Even in the most difficult and challenging times, an attitude of gratitude can make all the difference between living a life of hope and satisfaction or one of anxiety and envy. This was the main message delivered in an inspiring contribution to Georgetown’s “Spiritual Continuity” series this week by Mary Novak, Associate Director for Ignatian Formation at SCS and the Law Center. In her video reflection, Mary makes the case that we are called to even greater gratitude in these circumstances because gratitude is a disposition especially necessary when it is harder to see potential. Grounding gratitude in the Jesuit practice of the examen (which we described in this post last week) and the life of the Jesuit founder St. Ignatius, Mary describes how a disposition of gratitude helps us see more clearly that God is at work always and everywhere. This outlook is foundational to the spiritual life and explains why the examen and all of Ignatian spirituality is rooted in gratitude because “gratitude was the totality of the way Ignatius related to God.”
More than simply an idea, however, Mary uses her video reflection to describe how gratitude can be practiced. Mary models the practical application by naming the persons for whom she is especially grateful these days: healthcare workers, social service providers assisting persons experiencing poverty, staff at Georgetown who have been sorting mail and keeping essential services going, and the university’s leadership for thoughtfully addressing difficult decisions. The ultimate outcome of a gratitude practice is that one becomes more generous and more disposed to serve others, or as a student put it to Mary, gratitude “makes me more self-less.” We encourage you to practice this week by making a list of people and actions for whom you are most grateful. Try making a list every day. If you’d like to experience gratitude in the form of an examen, join our Daily Digital Meditation at 12 pm each day of the work week (sign up here). Each Friday will be dedicated to a guided examen that reflects on our experiences of the past week.
As we head into another week of adjusting to this new normal, more and more commentary is focused on how to make sense of the dramatic changes we are living through each day. I was struck in the last few days by two different articles addressing the same topic: grief. These pieces gave me needed language to describe what I have been feeling in my own experience, both unconsciously and consciously, in the early days of adjusting to the reality of a global pandemic.
In an article entitled, “That Discomfort You’re Feeling is Grief,” the Harvard Business Review interviewed David Kessler, a grief and trauma expert who has worked in hospital systems for a decade. Building on the stages of grief constructed by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, Kessler provides several important insights for managing our individual and collective grief about COVID-19: 1) name the feeling so you can start controlling it; 2) find balance in the things you’re thinking; 3) come into the present in order to calm yourself; and 4) show compassion because everyone expresses their grief in different ways. A similar article in the New York Times by Lori Gottlieb captured many of these same insights in the article, “Grieving the Losses of Coronavirus.” A critical point of Kessler’s is that naming emotions helps us move through the ones that hold us back: “When you name it, you feel it, and it moves through you. Emotions need motion. It’s important we acknowledge what we go through.” The naming of temporary feelings as a way to grow into greater freedom from our feelings has a clear connection to the spiritual tradition of the Jesuits, known as Ignatian spirituality, and the practice of the examen. This dynamic and flexible form of reflection is a helpful resource for staying in the present and finding balance.
The examen, or the examen of consciousness, is a structured form of prayerful reflection on daily experiences introduced five centuries ago by St. Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuits and author of Ignatian spirituality (for more on the examen, see here). Ignatius included the examen in the text of his Spiritual Exercises, a lengthy retreat intended to guide participants to greater depths of spiritual growth and understanding so as to more generously serve others and God. For persons of faith, the examen is a regular opportunity (Ignatius encouraged practice of it twice per day) to reflect on how the experience of daily thoughts and feelings either bring us closer to God (consolation) or farther way from God (desolation). It is through noticing and becoming more aware of these movements of consolation and desolation in our interior lives that we notice patterns and develop the capacity to change our behaviors by doubling down on what brings consolation and working against patterns of desolation. The examen is not just for Christians or for persons of faith, however, and it can be adapted to secular audiences. For a secular listener, the language of God in the examen might be substituted with “true self” or “transcendent mystery” and the language of consolation/desolation might be understood as “flow,” those experiences that bring us deeper joy and greater energy and vitality. Regardless of how one enters into the examen, the fundamental gift of this 10-15 minute reflective practice is that it helps us become more aware of gratitude in our daily experience, both moments of joy and moments of challenge that can stretch us and make us stronger.
The multiple emotions we are experiencing these days, including grief, might lead to a conclusion that it is better to ignore our many feelings than confront each of them as we experience them. The examen gives us a resource for naming our emotions and realizing that feelings are only temporary and do not last forever. What is especially helpful about the examen is that it can be tailored to particular circumstances or situations of life, like a pandemic. Susan Haarman has demonstrated that flexibility by crafting an examen for the Ignatian Solidarity Network that meets this moment in time: “Examen for Life During COVID-19.” I will present below a modified form of Haarman’s examen:
Enter into the examen
by first settling into your space. Become comfortable in your surroundings and
remove any distractions if you are able to. Start by noticing your breathing, allowing
your minds and bodies to settle into the experience. Take a few minutes to
relax and enter into these six steps.
1) Acknowledge how you are feeling at this very moment. Name both the good and the challenging feelings (take 2 minutes).
2) Ask for light and insight as you prepare to review the last 24 hours of your life. Take some time to settle in the presence of God, or of your true self (take 2 minutes).
