Recent SCS Graduate Accomplishes Major Feat, Running Down Every Street of Washington, D.C., and Discovering More About Himself and the City Along the Way

The Mission in Motion blog tells the real-time stories of how Georgetown SCS students, faculty, staff, and alumni live out the Jesuit mission and values of the university by putting these values in action in ways that serve justice and the common good. This week, we interview Dion Thompson-Davoli, a May 2024 graduate of the Master’s in Urban & Regional Planning program. Dion was recently featured in a Washington Post story, “He Ran on All* 1,838 Streets in D.C. This is What He Saw,” because of an incredible achievement: He ran down every single street in Washington, D.C., (over 1,400 miles worth of running!) in the last two years. 

What makes this running adventure so compelling as an example of mission commitment is that Dion allowed himself to reflect deeply about the urban realities of Washington, D.C., as he undertook this arduous project and encountered people and places in such an intense way. 

At Georgetown, Dion achieved distinction for his record of academic excellence, including the completion of a novel capstone project about industrial zoning policy and an award from The 2024 Georgetown Public Policy Challenge for a group project about revitalizing downtown through an innovative urban policy proposal. 

In addition to academic commitment, Dion stood out at SCS for his attention to building community and sharing the University’s mission and values, serving, for example, as the SCS standard bearer during the procession into the 2024 Baccalaureate Mass at Commencement. 

In the interview, Dion shares more about his motivations for taking on the multi-year adventure, what he learned, and how his experience shapes his understanding of urban planning, and what, if anything, was spiritually significant about his travels. 

This week’s post is an interview with recent SCS graduate Dion Thompson-Davoli, who was featured in the Washington Post for running down every street in Washington, D.C., over the last two years.
  1. Tell us about what led you to take on this project. As a recent Georgetown graduate with so much else happening in your life, why did you embark on this lengthy adventure? 

Towards the end, when I was running in neighborhoods five or even 10 miles from my home, the project became a huge time commitment. At first, though, it was just a way for me to stay locked into a fitness routine while juggling a pretty challenging work and school schedule. I would go out to jog as normal and try to mix up what streets I was running down, figuring that diversifying the places I went would make me look forward to it more and keep my mind off the mundanity that makes running a difficult thing to stick with. Once I systematized it and started to think that hitting every street in the city might be an achievable goal, I started to spend more time planning routes and biking or taking the Metro around the city to start and end in different places. So the time commitment really ramped up as I got deeper into it, but at the same time so did my feeling that it was actually possible to finish. Those two things really offset each other to keep me plugging at it. 

Dion graduated in May 2024. During his time at Georgetown, Dion achieved academic excellence in the Master’s in Urban & Regional Planning program and contributed to his communities by exemplifying the University’s mission and values. 
  1. I imagine being an urban planner influenced how you experienced your journey throughout this diverse city. How did running shape your view of Washington as a city divided by race and class? 

It’s an interesting question. I didn’t really go around telling a lot of people about the challenge, but when I did they would frequently say things like, “You’re taking a big risk, running in some of those neighborhoods” or “I hope you don’t get jumped.” Which, you know, was often phrased insensitively, but is kind of fair. People I chatted with in D.C.’s more violent areas told me similar things. It’s a very unequal city, one with a lot of concentrated poverty and violent crime. Most people who have the means to stay out of the less well-off areas tend to do so, and not without reason. 

Still, I gained some valuable perspective along the way (and never felt unsafe, fortunately). People in my peer group tend to have a caricatured mental image of poorer neighborhoods that’s totally out of step with the day-to-day life in them. Despite what some teenagers once joked to me once while I was out running off Alabama Avenue, there aren’t just bullets whizzing down the streets. My experience of D.C.’s troubled neighborhoods was mostly of elderly homeowners waving from porches, high fives from kids out playing in front yards, and people just living normal lives in their communities. 

I will say, though, that the wealth inequality between neighborhoods in the city is really shocking when you cross between them as often as I did while I was working on this. As a planner, I actually think it’s kind of a good thing that those disparities exist so close together—one problem I see with the way we live in the U.S. today is that most of our communities are really segmented by class and wealthier folks can wall themselves off from even seeing poverty much of the time. Cities like D.C. are some of the few places that’s less true. This isn’t a policy prescription or anything, but I really do think that people who are exposed to one another across those dividing lines are better able to come together and work on common challenges. The continued existence of grinding poverty in a country as blessed with wealth and dynamism as ours should shock us.  

  1. What do all neighborhoods share in common; and what makes them different?

Besides the socioeconomic issues, I have to say D.C. is lucky to be almost entirely composed of beautiful, diverse neighborhoods. There’s historic reasons for that—including the legacy of not having had much in the way of 20th century heavy manufacturing, and avoiding the worst excesses of the freeway building era—and we also have varied topography, great local architecture, and an overall well-maintained public realm. 

