homelessness in D.C. and led a training on street outreach during the event. CSJ’s presentation also invited the street outreach teams to reflect on the experience through a series of questions aimed at bringing the deeper personal meaning of the experience and its implications for action to the surface.  

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Day of Service participants distribute preparedness kits for persons experiencing homelessness in the neighborhood surrounding SCS

More than 50 faculty, staff, and students gathered on December 14 at the SCS campus. The day consisted of multiple activities: assembling preparedness kits from donated materials, preparing sandwiches, writing personalized letters to veterans experiencing homelessness, and distributing kits directly to persons experiencing homelessness in the neighborhood. Despite the cold and rain, most participants ventured out into the neighborhood in groups for the street outreach component of the event. In preparation for distribution, CSJ’s street outreach training provided necessary context for the distribution of kits. Participants learned, based on data from the Community Partnership for Prevention of Homelessness, about the 6,521 homeless persons in the District of Columbia on any given night who are either unsheltered, in emergency shelters, or in transitional housing facilities. Participants also learned how to engage with persons experiencing homelessness in a spirit of mutuality, reverence, and respect. The training was a sobering reminder that homelessness is a social injustice rooted in intersecting social structures like housing, health services, and the economy.

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The Day of Service included several activities, like preparing supplies for persons experiencing homelessness on the streets

Humanizing the complex issue of homelessness through direct engagement with persons experiencing homelessness while also learning about homelessness as a structural issue of social injustice honors the Jesuit tradition of education. The Jesuit values invite us not only to commit to the work of charity, addressing the immediate needs of vulnerable persons, but also to the work of justice, which requires that we bring to bear intellectual methods of social analysis to better understand how to systematically address realities of poverty and injustice. As former Jesuit Superior General Peter-Hans Kolvenbach made clear in 2000, the commitment to justice that we strive for in Jesuit institutions links personal and social, reflection and action:

Since Saint Ignatius wanted love to be expressed not only in words but also in deeds, the Congregation committed the Society to the promotion of justice as a concrete, radical but proportionate response to an unjustly suffering world. Fostering the virtue of justice in people was not enough. Only a substantive justice can bring about the kinds of structural and attitudinal changes that are needed to uproot those sinful oppressive injustices that are a scandal against humanity and God.

Kolvenbach’s challenging invitation will continue to inspire our learning community. The Day of Service will hopefully have lasting impact at SCS about how to live out, rooted in our Jesuit heritage, a dual commitment to charity and justice in our neighborhood.

Cancer Awareness Month at SCS Shines Spotlight on Value of Cura Personalis

SCS staff put the University’s Jesuit values into practice every day in their interactions across our learning community. This post in “Mission in Motion” is offered by Nicole Thomas, social media marketing manager, who offers reflections about integrating Jesuit values in staff-led efforts to promote deeper connections at SCS between Cancer Awareness Month and Georgetown’s commitment to educating the whole person. 

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Members of the SCS staff participate in “On Wednesday We Wear Pink” as part of Breast Cancer Awareness Month

As the social media marketing manager, I’m constantly thinking about ways to connect with the SCS community and the larger Georgetown community in a way that breaks down perceived barriers between groups and creates an interaction or experience that reminds individuals that they belong. Originally, I thought, “How can I engage a large group of people in a way that challenges the community to move outside of their comfort zone…but not too far from it?” As I continued to think about our community of students, faculty, and staff, my original (smaller) idea grew into an all-month event that engaged faculty, staff, and students.

For the month of October, Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I worked with colleagues across SCS departments, including Operations, Academic Programs, Events, and Finance to hold three events. First, “On Wednesday We Wear Pink” encouraged faculty and staff to wear pink to show support for breast cancer research. Second, we encouraged students the following week to write messages of hope and support to cancer patients. Third, we invited the community to make an explicit connection with Georgetown’s Jesuit value of cura personalis. We put up a sign outside of the library in the atrium and encouraged the community to respond in writing to the prompt, “What will you do this month to care for your health?”

Once my ideas were solidified, I had to answer one major question to my colleagues and, really, to myself: Why am I doing this? What is the purpose of trying to engage with these various communities of people in this particular way—about cancer, health and well-being, and the relationship to our university’s Jesuit values?

