Interested in Spiritual Direction? A Short Introduction and Invitation to Explore

SCS students have recently participated in several retreats offered by the Office of Mission and Ministry, including “Contemplation in Daily Life,” a week-long inter-faith opportunity which Mission in Motion reviewed here, and “God’s Light and Love,” a six week retreat in daily life modeled upon Ignatian forms of prayer These experiences encourage students to grow in our university value of being Contemplatives in Action. Both retreat experiences include an expectation that participants engage in contemplative practices, like prayer and meditation, on their own for 30 minutes a day. These retreats are also designed for participants to meet regularly with a spiritual director. 

Given heightened interest amongst SCS students for these retreats, I want to introduce and explain the practice of spiritual direction and explore how students can meet with a spiritual director during their time at Georgetown. My focus today will be on spiritual direction offered in the Christian tradition, especially the Ignatian style promoted by the Jesuits, but a future post will consider options for receiving spiritual direction or religious advising in the other faith traditions well-represented at Georgetown.

Inspired by SCS student interest in retreats recently offered by Mission and Ministry, we explore the definition of spiritual direction and how the SCS community can learn more about this resource (Image from

Spiritual direction is an ancient practice that involves two people of faith entering into a sacred conversation. A trained guide helps the one receiving direction pay closer attention to the way God is communicating with him or her. A hopeful outcome of receiving spiritual direction is that one sifts through their daily experiences with a particular focus on the religious significance of their interior movements: thoughts, feelings, stirrings, desires, inclinations, disinclinations, etc. The director is not telling the directee what to think, feel, or believe, but rather, helping the other respond to how God might be inviting the directee into a deeper relationship or union. 

Someone giving spiritual direction in the Ignatian style will be rooted in the dynamics of the Spiritual Exercises, a theological vision about a world in which each person is capable of uncovering their deepest desires shaped by the Holy Spirit. The Ignatian spiritual director, committed to a partnership that respects the directee’s unique personality, life history, and experience, explores how God is moving in the other’s life. While spiritual direction is considered a helping discipline, it is important to note that spiritual direction is not therapy or counseling. The spiritual director is not helping the one receiving direction solve a problem or diagnose an issue. Instead, the focus is always upon the lived religious experience of the directee. 

For more information about spiritual direction, please see: “Spiritual Direction.” For more about the Ignatian style of spiritual direction, please see: “What is Distinctive About Ignatian Spiritual Direction?” 

There are many ways to explore the richness of spiritual direction in the Ignatian tradition at Georgetown. Mission in Motion will continue to promote upcoming retreats as ways for students, alumni, faculty, and staff to experience spiritual direction in the context of a retreat. Outside of a retreat format, ongoing spiritual direction can be offered once per month for an hour. If you are interested in learning more about the possibility of receiving spiritual direction at Georgetown SCS, please reach out to Jamie Kralovec, SCS associate director for mission integration, at 

Georgetown’s Center for Social Justice Hosts Education for Liberation Week, Oct. 19-23

Over the years, the School of Continuing Studies has deepened its partnership with the Center for Social Justice, Teaching, Research and Service (CSJ). SCS students have participated in CSJ programs, including the Alternative Breaks Program, and CSJ has supported community-engaged curriculum at SCS like the “Jesuit Values in Professional Practice” course. Last year, CSJ collaborated with SCS on its Day of Service by developing a program of awareness-raising and training around the issues of homelessness in the neighborhood surrounding SCS.

The Center for Social Justice is hosting virtual events Oct 19 – 23 as part of Education for Liberation Week. Check out the series here

CSJ lives out its mission at Georgetown to “advance justice and the common good” as it “promotes and integrates community-based research, teaching and service by collaborating with diverse partners and communities.” CSJ enacts this mission in three key areas: community and public service, curriculum and pedagogy, and engaged research. Next week, from October 19–23, CSJ will host a series of events titled “Education for Liberation.” Consistent with its mission of educating the campus community around pressing issues of social injustice, the series intends to raise awareness about both the challenges and celebrations within the current field of education. This series is a valuable opportunity for SCS students, alumni, staff, and faculty to learn from community-engaged practitioners, scholar-activists, and others involved in culturally responsive and antiracist pedagogy.