We also benefit locally from being at the center of American governance. There’s an embassy everywhere you turn, even in a lot of the neighborhoods. Historic monuments and public art, too. People vie for attention here with ostentatiously beautiful buildings and homes. The National Mall is a jewel, especially for joggers and walkers. All of this stuff comes together to make it a great city to run in. 

Dion recorded this incredible feat using a running app that documented all of his running trips throughout the city. 
  1. When I look at the map of the miles you logged, I am reminded of St. Ignatius walking nearly 400 miles as part of his pilgrimage journey in Spain. Did you engage in this running as a pilgrimage of sorts? Was there anything spiritual or sacred to you about taking this on as a practice? 

I’ve always been inspired by the Ignatian tradition, and jogging certainly brings me closer to God. It’s a time where I really feel embodied, where I consider the experience of being alive in this physical, fragile form. Physicality is one of the great gifts that each of us has been given, no matter how we experience it. Jogging is also very solitary, so I think combining those two things makes it feel very spiritual to me. It’s a great time to do an Examen, or just feel apart from the everyday grind.

SCS English Language Center Hosts Event on Japanese Cultural Experience, Advancing Georgetown’s Global Mission

Hiroko “Mai” Sano (far right) is a student in the SCS English Language Center who presented this week at the School about Japanese calligraphy and her experience as an Airbnb experience host. 

Mission in Motion has dedicated several posts in recent years to the work of the English Language Center (ELC) at SCS, a more than 60-year-old English language and teacher training center, which manifests the Jesuit mission of the University in many ways. One way to enter into a deeper appreciation of ELC’s commitment to embodying Georgetown’s values is by spending time with its mission statement: 

“The mission of the English Language Center is to promote global understanding and education through programs and services that enhance English language proficiency, language teaching, and intercultural understanding.”

Inherent in this statement is an orientation to education that serves the common good by creating the conditions, through language exchange and teaching, for greater cooperation and collaboration among people across the world. I read in this mission clear evidence of the Jesuits’ founding vision to be a global religious order, binding a global group together through a constellation of different works and projects. A “community in dispersion,” a motif of early Jesuit history that was amplified during the initial COVID-19 lockdown, is realized through the programs and offerings of the ELC. Many graduates return to their home countries with increased language proficiency that enables greater intercultural understanding. 

Mai’s presentation, framed as an expression of the mission of the ELC, exemplifies how Georgetown strives to realize intercultural understanding through the education that it offers. 

Reading this mission statement is how Andrew Screen, ELC professor, began the ELC Social Hour at SCS this week. The program, “Japanese Calligraphy Writing With Hiroko ‘Mai’ Sano,” was an interactive global immersion in Japanese culture led by ELC student Hiroko ‘Mai’ Sano. In her presentation, Mai shared her work as an Airbnb experience host in Tokyo, Japan, as well as a junior high school English teacher. In the course of sharing, Mai also demonstrated via videos how she helps visitors learn to write Japanese calligraphy and make udon noodles from scratch. There were some especially poignant moments, including a description of a visit to Japan by a Ukrainian woman who felt deeply at peace with Mai in spite of the turmoil and conflict in her own country. A key theme emerged throughout the presentation: kindness and hospitality are reliable means to greater cultural understanding. Also, English language learners can deepen their own English language skills by sharing their cultural realities with others. Mai gifted the audience with her intimate insights about life in Japan. 

The room was full for the social hour and attracted fellow ELC students as well as SCS faculty and staff who wanted to learn more. The event was a powerful reminder of the transformative possibilities of Georgetown’s global education. The Spirit of Georgetown explicitly calls out values like “Community in Diversity,” “Interreligious Understanding,” and “Educating the Whole Person” that get at the core work of the ELC. This week’s brief experience of Japanese culture exemplifies how Georgetown enriches a world in great need of increased cultural understanding and mutual cooperation.

Juneteenth Holiday Presents Opportunities for Spiritual Growth and Communal Reflection

This week’s post is a reflection on the Juneteenth holiday and the spiritual resources necessary to sustain the long struggle for freedom and equality. Explore Georgetown’s Juneteenth resources

Earlier this year, Mission in Motion shared a particularly Ignatian approach to the spiritual work of anti-racism through the 6-week retreat co-facilitated by Georgetown and Holy Trinity Catholic Church entitled “Setting Captives Free: Racism and God’s Liberating Grace.” With next week’s Juneteenth celebrations on the horizon, I would like to offer encouragement to consider how the ongoing struggle for true freedom and justice for all includes a spiritual component. Highlighting this dimension of the work of racial justice is rooted in Georgetown’s Catholic and Jesuit identity and mission and the Spirit of Georgetown, particularly our expressed values commitment to being a “Community in Diversity.” 