The first reason is because at some point in our lives, we have all been impacted by cancer. We’ve all seen the pain, trauma, (and occasionally hope), that cancer can create. We all have this common human experience of facing the mortality of those we love. This experience has the power to deeply connect us to each other and remind us of our shared humanity. In some way, we have each experienced grief and sadness and hope. We become people for others when we see everyone around us as the people they are, not just as work associates, but as people whose human experiences are valued and honored. The events we planned offered a place for us across the SCS community to connect with each other through sharing our vulnerabilities together. This goal felt important to me because, as a Georgetown employee, I can easily fall into a routine of going through the motions and forgetting the people around me are vulnerable human beings, too. I wanted to create an inviting space—a space where people felt like they could express their vulnerability in a communal environment. When you can allow yourself to be vulnerable with your peers, you create an opportunity to deepen your relationships and build trust. Georgetown University fosters these kinds of moments because of our foundational Jesuit heritage and our strong commitment to being more than just an academic institution or place of work, but a place that encourages creating spaces for fostering community that addresses human needs.

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Outside of the SCS library, a “Cura Personalis” banner encourages students to express how they plan to care for their well-being

I also wanted to create an opportunity for students, faculty, and staff to remember the popular Jesuit value of cura personalis, which translates to “care for the whole person.” We, as faculty, staff, and students, all play our respective roles in this organization—roles that can be neatly defined: student, employee, faculty member, etc. Cura personalis sees the person as more than a role, however, but a person with “unique gifts, challenges, needs and possibilities.” Cura personalis is a reminder that the roles you are assigned in certain spaces do not define you; you are unique, and as a unique person, you must take care of all the unique parts that make you, you, which include your mental and physical health.

Writing on a poster board about how you will take care of your health may seem like a small exercise in self-care, but taking a moment to reflect on yourself, your needs, and your health is a gentle reminder—even in the midst of a busy day—that you are more than a transcript or a salary. Our Jesuit heritage, grounded in the value of cura personalis, encourages us to develop as whole persons. My goal with these recent events was to remind students, faculty, and staff that your unique gifts and needs have a place here at Georgetown.

Critical Immersion in Peru Highlights Importance of Justice, Awareness, and Georgetown’s Jesuit Values

This past summer, Dr. Shenita Ray, SCS Senior Associate Dean for Faculty and Academic Affairs, traveled to Peru with a group of fellow Georgetown faculty and staff as part of a Magis Immersion. The purpose of the 10-day trip was to connect more deeply with the university’s Catholic and Jesuit mission by being in solidarity with marginalized persons and communities throughout the country. With the help of the Peruvian Jesuit community, Shenita and colleagues saw first-hand the work of Jesuits and Jesuit-inspired organizations working to address injustice through a variety of education and economic development programs. In recent years, several SCS leaders have participated in the annual Magis Peru Immersion, including Dean Dr. Kelly Otter, who wrote about her experience in 2016.

“Mission in Motion” interviewed Shenita about her experience and its significance for her work at SCS.

How would you describe the immersion? What did you do? What was the purpose?

I did not know what to expect as I didn’t go in with a lot of background or expectation of what was going to happen. We essentially traveled to different cities and witnessed the work of different organizations throughout Peru, many of which were led by Jesuits or Jesuit-based institutions that were helping people in the community with education and economic development. We were able to talk to leaders of those organizations as well as the people in the community impacted by the work that these organizations were doing. It was more about being in solidarity with the people there: observing, listening, and soaking in the environment and the context of Peru. This was my first time in Peru, and my first time in South America. I did not have any context at all. It was a lot just to be present in this different environment than I’m used to. Being present in this way took a lot of emotional energy for me to soak it all in.


Dr. Shenita Ray, SCS Senior Associate Dean for Faculty and Academic Affairs, reflects on her immersion trip in Peru

What was challenging about this experience?