Georgetown’s Center for Social Justice has been offering many programs to live out its mission during these virtual times. Check out the website for more information at

There is an amazing array of virtual programs to choose from next week. From “A Dialogue with Creative Educators” focused on uplifting the voices of marginalized youth, to “The Role and Importance of Community-Based Organizations in Education” addressing community-based efforts in DC to support social-emotional development of K-12 students, the events offer important insights about the challenges facing the field of education. There are even fun and relaxing ways throughout the week to lower stress and tension through meditative dance at a “Joy and Jam Session.” At a time when many are questioning the state and future of education, particularly higher education, there is much to learn from CSJ and its commitment to living out the university’s Jesuit values through programs like Education for Liberation Week.

Join Us on SCS Instagram Live for Mindfulness Meditation in the Midst of Midterms

In these past months, Mission in Motion has explored the emotional, psychological, physical, and spiritual benefits of meditative practice. We have invited the SCS community to join our ongoing Digital Daily Meditations hosted each day of the work week at 12 p.m. EST (see post here), presented on the relationship between mindfulness meditation and the work of racial justice (see post here), and surveyed SCS meditators about their experience in the daily gatherings (see post here). As we head into the mid-point of this virtual semester, and the associated challenges posed by many projects and exams, we are excited to share that SCS will host a daily 2-minute meditation on Instagram Live at 11:50 a.m. EST from Tuesday, October 13 through Friday, October 16. You can join us and experience meditation first-hand by visiting the SCS Instagram page @georgetownscs.

There are many kinds of meditative practice, which arise out of various traditions. Our focus next week will be on mindfulness meditation, which invites deeper awareness of one’s consciousness through conscious breathing and body scanning that calm one’s body and one’s mind. The hope of mindfulness meditation is that stilling the body and the mind enables us to enter more deeply into loving presence of our truest selves and into generous connections with others. Mindfulness meditation is an opportunity to pause, settle the mind and body, and proceed in our days with greater awareness of our interior movements. This practice is particularly helpful in these times, as we continue to navigate some difficult and challenging feelings surfacing within us. If you are looking for some calming pause in your day, join us next week on Instagram Live!

Importance of Civic Participation, Discernment Tools in this Election Season

Georgetown University’s mission statement makes clear that our education is to form “reflective lifelong learners, to be responsible and active participants in civic life and to live generously in service to others.” The university’s location in the nation’s capital and the multitude of programs at Georgetown dedicated to political engagement confirm this mission commitment. Georgetown celebrates civic participation in so many ways, and recently made voting easier for university students by integrating a voter registration portal into MyAccess, Georgetown’s course registration system, and partnering with The Andrew Goodman Foundation on a digital voter engagement website. These efforts have encouraged a culture of civic participation among students, alumni, staff, and faculty.

 Georgetown has encouraged the community to engage in civic participation. To learn more about the “GU Votes” initiative, see

Political and civic engagement, especially in an election year, can be dispiriting and discouraging, however. Many people turn away from civic life and politics because of the negativity of election campaigns, incessant commercials and advertisements, and the potential that one’s political views can become a source of conflict among families, friends, co-workers, classmates, etc. Despite the messiness of civic participation, which includes voting, advocating for issues and candidates, and encouraging community participation in public policies, this participation is a great good to be pursued. Pope Francis, for instance, describes how “meddling in politics” is virtuous because it is a form of service to the common good. By not voting or engaging in civic life, we run the risk of abdicating our shared responsibilities. 

The Jesuit Conference of Canada and the U.S. has created a guide to assist in discernment about political engagement. Learn more about the guide here

This fall, as we enter more deeply into election season, I share a resource crafted by the Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United State. The document, “Contemplation and Political Action: An Ignatian Guide to Civic Engagement,” offers a framework rooted in the discernment tools of the Jesuits and their founder St. Ignatius of Loyola. There are good suggestions in this guide for how to approach the “messy, urgent work of politics” while remaining grounded in one’s personal values and convictions. Different examples of civic engagement from across the Jesuit network–including efforts to confront systemic racism, care for those most marginalized by the COVID-19 pandemic, and protecting the planet against environmental harm–illustrate the diverse ways that we can enter more fully into civic life. An Ignatian Guide to Civic Engagement is intended to be used either in personal reflection or in dialogue with others.

One of the most insightful takeaways of the guide comes from its encouragement to use two kinds of listening in discerning one’s political priorities. Based on the work of Ignatian-inspired author Margaret Silf, dual listening includes the listening of both the “mystic” and the “prophet.” To listen as a mystic is to get in touch “with the invisible currents under the immediate surface of society, and discerning, at this level, what is leading us towards a fuller humanity, and what is diminishing our human-ness.” The prophet, on the other hand, listens by addressing “what the mystic sees, challenging all that is threatening to undermine humanity’s journey towards life-in-all-its-fullness, and encouraging all that is nourishing and empowering that journey.” 