In reflecting on the personal meaning of Juneteenth, Georgetown undergraduate Bilquisu Abdullah emphasizes how this occasion helps her connect with the pride of her identity: “For me, this year Juneteenth is about nurturing the joy I find in my Black identity. That means doing the things I enjoy most with my BIPOC peers and recentering the conversation of Black liberation in a positive way.” 

Ella Washington, Professor of the Practice in the McDonough School of Business, echoes this affirmation of joy when she says:

“Whether by attending a Juneteenth celebration or supporting a Black-owned business, I look for opportunities to define what the holiday represents to me and Black people across the U.S. I also consider joy to be the greatest form of resistance, especially as a Black woman. Finding opportunities of joy and jubilance with my family and friends is a way to live into the dream of my ancestors and into the spirit of honoring Juneteenth.” 

Together, these testimonies reinforce how Juneteenth is a critically important annual milestone to celebrate the joy and jubilation of freedom. But the holiday also presents a spiritual opportunity to reflect on how individuals and social structures continue to challenge this journey to greater freedom.

In a recent article in the Jesuit Higher Education Journal, Marquette University Director of the Faber Center for Ignatian Spirituality Michael Dante reflects on a “A Spiritual Direction Approach Aimed at Creating Belonging.” Dante maintains that meaningful confrontation with racism and white privilege means understanding these dynamics at the “spiritual level.” In order to realize this dimension, Jesuit campuses need to develop spiritual programs that help community members “see and live out of the understanding that all people are created in the image and likeness of God.” Members of the majority community whose perspectives and identities dominate need to get in touch, Dante argues, with how their vision often excludes the experiences of others who are “marginalized, excluded, and invisible.” 

Thankfully Ignatian spiritual direction and retreats, like the Setting Captives Free program, offer participants the opportunity to undergo their own “inner journey around blindness” to become more aware and more conscious of why many BIPOC members of the university community do not always feel like they belong. Pope Francis has described these dynamics, referring to racism as a “virus that quickly mutates and, instead of disappearing, goes into hiding, and lurks in waiting.” 

While Juneteenth is certainly a time for celebration of the struggle for freedom and equality, it is also an important time at Georgetown to re-commit to this long-haul work of racial justice. Spiritual resources can accompany that journey. 

5 Steps to Facilitate Meaningful Meetings: Insights from Georgetown’s Summer Programs

This week’s post is about the importance of small group discussions and how effective facilitation can help participants, like the students participating in Georgetown’s summer programs, strive for deeper meaning and purpose in their education.  Image is from Georgetown’s “A Different Dialogue Program.” 

As the summer gets underway, a dedicated team of SCS staff has been preparing for months to welcome students for a wide-ranging set of summer programs. These summer experiences cater to the needs of diverse student audiences, including high school students from around the country coming to main campus for a dedicated experience of university life. Some programs last the duration of the summer months and others are shorter in length. Mission in Motion reflects each year, for instance, on the mission-driven Summer College Immersion Program (SCIP), a three-week residential experience of Georgetown for talented students in the KIPP Foundation and Cristo Rey Network of schools. What is distinctive about Georgetown’s summer offerings is that they present students with the opportunity to engage with Georgetown’s traditions of academic excellence, community, and globally significant position in the nation’s capital. 

Each summer semester requires an entire year’s worth of planning and preparation. As part of this effort, the summer staff reviews and evaluates how it can improve its delivery of services and support for summer students. As part of this year’s effort, I was invited to deliver a training for the staff working for Georgetown’s High School Summer Academies. The Academies are one, two, or three weeks in length and organized around different thematic areas, like Biotechnology, American Politics, and International Relations. Some of the students venturing to Georgetown’s Hilltop campus have never traveled to Washington, D.C., or had the experience of living independently in a college dorm. The summer staff hoped that I might provide some guidance for how to effectively facilitate small group discussions for students throughout the summer. 

Summer staff serve as resources to the students as they navigate classes and life on campus. The convening of small groups throughout the summer is invaluable for many reasons, including the formation of deeper bonds among smaller groups of students outside of the traditional classroom experience. Small groups also help summer students reflect on the learning occurring within classes. I introduced some suggestions for practices rooted in Ignatian pedagogical principles. My view is that facilitating an effective small group is a key skill that is transferable to many areas of professional life. But more than organizational effectiveness, facilitation as a skill relates to helping others experience the deeper meaning and purpose of a Georgetown education rooted in the Jesuit tradition of education. My five-step framework for facilitating can help convert an ordinary experience of group discussion into something more meaningful.

First, Invite: Make sure your attendees know what to expect during the meeting and what they are being asked to do. Too often, we do not consider how a small group conversation can become a rich opportunity for learning and growth. To ensure this possibility, the facilitator needs to set the expectations in advance about how participants are expected to show up and participate. 