It wasn’t challenging from the perspective of paying attention or being present. It was challenging from the perspective of the injustices that I thought were so prevalent in the communities that we visited. We went to a hillside community where I saw women, men, and children living in homes that I have never seen in my life. There were no roads, no plumbing, and dogs roaming everywhere! I was captivated by the dogs. I kept on asking: why are so many dogs running around? It was hard for me to see people living in communities that lacked access to electricity, clean water, and safe roads. Throughout my stay in Peru, being an African-American woman, I found myself reflecting on how my ancestors were brought to the United States and the meager conditions that they lived in for centuries. I saw some parallels between what was happening in Peru and the legacy of African-Americans in the U.S. This was challenging for me.

What memories, either consoling or desolating, stand out for you?

There was a woman we visited in a hillside community who really stood out to me. We visited her store which was connected to her home, and she talked about her experience of getting to where she was at that point in time. She had been married to an abusive man and she said that often the abuse was carried out in the streets, in the middle of the community. However, she reached a point when she realized that she did not want her children, particularly her son, raised in a violent environment, so she decided to leave her husband. For many years, she worked in jobs where she was disrespected and dealt with a variety of injustices – injustices that I have never had to face in my life. But she had a plan in mind to open up her own store and create stability for her family where she could. She was so proud of the fact that she was able to save up enough money to open her own store, allowing her to create a safe and stable home for her and her children.

She shared that she wanted to teach her daughters, son, and granddaughter that love doesn’t mean verbal or physical abuse. I resonated with her story because it has a lot to do with the legacy of my family, too. That was the consoling part. The part that I still struggle with is that one of her daughters has a disability and does not have access to the services they need. In her mind, her son will assume the responsibility of taking care of the family when he is older. That’s hard for me as an American where we are often taught to believe that we should have control over our own lives and pursue our dreams. On some level, I agree that we should maintain relationships and obligations to our families, friends, and communities. However, I also believe that we should be able to direct our own lives however we want to direct it, and I get the sense that her son’s priorities will center solely around his sisters and his niece, instead of around what he wants to do in his life. This question tugs at my heart strings: What choices do you have in life when there are not services available to help your family?  

What were your impressions of Peru?

The Magis Immersion in Peru included visits to communities throughout the country

I was struck by the diversity of the geography: the jungle, coastal area, and cities were all absolutely beautiful. The food resonated with me so deeply – I appreciated the variety of spices and how the food was prepared. Even though I didn’t know the language, I felt so warmly embraced in Peru and not looked down upon in any way. People still tried to communicate with me in the market, for example. I thought it was so beautiful. The people seemed really invested in helping me understand their culture, their language, their history, and their values.

How does this critical immersion help you more deeply understand Jesuit mission and values?

I’m still working through that myself. One of the things I talked to someone about who went on the trip with me was the realization of my own privilege; the resources I have access to but don’t use to change circumstances in communities that I am a part of. I know I can do more, but I have to figure out what that looks like. I see this magazine cover from the Maryland Province of Jesuits sitting around SCS with Fr. Pedro Arrupe S.J. that says: “A Faith That Does Justice.” It feels now as if I have been seeing this magazine everywhere since I got back. This line – ‘a Faith that Does Justice’ – I have heard before. But it was only after Peru that I developed a deeper understanding of what it really means. I can now relate to and speak about what it means to have ‘a Faith that Does Justice’. I saw that in Peru – faith is not just a belief, it is what you are actually doing with that belief. Visiting the various Jesuit-based organizations in these communities and engaging in ways that improve the lives of people has helped me see how any one of us can influence change. I resonate with this Jesuit value more deeply now. 

How do you plan to bring this experience back to Georgetown and your communities in a tangible way?

That is a question that I am constantly thinking through. One thing I face daily is how the challenges that I think confront me in my work, or how I live, are not that big. They are really not that big. I don’t get frustrated or anxious as easily about challenges in my personal and professional life. Nowadays, I tend to turn every issue that comes up as an immediately solvable and doable opportunity. I’m not suggesting that there are not things that don’t make me anxious, but ever since my experience in Peru, states of anxiety and stress are short-lived because I can immediately see the abundance in the other facets of my life. The scale of the issues facing the communities in Peru are nowhere near the issues we face in this country.