3) Gently review all of the major experiences of your last 24 hours. In particular, review the most significant experiences when COVID-19 had an impact on your life in the last day (take 2 minutes).
4) Take a few moments to call attention to the most significant experiences of the last day that made you feel more connected to yourself and to others. Take a few moments to call attention to the experiences that made you feel less connected to yourself and others (take 3 minutes).
5) Now go back to the experiences of connection and dis-connection that you reviewed in the prior step and name the emotions that surface for you when you acknowledge the most significant feeling of connection and the most significant feeling of dis-connection (take 3 minutes).
6) Conclude this short examen by reflecting on how this quiet time has prepared you to face the challenges of the next day. How might you maintain more connection with yourself and others? (take 2 minutes).
If the resources of the examen appeal to you, please consider participating in the SCS Daily Digital Meditation offered Monday through Friday at 12 pm EST over Zoom (click here to participate). The final meditation of each week, on Friday, will be a guided examen for 10-15 minutes inviting participants to review their experiences of the past week. Please join us!
This week, with the help of many, courses at Georgetown moved entirely remote so as to provide instructional continuity during this time of transition. In a similar way, the mission and ministry resources of Georgetown are beginning to be shared digitally in the interest of spiritual continuity. SCS, as we shared in last week’s post, has moved to care digitally for the whole person by offering Daily Digital Meditations each day of the work week at 12 pm EST (click here to join the Zoom sessions) along with providing online space for members of our community to express their prayer intentions (click here to submit your intentions). The first week of group meditation online has been a success, demonstrating in a profound way that spiritual communion is very much possible in the absence of physical proximity. We are grateful to everyone who has joined and who has promoted this important resource.
The Office of Campus Ministry has added to the spiritual continuity effort by offering a daily video reflection from one of the university’s many chaplains, which are now available at Campus Ministry’s Youtube page. These short testimonials reinforce the university’s demonstrated commitment to inter-faith dialogue and multi-faith chaplaincy and offer needed spiritual guidance as we proceed through this uncertain period of time. One major takeaway from this week’s reflections is that the work of paying greater attention to our interior lives, through prayer, meditation, worship, silent reflection, nature walks, sacred reading, etc., can prepare us to manage the clamor and uncertainty that may surround us on the outside.
In this week’s Spiritual Continuity series from Campus
Ministry, you will hear:
Fr. Mark Bosco, S.J. on the importance of finding moments of divine grace in the midst of being unsettled;
Fr. Greg Schenden, S.J. on finding God in all things, especially in relationships; and
Fr. Matthew Carnes, S.J. on how the early Jesuits offer us lessons today about unity through their example of growing a united community while being dispersed across the globe.
We encourage you to subscribe to Campus Ministry’s YouTube page in order to follow along as university chaplains continue to offer their wisdom from deep within the many religious and spiritual traditions that call Georgetown home. Please visit the Campus Ministry homepage for updates from our chaplaincies and we will continue to use this blog to highlight spiritual resources that may be of interest to you during this time.
As the routines of daily life drastically change in response to the ongoing COVID-19 situation, many people are feeling unsettled, uncertain, and, likely, afraid. The precautions being implemented at Georgetown, and institutions around the country and world, to ensure social distancing are in the best interests of health and well-being of all in our communities. But social distancing does not have to mean social isolation. In these times, how might we marshal the spiritual and mission resources of our Spirit of Georgetown Jesuit values to support one another and maintain deeper inter-personal connection as we adjust to this new reality that requires us to keep our physical distance from one another?
In an effort to maintain our Jesuit mission commitment to
Care for the Whole Person, Georgetown SCS is offering some dedicated online opportunities
to maintain connection in a time of social distancing:
Daily Digital Meditation at SCS: Each day of the work week, from Monday to Friday, at 12 pm EST, SCS will host a digital meditation for 10 to 15 minutes over Zoom. You can join the digital meditation space by clicking this link. Led by Jamie Kralovec, SCS Associate Director for Mission Integration, this 10-15 minute meditation will be a contemplative opportunity to sit in intentional silence in group solidarity with everyone who participates. This will be an inclusive form of silent meditation, blending Eastern and Western practices, and all are welcome to participate. Participants will automatically be muted upon entering the digital space but will have the option of appearing visually through the camera feature. Please send any questions about this opportunity to Jamie Kralovec (email@example.com).
Prayer Intentions: In an effort to create space for all members of this community to express whatever intentions are on your hearts and minds during this challenging time, we are offering a way for you to submit these intentions online. Click this link to enter whatever requests that you would like the larger SCS community to take to prayer, meditation, or silent reflection (if you would prefer to remain anonymous, you can fill out the prayer request confidentially). Whatever spiritual or religious tradition you are part of, or no tradition all, expressing these requests is a way to practice deeper inter-dependence and mutuality in a time when it might feel harder to do so.
Other Spiritual Resources: There are many ways you might deepen your own spiritual and reflective practices in the midst of the response to this situation. We suggest reading this message from Fr. Greg Schenden, S.J., Director of Campus Ministry, who offers ways to stay connected to the chaplaincy resources of the university.
While it might not feel like it, this time of uncertainty is an opportunity for our learning community to grow a greater spirit of generosity, magnanimity, and solidarity with each other. We encourage everyone to continue to monitor the university’s response to COVID-19 by visiting this page.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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?
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.
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?
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
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.
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
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.
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
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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
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.