Second, Create the Space: Establishing a space as safe, brave, and sacred means making certain intentional decisions about the meeting setting. This means that the facilitator needs to think about the arrangement of chairs and how participants are able to see each other, communicate with each other, and learn from each other. Creating space also means being clear about the community agreements that will govern discussion. For instance, how will the group handle confidentiality, technology, and conflict in the space? Responsible facilitation means being clear about the ethics that will guide the process. 

Third, Maintain the Space: Facilitation is an active practice because it necessitates being involved throughout the experience. The facilitator needs to get involved when community agreements are violated or the group is getting off track. This means reading the room, so to speak, and making judgments about what the group needs in order to sustain the discussion. Effective facilitators also recognize opportunities to healthily work through conflicts emerging in the space. Some conflicts are too big and difficult for a group so must be managed outside the group structure. Maintaining the space also means monitoring time and keeping the group on time. 

Fourth, Check In: Facilitators learn to interact with a group in ways that respond to the group’s particular needs. Each group has a different life and a different culture. It is helpful for the facilitator, especially in a learning experience at Georgetown, to time and again remind the group of the larger purpose of the activity. Why are we here? How does this discussion help deepen the meaning that you are making of your time in the classroom? The Ignatian Pedagogical Paradigm puts “reflection” after “experience” because meaning-making of an experience requires intentional interior processing of all that happened during the experience itself. 

Fifth, Transition: How the meeting ends is in the control of the facilitator. The hope is that participants know when the conversation concludes and how this particular meeting relates to the next one. Giving the group good incentives to return to the following conversation is helpful to maintaining the energy and buy-in of the participants. One helpful way to transition is to mark the end of the meeting with some symbolic practice, like a poem or prayer or piece of music. 

Georgetown’s summer staff teams gives students an accelerated experience in a short amount of time. Their work is invaluable and critical to ensuring that the University’s Jesuit mission and values come to life in the student experience.

SCS Faculty Leader Demonstrates Georgetown’s Values by Helping Advance Federal Legislation to End Parkinson’s

The week’s post explores the Jesuit educational commitment to public service by highlighting the efforts of SCS Faculty Director Carol Blymire to support federal Parkinson’s legislation that recently passed the U.S. Congress. 

In recent weeks, Commencement celebrations have highlighted graduating students in the Georgetown community whose achievements and personal stories exemplify the University’s Jesuit values. The annual graduation exercises serve as a helpful moment of reflection for the entire community about the deeper meaning and purpose of a Georgetown education. Faculty play an essential role in this mission-driven endeavor through their valued contributions of teaching, research, and service. The invitation to faculty to use their intellectual and professional gifts in service of the world’s great needs is a distinguishing hallmark of the mission of Jesuit higher education. 

This week I would like to highlight the work of Carol Blymire, Faculty Director of the Master’s in Public Relations & Corporate Communications program. Carol has been assisting the Michael J. Fox Foundation and the Parkinson’s community for over 20 years, utilizing her professional skills and training to help promote causes dear to the Parkinson’s community. The most recent effort of this kind was legislative advocacy for The National Plan to End Parkinson’s Act, which successfully passed the U.S. Congress in May 2024. The bill advances national efforts to treat, prevent, and cure Parkinson’s through federal research funding. 

Carol describes her professional contribution to this monumental achievement in this way: 

“Working with advocates to tell their stories to Members of Congress, using persuasive comms skills honed over decades in my career, and calling on folks in my network far and wide to get this across the finish line were some of the most important tools in my PR toolkit for this effort.”

What is noteworthy about this observation is the degree to which it affirms the SCS style of mission-driven professional education for adult learners seeking to positively impact their communities. Professional learners are being educated to gain new skills and perspectives, but also to develop strategies for effectively leveraging their own considerable experience and knowledge in service of new tasks demanded by their industries. Professional skills learned at SCS, through the work of faculty leaders like Carol Blymire, help students achieve what Jesuit Superior General Arturo Sosa calls “public service as a personal commitment.” 

Sosa’s 2018 address, “The University as a Source of a Reconciled Life,” is an instructive way to make meaning of faculty contributions to the common good: 

“Becoming world citizens would be one of the outcomes to be achieved from studying or working in an educational institution of the Society of Jesus. It 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. Being called upon to make a direct commitment in politics involves placing oneself at the service of reconciliation and justice, and is both complex and necessary.”

It is heartening that SCS students have faculty models across the programs who put into practice in their own professional areas of work what they share in their classrooms. SCS faculty are helping their students listen to the call to be of greater service in a world that greatly needs them.

SCS 2024 Commencement Celebrates Graduates, Encourages Compassion and Cultivation of Life-Long Relationships

This year’s SCS Commencement featured poignant reflections about the state of the world and how graduates can contribute to peace, justice, and the common good. Watch the ceremony on Facebook.