I am much more conscious of being even more present to my work at SCS. I thought I was doing that before I left for Peru, but It feels as if I am even more present, and at a much deeper level. I am more intentional about being present in meetings with colleagues, and I ask myself if it’s absolutely necessary to bring my laptop to these meetings or if I’ll just be checking emails. I remind myself to be more present and learn from and hear what my colleagues have to say. I try not to check my phone as much throughout the day unless I am expecting an important call, and I focus more on what is happening right here, right now. In Peru, I was naturally present and attentive because of the foreign language and my heightened senses. I liked how that felt when I was there.

Anything else to share?

It is a real opportunity to invite people together who don’t know each other to come to this space. The gift in that is the chance to develop a shared experience together. We all saw different things and shared different perspectives, even though we were on the same trip. It was a beautiful thing to witness. I feel as if I received so many gifts from Peru – not the physical kind, but more from the spiritual sense. It is a gift to me to be exposed to diverse perspectives and I feel so grateful to be able to carry those images with me. At the end of each day, we would do an Examen reflection. To be a witness to other people changing, and how they were changing and expressing that change, was breathtaking. Some of us had real changes of heart relative to our expectations or understandings prior to the trip. Oftentimes, you have to witness the contradictions of injustice in order to know that it still exists in the world. After bearing witness to injustices, we are compelled to use our faith to do justice in the world.

Summer College Immersion Program Expands Access to Transformative Georgetown Education

SCS staff and faculty volunteer to serve as mock college admission interviewers for SCIP students

The Summer College Immersion Program (SCIP) at the School of Continuing Studies stands out for the depth of its commitment to our mission as a Jesuit institution. SCIP is a three-week college prep program for rising high school seniors from the Cristo Rey Network, KIPP Foundation, and other similarly aligned high schools across the country that provide college and career preparation for students from underserved communities. Each year, an average of 45 high-performing rising seniors arrive at Georgetown for three weeks of intensive classroom learning, community building with peers from the across the country, and hands-on site visits and engagements in Washington, D.C.  The program is a fast-paced introduction to the college experience, shaping how high-school seniors will approach their application and eventual matriculation to some of the most selective colleges and universities in the country, including Georgetown. Of the more than 400 students who have completed the program, almost 10 percent have matriculated to Georgetown; close to 100% have gone on to attend four-year colleges and universities.

The talented Summer and Special Programs team at SCS runs SCIP, providing comprehensive advising and student support while the students are on campus. They work with dedicated faculty and staff partners throughout the University to provide an immersive experience. In an effort to incorporate the larger SCS community into the work of this impactful program, the Summer team invites staff and faculty to serve as mock interviewers so that students can practice their skills in simulated college admissions interviews. This year, ten staff and faculty members from SCS volunteered to serve in this role, generously giving their time and professional experience to help these aspiring college students. This signature annual event is an inspiring example of Georgetown honoring a commitment to being People for Others, a core Jesuit value arising from the Spirit of Georgetown.

Closing banquet honored SCIP students and their achievements during 3 intensive weeks at Georgetown

In addition to providing a rewarding opportunity to share their gifts with talented rising seniors, the mock interviews encouraged SCS staff and faculty to reflect more deeply on their own relationship with our Jesuit mission and values. Heather Zitlau, Assistant Teaching Professor in the English Language Center at SCS, who volunteered at the event, echoes the reciprocal joys of mutual partnership that occur in this kind of service opportunity:

People enter into volunteer experiences expecting to give and to serve, of course—but I think that afterward, we often realize that we have received at least as much as we have given. My experience interviewing SCIP students was no exception; I signed up because I wholly support Georgetown’s commitment to diversity and service to others, and I wanted to support these deserving students. I trust that I did indeed help them through the mock interview experience – but they helped me, too. I arrived on the Hilltop drained after a full day of workshop facilitation and planning; I came away from the interviews inspired and encouraged by the energy and the hope exhibited by these bright, motivated, hardworking students.“

– Heather Zitlau, Assistant Teaching Professor, English Language Center

At the heart of the Summer College Immersion Program is a recognition that too many students and their families across the country cannot access the transformative power of a college education. Providing such access, while empowering students from low-income communities to see themselves as belonging at a selective university like Georgetown, demonstrates a faith that does justice, another foundational Jesuit principle in the Spirit of Georgetown. Esteban Olivares, SCS Assistant Dean for High School Programs, reinforced this idea during SCIP’s concluding banquet in Copley Lounge, when he said: “We serve students from underrepresented communities and remind them that when accepted to a university it is not an act of charity but a seat that should be claimed because it has been earned.”

For more information about SCIP and how you can support this mission-driven program at SCS, please check out the website here.

Thanks to SCS Staff, Spirit of Georgetown Comes Alive for Future Hoyas

SCS staff greet admitted students and introduce them to the Spirit of Georgetown

When SCS opened its doors to admitted students in late spring for a series of special events, future Hoyas experienced the distinctiveness of a Georgetown education. Upon entering 640 Massachusetts Avenue, a team of friendly staff welcomed prospective students with signature Hoya hospitality. Some were probably not expecting the nature of their welcome to the downtown campus. Just outside of the main auditorium, staff enthusiastically introduced the “Spirit of Georgetown,” the nine values that Georgetown aspires to animate in its community. These values, grounded in the university’s Jesuit heritage, like People for Others, Cura Personalis, and Community in Diversity, come alive for students, staff, and faculty in unique ways across the university.

Admitted students spin the wheel of Jesuit values!

The SCS staff team, who came together in order to plan outreach and events that more deeply engage the student community, helped admitted students appreciate how to make these values their own by posting notes to publically displayed poster boards. By the end of the night, these boards were filled with a colorful arrangement of personal testimonies reflecting the inclusive and invitational way that Georgetown integrates its mission. To spark the imagination of future students, staff shared their own perspectives on the meaning of the Jesuit values along with printed statements from the student members of the Hoya Professional 30, an annual cohort of students selected in recognition of their outstanding accomplishments inside and outside of the classroom.

SCS students and alumni reflect on their Georgetown experience

Framed as “Start Your Student Story,” the introduction to Georgetown’s distinctive values-based education continued that evening during a panel discussion. Led by Global Hospitality Leadership Faculty Director Dr. Erinn Tucker, students and alumni from across the SCS degree programs reflected on how Georgetown inspired them to pursue holistic personal transformation in the course of study.  While individual alumni perspectives reflected the differences of professional discipline and personal experience, the alumni all expressed a similar idea: education at Georgetown SCS is about more than taking classes, earning grades, and growing as a professional. As a Jesuit institution of higher education, Georgetown is committed to purposeful and transformational learning that inspires students to seek justice, pursue the common good, and grow as whole persons attentive to their intellectual, spiritual, and emotional lives. Panelists described how their foundational course in Ethics, professionally-relevant Capstone project, program-organized community gatherings, service projects, and friendships all shaped a deeper experience of professional and continuing education. This well-rounded approach to the student experience was on full display during a joyful and spirited networking reception that followed the panel.

Admitted students enjoy each other’s company at a post-panel reception

All of us at Georgetown are invited to make our Jesuit heritage a meaningful part of our work. So what do the Jesuit values in the Spirit of Georgetown mean to you?

What does the Spirit of Georgetown mean to you?

Panel on Global Citizenship Addresses Shared Humanity, Mission of Jesuit Universities

Experts convene for SCS panel discussion: “Global Citizenship in Higher Education”

Earlier this year SCS convened an expert panel to explore how higher education professionals have a responsibility to promote global mindedness and prepare future global citizens. Titled “Global Citizenship in Higher Education,” the panel looked in depth at pressing issues that impact the ability of universities to effectively extend their mission to the global community. In particular, turbulent politics, nationalistic rhetoric, and the tightening of national borders all challenge the promise of educating students to become global citizens. The panel included global education leaders from Georgetown, including SCS Dean Dr. Kelly Otter, Dr. Stephanie Kim, Faculty Director for the Master’s in Higher Education Administration, and Amol Dani, Vice President and Chief Financial Officer of Georgetown’s Main Campus. Additional experts, Dr. John Lucas, President and Chief Executive Officer for International Student Exchange Programs, and Dr. Alfred Boll, Branch Chief for EducationUSA of the U.S. Department of State, provided educational perspectives from outside of Georgetown.