After months of diligent preparation, the SCS Commencement Ceremony last week was a triumphant experience of celebration and meaningful reflection on the purpose of our education at Georgetown. For the first time, SCS was the first school-based ceremony of the weekend and the event took place on a beautiful May afternoon in Washington, D.C. With planes overhead in the flight path of the airport and the familiar chimes of the Healy Hall bells, the sounds and sights of the graduation festivities created an atmosphere of excitement and joy. Occurring against the backdrop of profound challenges for humanity in the country and around the world, each set of remarks invited the proud graduates to consider the deeper meaning of their time at Georgetown. In this way, the SCS Commencement featured many direct references to Jesuit values and the Ignatian principles that guide the University’s mission. 

Norah O’Donnell served as the Commencement Speaker and invited SCS graduates to reflect on the quality of their relationships as the key to a “well-lived life.” 

Fr. Greg Schenden, S.J., Director of Campus Ministry, gave the invocation prayer that called upon the graduates and the entire community to continuously commit to the “ongoing work of formation” in a “spirit of belonging.” His prayer reminded the assembled of the “gift of our mission” that is realized through the practices of discernment and reflection that ultimately lead us to be in solidarity with all.  Rabbi Rachel Gartner, Senior Advisor for Spiritual Care at SCS, delivered a moving benediction to close the ceremony. Rabbi Rachel’s prayer centered on gratitude and the “gift of our lives” that help sustain us to meet and address the “brokenness and anguish of our world.” A broad vision and a wide horizon are needed, prayed Rabbi Rachel, in order to rejoice fully when we “can all rejoice together.” Both religious leaders signaled the shared commitment across the religious traditions represented at the University to work for peace, justice, and the common good. 

Norah O’Donnell, Anchor and Managing Editor of “CBS News,” as well as a Triple Hoya (including two SCS Degrees: a Master of Liberal Studies and an honorary degree awarded at the ceremony), delivered the primary commencement address. O’Donnell, referencing the deeper mission and purpose of Jesuit education, called on the graduates to be inspired by their relationships. She distinguished between three kinds of relationships: the relationship with the self, between the self and family and friends, and between the self and the larger community. At each of these levels, reflected O’Donnell, we are called to find meaning and purpose: “This I know is true. Of all that I have done and learned through my education here at this same graduate school, from friends and family to interviewing the most fascinating people in the world, it is this: The quality of your life is built on the quality of your relationships. That’s it. That’s my thesis for a well-lived life.” O’Donnell’s reflections acknowledged the growing cultural and political polarization in the country and around the world, encouraging more listening and more compassion and curiosity toward those with differing views. 

In addition to these poignant reflections, the SCS Commencement featured the usual business of graduation, including the awarding of more than 1,000 degrees. This annual exercise is one of the cherished opportunities for all of the SCS community to be together and celebrate the shared purpose of our educational endeavors. SCS is a school with a diverse portfolio of programs and offerings, but it is ultimately united by a mission to transform its learners into graduates who can realize a better future. 

Getting to Know the Context of the School of Continuing Studies

 This week’s post is a contextual introduction to the School of Continuing Studies, inspired by the Ignatian Pedagogical Paradigm. 

Last week, Mission in Motion offered an Examen reflection, inspired by the University’s Jesuit heritage, to help graduating students reflect on the meaning of the coming Commencement exercises. This week, I would like to apply some of the Ignatian Pedagogical Paradigm (IPP), the inspirational framework for teaching and learning in Jesuit schools inspired by the dynamics of the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola and the principles and practices of Ignatian spirituality, in order to fully appreciate the meaning of the SCS approach to learning on the eve of Commencement. The IPP is an interrelated and interconnected process that supports the student and the teacher as whole persons throughout the learning process. An Ignatian Pedagogical approach begins with Context, moves to Experience, and then follows with Reflection, Action, and Evaluation. The cycle is continuous and dynamic.

The Ignatian Pedagogical Paradigm (IPP) is an interrelated set of dynamics organized around a meaningful learning process, with Context at the beginning. 

Inspired by the IPP and its stages of learning, I would like to offer a brief reflection on the context of SCS. My hope is that sharing a bit more about the reality of the School will be helpful over the coming week of Commencement, especially for those traveling to the graduation events and meeting SCS for the first time. This introduction to the context of our learning community will hopefully help visitors appreciate how the School achieves a unity of mission and purpose in light of the diversity of students, modalities, and disciplinary approaches. 

According to the IPP, context refers to the establishment of the background conditions and factors that influence the learning situation for students and teachers. According to the Faculty Center for Ignatian Pedagogy at Loyola University Chicago, context is:

“Clearly the background of the framework. As St. Ignatius directed, we always want to recognize how the time and space we occupy, and the socio-geo-political happenings of our day have relevance for our teaching and students’ learning. Context is constantly evolving and therefore must be under on-going consideration.”

The foundational importance of context is related to the insistence by St. Ignatius in the Spiritual Exercises to enter into a “Composition of Place,” at the start of imaginative prayer and meditation exercises. The retreatant is invited to consider all the physical and material details of the scene in which one is entering so as to faithfully and humbly acknowledge what is already at work in a particular situation. We can then apply this approach to context by exploring all of the basic details that comprise the School of Continuing Studies. One way to do this is to enjoy this four-minute video introduction to the history of the School. Another way to do this is to read the latest SCS Dean’s Report, which provides both descriptive statistics about the composition of the School’s students, staff, and faculty but also a values-driven orientation to the mission commitments of SCS programs and initiatives.  

Reading through the 2022-2023 SCS Dean’s Report is a good way to better understand the mission and purpose of the School and who it serves. 

One might most fully appreciate the context of SCS by spending time reflecting on its particular mission: “To deliver a world-class, values-based education to a diverse array of communities and individuals throughout their academic and professional careers; to improve employability and develop workforces; and to contribute to building a civic-minded, well-informed, and globally aware society.” You might become more familiar with how SCS realizes this unique mission, in the context of Georgetown’s overall Jesuit mission and purpose, by spending some time reading through the examples shared on the Mission in Motion blog. 

I hope that a fuller picture of who SCS is and why it operates helps all of us appreciate the deeper meaning of the Commencement exercises. This is a time for celebration of student accomplishments. It is also a time to reflect on who we are as a School and why our mission matters for the betterment of the world.

An Examen Meditation for Commencement Season

This week’s post is a suggested reflection in advance of Commencement. 

In a few short weeks, Georgetown will host more than 10 different Commencement ceremonies that celebrate the graduating class of 2024. As staff and faculty, the annual occasion of Commencement is a refreshing reminder of the ultimate academic purpose of the university. For graduating students, the excitement of walking across the stage marks a terminus, an end point that is also the beginning of something new. These days of Commencement stir up so many emotions, some in concert and some in conflict. How am I different today than when I entered my Georgetown program? How am I being called to use the gifts of my Georgetown education in service of the world’s great and pressing needs? What does the future look like in a time of great disruption, uncertainty, and instability? 

These questions are natural and present an invaluable opportunity for deeper reflection, prayer, meditation, and counseling with trusted guides. With these much-anticipated graduation events on the horizon, I invite all of us in the Georgetown community to contemplatively consider these prompts in an Examen style of meditation. My hope is that taking time to quietly recollect our feelings in advance will lead to more grounded savoring of the exciting events to come. 

Composition of Place – First, take some time to notice the context of your life. Where are you? As you prepare for Commencement, how would you describe your world? Bring to mind all of the rich descriptive details that compose the scenes of your daily life. For example, to what communities (professional, personal, civic, religious, etc.) are you devoting yourself? What are the situations you observe on a daily basis? How are you being influenced by the places and spaces that surround you? 

Gratitude – Second, for whom and for what in your life are you the most grateful? What are the experiences, persons, and places from your time at Georgetown that arise as the most significant gifts? Allow yourself to notice everything that constitutes gratitude, but sit with the most important gifts for a longer period of time. Relish these gifts. 

Emotional Review of Experience – Third, go over the major experiences of your time at Georgetown and permit yourself not only to recall and remember these times but also how you feel now, in the present, about them. Try to notice the most significant feelings that come to the surface during your review of the Georgetown experiences you’ve had. What  brought you deep gladness and joy that put you more in touch with your sense of purpose and belonging? What brought about the opposite inner movements, namely dryness, desolation, or discouragement about your sense of self and how you relate to a larger purpose in life? 

Make a Commitment to Your Future – As you prepare to enter fully into the time of Commencement being ushered forth into the next steps of your life, make a resolution about how you would like to commit yourself to choices and actions that help realize your true self. Are you noticing yourself being challenged or invited to make a positive impact in some small or large way? What is justice and the common good asking of you in your particular situation of life and work? 

I invite you to cherish any opportunities for some quiet reflection in the week leading up to the formal ceremonies of Commencement. Look back with delight as you look forward with hope! Congratulations, Class of 2024! 

SCS Lives Out Value of “Care for Our Common Home” Through Earth Day Service

The vital importance of environmental sustainability at Georgetown is reflected in the most recent addition to the Spirit of Georgetown, the value of “Care for Our Common Home.” This value emerges from the deep teaching and moral tradition of Catholic Social Thought, articulated in urgent ways by Pope Francis and his teaching documents “Laudato Si” and “Laudato Deum.” Attentiveness to the degradation of the natural environment and taking active steps to remediate this harm is shared across major religious and philosophical traditions as well as among people of good will. The growth of new programs like Earth Commons and a more robust Office of Sustainability also reinforce the University’s deep commitment to healing the Earth. 