The discussion addressed some of the ways in which encouraging the formation of globally active citizens is a unique and defining feature of Jesuit educational institutions. Dean Otter called direct attention to this connection with Jesuit values in her remarks about how SCS approaches global education. Otter focused on four areas: global humanity, global society, global economy, and global workforces and the need for integration of these categories. Otter noted that effectively serving global education goals requires an awareness and sensitivity to the diversity of local contexts in which students learn. This awareness, which stems from a Jesuit worldview, invites educators to be conscious of their own biases, and inevitably leads to more complexity in the delivery of globally focused education programs. Otter welcomed the complexity as a responsibility of Jesuit education: “We need to listen, we need to observe, and we need to be willing to take on the challenges of those students, those faculty, those communities, those complex issues in various parts of the world.” SCS has committed to such locally sensitive global awareness, evident in a range of global programs and in a student body that is almost 13 percent international, representing approximately 90 countries.

The conversation became truly global in the post-panel reception thanks to this traveling band from Spain

The Jesuits as a global order have articulated a vision of global citizenship that links closely to some of the ideas that emerged in the panel. In a July 2018 meeting in Spain to inaugurate a new international body, the International Association of Jesuit Universities, Jesuit Superior General Arturo Sosa described the Jesuit university as a “source of reconciled life.” Sosa went on to describe global citizenship as a core component of Jesuit education, leading students to greater understanding of human diversity and commitment to the service of others:

Educating people for world citizenship involves recognizing diversity as a constitutive dimension of a full human life. This means experiencing cultural diversity as an opportunity for the enrichment of human beings … [Global citizenship] is one of the constituting dimensions of the individual, which we seek to foment and support during the educational process. It is also necessary in order to lay down the conditions to be able to listen to the call to provide a public service as a personal commitment.

Fr. Arturo Sosa, Superior General of the Jesuits

Sosa reinforced the Jesuits’ centuries-old commitment to global education, which Georgetown manifests in its own globally-engaged tradition of education. This long-standing commitment now entertains new challenges in light of the complexities of modern life. In the midst of a technologically-enabled digital revolution around the world, how do we remain focused on the local and global mission of Jesuit universities? As the panel conversation made clear, this question will continue to animate the work of SCS.

For more information about Georgetown’s commitment to global education, see the brochure “Georgetown University: Academic Excellence in Service to the World.”

Student Retreat Provides Opportunities to Relax, Reflect on Sacred Stories

Who are you? What communities in your life make a claim on you? What are your hopes and dreams as a student at Georgetown’s School of Continuing Studies?

SCS students enjoy the second annual student retreat at Georgetown’s Calcagnini Contemplative Center in Bluemont, Virginia

These were the questions that framed the second annual SCS student retreat from Saturday, March 9 to Sunday, March 10, 2019 at Georgetown’s beautiful Calcagnini Contemplative Center in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. Students were invited to answer questions about their identity, communities, and education in advance of the retreat to inspire a deeper reflection on their personal narratives. During the retreat, students pondered their answers about how they make meaning of the world as they progress through their time at Georgetown. Framed as an invitation to “Explore Your Sacred Story” and rooted in Ignatian spirituality, the retreat provided a welcoming space for people of any faith tradition or none at all.

The retreat attracted 16 SCS students from 11 different programs who made the journey to Calcagnini. According to Jamel Langley, master’s candidate in the Integrated Marketing Communications program, the short break from daily routines was refreshing and needed: “The retreat enabled me to take time away from the hustle and bustle of D.C. and provided me with an opportunity to reflect on my journey leading up to becoming an SCS student and how I will take my education with me after I leave Georgetown.”  Teresa Merz, master’s candidate in the Liberal Studies program, also affirmed the welcome rest and renewal that comes with a retreat: “Juggling graduate studies with a full-time job has been both exhilarating and exhausting; the retreat was a 24-hour immersion in peace and profound inspiration in an exquisite setting. Guidance, solitude, hiking, great company: what could be more renewing!”