April is Earth Month and Georgetown’s Office of Sustainability has celebrated it with many activities and programs. SCS participated in Earth Month by organizing a day of service with Anacostia Riverkeeper, a local nonprofit dedicated to “protect and restore the Anacostia River for all who live, work, and play in its watershed, and to advocate for a clean river for all its communities.” This week’s post is an interview with Keenan Courtland, SCS Program Director for the Business & Management degree programs. Keenan took the initiative to help organize this opportunity for the SCS community and reflects on the day and what it means for how SCS lives out its mission and values. 

This week’s post is an interview with SCS staff person Keenan Courtland (green shirt), who organized an Earth Day service event with Anacostia Riverkeeper. From left: Emmalie Ferazzi; Shayna Mustee, Program Manager; Keenan Courtland, Program Director; Nikhil Moondra (G’24). (courtesy Anacostia Riverkeeper)   
  1. Tell us a bit about the SCS Earth Day activity that you helped organize. What motivated this event? 

Having grown up in this region, I’ve maintained an interest in improving the health of our parks and waterways. When I joined the Real Estate program here at SCS, it was a clear connection to want to do something related to improving the spaces that we look to impact with our work. I’ve known the team at Anacostia Riverkeeper (ARK) for several years, and I value their commitment to improving our local waterways and the support they provide to volunteer groups. This event, the Clean Waterways Cleanup, has removed over 141,000 pounds of trash from the Anacostia River Watershed in the past decade, through regular cleanups at strategic locations throughout the city.

  1. This effort affirms “Care for Our Common Home,” one of the core values of the Spirit of Georgetown. How do you understand this particular value and how does it relate to all of our work at SCS? 

It is more urgent than ever to act to reverse the adverse effects that pollution has had on our ecosystem. In recent years, D.C.’s rivers have seen a noticeable improvement, which is encouraging when it’s difficult to see how our daily actions can impact the bigger picture. At SCS, we have so many innovative students and faculty leading innovative projects that impact the environment that we often lose sight of how each of us can make an impact with our everyday actions. Our collective efforts to use compostable products, reusable water bottles, and public transit alternatives all demonstrate a shared responsibility towards ensuring a healthy environment for current and future Hoyas.

SCS contributed to “Clean Waterways Cleanup,” an initiative of Anacostia Riverkeeper. (courtesy Anacostia Riverkeeper)
  1. As you reflect on this experience, how would you like to maintain the momentum around environmental sustainability and service at SCS? 

There is something invigorating about physically impacting your community and leaving something better than you found it. ARK hosts a variety of clean-up events that can accommodate people with a wide-range of abilities who are interested in environmental sustainability. As for maintaining the momentum around this work, I would like to organize regular, diverse activities that focus on identifying opportunities to impact the greater D.C., Maryland, and Virginia ecosystem. Waiting until next April is not enough for us to harness the collective power we have here at SCS; we must identify ways to impact our community and build regular intention to this vital work. My hope is that by next year we will have students and faculty from across all SCS programs sharing in this exciting, connective work.

  1. Anything else you would like to share? 

Page 3 and beyond of the 2023 Anacostia Riverkeeper Trash Report [PDF] discuss the impact of this project.

2024 SCS Spirit of Georgetown Winner Reflects on Gifts of Life, Family, and Georgetown

Each year, Georgetown SCS honors outstanding students, faculty, staff, and alumni at the annual Tropaia Awards in Gaston Hall. This is a treasured occasion to publicly celebrate the ways that SCS community members bring the Spirit of Georgetown, the Jesuit mission and values that animate this entire learning community, to life in their study and work. The SCS Spirit of Georgetown award is selected by a committee of faculty and staff through a rigorous process of reviewing peer nominations. 

This year’s winner is Mary Delaney Fox, a graduating student in the Master’s in Public Relations & Corporate Communications program. Mary’s story is about the transformation that is possible when we translate loss into new life. Born at Georgetown hospital, she would not be here today if someone had not been an organ donor for her mother, who survived a life-threatening condition because of the gift that she received. Profoundly impacted by this experience, she has committed her professional career to Infinite Legacy. A nonprofit organization, Infinite Legacy works with 68 hospitals and eight transplant centers to decrease the number of people waiting for a life-saving transplant, and educates people about the critical importance of registering to be a donor. Mary has used her bilingual skills to educate underserved communities about the importance of staying healthy and leaving a lasting legacy by registering to become an organ donor. Mary’s interview, which falls in Donate Life Month, is an opportunity to share more with the SCS community about the life-saving possibilities of organ donation. 

This week’s post is an interview with Mary Delaney Fox, a graduating student who has been transformed by her family’s story and has made her academic and professional career about promoting organ donation.  
  1. Tell us a bit about your story. What led you to Georgetown SCS and where is your journey heading a few years after your graduation? 

Before I was born, a generous organ donor donated a kidney to my mother which saved my mother’s life and allowed me to exist. 

My mother waited eight long years to receive her kidney transplant and my parents prayed every night that my mother’s life be saved. They prayed not only for my mother’s life to be saved, but they also prayed for our donor hero and our donor’s family. 