During group reflection, students were able to hear from classmates in other programs, a welcome opportunity to celebrate the diversity of the SCS student community.  The space created on retreat also provided invaluable learning opportunities to practice active and empathetic listening, a key skill in any professional and continuing education discipline.

The SCS student retreat provided time for both individual and group reflection in the quiet of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Retreats are not only valuable for their focus on the past but also on how the reflective distance from one’s daily life encourages a constructive look to the future. Retreatants might ask themselves: How is this quiet time inspiring me to shape my resolve for tomorrow? In the silence of personal guided reflection, how am I being invited to make a change in my life?

Emphasis on action is a hallmark of Jesuit spirituality, which encourages reflection on our experiences in order to determine how best to use our gifts and talents in the world. Regina Bartonicek, a master’s candidate in the Public Relations and Corporate Communications program, noted how the retreat shaped her ongoing journey:

“It was significant to me in that it allowed me the opportunity for self-reflection and contemplation about where I am in life and in my spiritual path and where I want to be,” she said. “It also provided me some clarity on being more mindful and being more present in my everyday interaction with others.”

By giving students the chance during a busy semester to explore their interior lives in the quiet and calm of Calcagnini, the SCS retreat fulfills Georgetown’s commitment to “action and contemplation,” a core Jesuit value in the Spirit of Georgetown that helps ensure that our activity is grounded in intentional reflection. The retreat also advances SCS unique mission to “deliver a world-class, values-based education to a diverse array of communities and individuals through their academic and professional careers.”

SCS students interested in contemplative experiences should check out the variety of retreats offered by Georgetown’s Office of Campus Ministry and the spiritual life activities hosted at SCS.

Head and Heart Moved to Action: Reflections on a Critical Immersion to the U.S.-Mexico Border

For the inaugural post of Mission in Motion, a blog dedicated to reflections about efforts to animate Jesuit values at Georgetown University’s School of Continuing Studies, Jamie Kralovec, Associate Director for Mission Integration, offers a reflection about his experience on the U.S.-Mexico border through Georgetown’s Magis Kino Immersion.

“I will do anything to get back to my children.”

Photo of the Georgetown group walking along the Mexican side of the wall across from Nogales, Arizona

Hearing Ariel’s words firsthand forever changed my understanding of the issues surrounding migration on the border between the United States and Mexico. Ariel lived for years in the U.S. without legal documentation, before being apprehended by law enforcement, sentenced to 1.5 years in a federal detention facility, and then deported to Mexico, a country where she has no family or friends. She left behind two children in the U.S. and a career in health care as a Certified Nursing Assistant. Ariel shared her story with me and a group of other Georgetown faculty and staff at Casa Nazareth, a shelter in Nogales, Mexico run by the Kino Border Initiative (KBI) that provides safety, healing, and micro-enterprise opportunities for migrant women. We were in Mexico and southern Arizona in January 2019 through Georgetown’s Magis Kino Border Immersion, an intensive experiential trip with three goals: 1) grow and learn together about the reality of migration issues on the U.S. – Mexico border; 2) consider the implications of this reality for our individual and collective spheres of influence; and 3) reflect together on our roles and responsibilities as faculty and staff at Georgetown relative to the issue of migration.

Each woman at Casa Nazareth had a unique story, but all have been broken in some way by the immigration system, some crossing hundreds of miles of treacherous, uninhabitable desert in the hope of securing a better life. In painful and uncomfortable moments seated around an intimate circle, I ceased to be a distant and passive observer of a complicated policy issue. The unpleasant emotions I was feeling during Ariel’s retelling: sadness, anger, and shame, helped lead me into a deeper, more personal engagement with the persons and events of the immersion experience. With resilience and vulnerability, Ariel invited me into an intimate encounter with her as a person with a story that compels a personal response. As a father of three young children, I suddenly found myself grappling with the personally unimaginable: a life separated from my wife and children by a structure that imposes legal and physical barriers to family unification. This movement: from detached, rational analysis to growing in reverence and relationship with persons our society relegates to the margins, embodies our mission at Georgetown as a Jesuit educational institution committed to social justice. Fr. Greg Boyle, well-known Jesuit author of Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion, describes the mutuality that happens in these encounters as kinship:

Soon we imagine, with God, this circle of compassion. Then we imagine no one standing outside of that circle, moving ourselves closer to the margins so that the margins themselves will be erased. We stand there with those whose dignity has been denied.