My mother’s kidney transplant restored her health, saved her life, and enabled her to marry the love of her life and have two children. My parents named me Mary, in honor of praying to Mary for eight years and to honor my mother’s journey which was saved by a generous organ donor. My mother’s life-saving surgery took place at Georgetown. Shortly after my mother’s life was saved at Georgetown, I was born at Georgetown.  

Since then, Georgetown has always held a special place in my heart, because of the kindness of our organ donor and the talents of the medical team at Georgetown that saved my mother’s life. Years later, the exceptionally talented Georgetown medical team took care of my mom with her pregnancy and then I was later born at Georgetown. I knew in my heart I would always return to Georgetown University, the place that saved my mother’s life and where I was later born and honor the Georgetown name by giving back. 

Growing up knowing you are a miracle baby and are alive today thanks to someone else’s generosity and kindness changes you. It absolutely changed the trajectory of my life. 

In fact, I have spent the last 15 years of my career in Communications and Community Outreach working at Infinite Legacy and supporting Donate Life America by serving on the Donate Life America Advisory Council and Chair of the Donate Life America Ambassadors Committee helping to educate the Washington, D.C., community on the importance of organ donation and sharing how you can be a hero and save someone’s life one day. Recently, I was awarded two Pinnacle Awards by Donate Life America, the highest industry honors, recognizing my Communications and Community Outreach efforts in promoting organ donation awareness. 

At my nonprofit, I work with underserved and multicultural communities, which are the most in need of life-saving organ transplants. As a native Spanish speaker, it is especially important for me to work with Spanish communities on the importance of staying healthy and the significant legacy you can leave by registering to be an organ donor. 

I am blessed to work with 200+ Donate Life Ambassadors who all have a direct connection to donation, whether it be they received a second chance at life with a lifesaving organ transplant or with donor families, who in their last act of charity of love, their donor hero gave the gift of life to others. Our Donate Life Ambassadors are instrumental in our mission as we work to promote organ donation awareness and education. I work with miracles every day and it fuels my passion and dedication to this mission-driven and life-saving work.  

Receiving my graduate degree at Georgetown has solidified my passion for Public Relations and Communications. I am confident using my power of purpose will continue to help organizations and communities celebrate the gift of connection with passionate storytelling. 

  1. What does the Spirit of Georgetown mean to you? 

The Spirit of Georgetown means identifying your passion which will lead to your purpose and the gifts you are meant to share with the world. 

For me, the Spirit of Georgetown means combining the Georgetown values and incredible knowledge learned from the amazing professors and faculty and leaning into your calling. You were meant to bring greatness to the world and the Spirit of Georgetown empowers you to be your best self and show up with purpose in everything you do. 

In this week’s Mission in Motion, Georgetown SCS graduating student Mary Delaney Fox shares about how her family has sustained and inspired her journey at the University. 
  1. As you reflect back on your time at SCS, what advice or inspiration would you like to share with the soon-to-be graduates? 

I will dedicate my Outstanding Public Relations & Corporate Communications Award and Spirit of Georgetown Award to my mom saying, “I did it Mommy! This award is for you.” It will also be the greatest Father’s Day gift I can give my dad who was instrumental in keeping me going while juggling multiple high priority responsibilities in my graduate school life. I kept my promise to both of my parents. Most importantly, I kept my promise to myself. 

My life-changing journey at Georgetown would not have been possible without the incredible support of my family: my brother, Timothy; loving husband, Philip; and my two beautiful children, Laney and Alex. Together as a family, we worked to support mommy going to Georgetown and my young children were immersed in seeing the value of hard work and dedication.

All of my professors have recognized my strength, academic achievements, and professional accomplishments and truly supported me during my Georgetown graduate journey. I have found a supportive family at Georgetown and know my professors and graduate colleagues will be lifelong friends and mentors for life.

Graduating from Georgetown University is the culmination of the hardest and most rewarding experience of my life. I want other graduate students to see that they can do it, too, even when they are going through an incredibly stressful season in their life. Dreams do come true when you believe in yourself—even when the odds seem impossible.  

When life gets hard, you are stronger than you think. There is hope, even when all hope feels lost. Anything is possible when you have the courage to follow your dreams. Keep going. 

  1. Anything else to share?  

Special thank you to all of my professors who have mentored me, supported me, and poured so much knowledge and wisdom into me. My Georgetown University graduate journey has taught me how strong and resilient I am and highlighted the gifts and talents I am meant to use to help make the world a better place. 

My story would not exist if it was not for our family’s generous organ donor. A profound thank you to our family’s donor hero. Organ donation does not just save the patient in need, it also saves families and, in my case, changes the course of history and allowed me to be born. I exist today because of the miracle of organ donation. I am a living testament to the miracle of organ donation. Organ donation saves lives! Visit to learn more about organ donation and register to be a hero and save lives.