Facilitated by Georgetown’s Office of Campus Ministry and the Center for Social Justice Research, Teaching, and Service, Magis Kino models Jesuit education and its interplay of experience, reflection, and action by asking participants to make a sustained commitment to justice as a result of engaging directly with the issues of migration. This approach to learning only works if groups make room for continuous reflection before, during, and after the experience. Reflection helps us make meaning of our experiences by getting in touch with the deeper sources of our sensations, allowing ourselves “to be challenged to change” in the words of former Jesuit Superior General Fr. Peter-Hans Kolvenbach. KBI’s approach to immersion trips, designed so that participants humanize, accompany, and complicate their experiences, helped spur our group’s deep reflections at the end of each day. In keeping with its commitment to complicate the issues, KBI also introduced us to a diversity of stakeholders, including law enforcement, the court system, and property owners and ranchers along the border. 

Fr. Peter Neeley of the Kino Border Initiative sharing “holy relics,” objects left behind by migrants along a trail frequently used by migrants near Arivaca, Arizona

One of the trip’s most poignant and physically demanding experiences was a two-hour guided walk of a portion of the migrant trail in Arivaca, Arizona. Jesuit Fr. Peter Neeley led the hike and encouraged us not to reproduce, but to visualize the immigrant experience. It was here that Fr. Neeley presented us with goods he has collected over time left behind by migrants on their arduous journeys. Referring to these objects as “holy relics,” Neeley invited us to grow in solidarity and love for migrants by imagining the people who had once held these objects. The baby bottle for a nursing infant stirred strong emotions and again, like Ariel‘s story, crashed my internal defensive barriers that deceive me into believing that migration does not concern me personally. It pulled me to recognize and affirm the inherent human dignity that I share with the mother and the child who had passed the trail beneath my feet. I will keep these holy relics in mind as I continue to discern the most effective ways that I am called to respond to this experience.

Georgetown faculty and staff eating with parishioners of St. Ferdinand church in Arivaca, Arizona

Pope Francis has encouraged the world to “show some concrete solidarity” with migrants and my immersion experience leads to me to consider ways to express such real solidarity. Four days in Nogales left me with many questions for which I do not pretend to have the answers. I am especially aware after this experience of my own privilege. I will never live on a daily basis with the regular fear and anxiety that migrants carry, or that of our own undocumented students at Georgetown. In spite of this privilege, I cannot proceed without acknowledging that my time in Arizona and Mexico claimed me in a significant way. While there are no perfect solutions to the multi-faceted issues of migration, the complexity does not excuse meaningful action. How might we respond to the needs of migrants and to the social justice implications as individuals and as university community? In the months that follow I will discern this question along with my colleagues at Georgetown. Mindful that individuals are called to respond in their own unique ways, I offer some suggested action steps for anyone interested in humanizing the issue of migration while recognizing its complexity and emphasizing accompaniment of people on their journey:

  • Support KBI’s critical work of education, humanitarian assistance, and advocacy with a financial donation. The organization especially needs in-kind donations of clothing, toiletries, and home goods.
The Georgetown group of faculty and staff on the Kino Border Immersion with hosts from St. Ferdinand and the Kino Border Initiative

The word Magis, rooted in the Jesuit virtue of magnanimity, invites all of us involved in educational endeavors at Georgetown to respond to the gifts of our own lives with gratitude and generosity for others. My brief time on the U.S. – Mexico border moved me to deeper sensitivity and awareness of the suffering experienced by migrants. Jesuit education inspires us at Georgetown to use all of our gifts, including our intellectual inquiry, to engage constructively with the suffering of persons on the margins. I will continue to discern my response to Ariel’s sacred story and her invitation to a deeper solidarity.

Please reach out to Jamie at pjk34@georgetown.edu with any questions or reactions to the post.