These two types of listening about civic participation invite all of us in the Georgetown SCS community to reflect and act on important questions:

  • As you live in the world, what social forces do you think are most damaging to human dignity today? 
  • How are you being called to address these challenges to human dignity, both in your own life and in your collaboration with others in your community? 
  • Do you take time in your day to notice beauty in the world around you? How does this noticing shape your choices to keep the good of humanity and of the planet in mind?

Contemplation in Daily Life Retreat and Wellbeing Workshops Support Students

This week we highlight two important resources for students that directly address the upheaval and distance of this semester. Together, these opportunities reflect Georgetown’s commitment to a whole person education that attends to the many dimensions of student lives. 

Contemplation in Daily Life is a week-long program that offers students opportunities to engage in contemplative practices from a variety of religious traditions with the accompaniment of a spiritual adviser. These spiritual advisers come from the multifaith team of Campus Ministry. Over the course of a single week (October 4 through October 9), participants will be guided through 30 minutes of daily practices and will meet one-on-one with a spiritual advisor for 30 minutes to reflect on their experiences. At the beginning of the week, participants will gather as a community of diverse identities to share their journeys. The retreat begins with a virtual gathering from 8 to 9:00 p.m. EST on Sunday, October 4 and ends with a virtual closing from 3 to 4:00 p.m. EST on Friday, October 9. Students need to apply by September 27 at midnight EST to be considered for the retreat. 

Contemplation in Daily Life is a unique virtual retreat opportunity for students to experience the contemplative practices of different religious traditions. The retreat is from October 4 to 9. Learn more and apply here by Sept 27.

The beauty of this retreat, which especially affirms the university’s value of Interreligious Understanding and Contemplation in Action, is that students can choose from among a diversity of programs. From “Deepening Friendship with God: A Prayer in Daily Life Retreat” to “Muraqabah and Mindfulness in the Islamic Tradition” to “Poetic Prayer in Daily Life: Protestant Christian Edition,” many possible paths are established for students on their contemplative journeys. The depth of this offering, represented by many spiritual advisors from across diverse traditions, illustrates the strength of Georgetown’s Campus Ministry. 

The Wellbeing Workshop Series this fall presents opportunities for students to support their wellness. Students can sign up at this site.

Another opportunity for students to consider is the Wellbeing Workshop Series, a collaborative cross-campus effort between the Engelhard Project, Counseling and Psychiatric Services (CAPS), and Health Education Services (HES). The intention behind the series of workshops is to present skills-building resources for students to promote wellness and mental health. The workshops address a wide range of issues that impact wellbeing, including “Managing Stress and Anxiety During COVID,” “Bringing Your Authentic Self to a Virtual World,” and “Navigating Cultural Forces and COVID: Exploring Your Values.” Students can sign up for any of the workshops at this link

In a profound way, these opportunities for students make clear that physical distancing need not mean social isolation. These resources, which flow out from commitments to the university’s mission and values, offer important support for students in these times of challenge. 

What’s the Connection Between Our Mission and the Work of Racial Justice?

This week marked an important milestone in efforts at the School of Continuing Studies to address issues of systemic racial injustice in our institution and in our communities. 

A newly formed leadership committee of six full-time SCS faculty and staff announced the first public meeting of the Diversity, Equity, Belonging & Inclusion Council (DEBIC).  All SCS students, faculty, alumni, and staff, are invited to participate in DEBIC, which will have its first public meeting on September 30 from 2 to 3 p.m. EST (sign up here to RSVP for the meeting). The purpose of DEBIC is to provide direction and leadership for initiatives at SCS that work to fully integrate diversity and inclusion values into all aspects of our academic setting. 

Photo of Archbishop John Carroll in front of Healy Hall on Georgetown’s Hilltop Campus. We ask this week: what does our university mission have to do with racial justice?

The formation of  DEBIC follows a summer of active listening sessions in which, through circles for faculty and staff, student and alumni forums, and open feedback forms, members of the SCS community expressed their experiences, feelings, and perspectives about racism and social exclusion. While DEBIC will focus on projects and activities that affirm and welcome all members of the SCS community in the diversity of their identities, they will place a particular emphasis on combating racism and racial injustice. 

As we prepare for meaningful actions to ensure that SCS addresses the persisting manifestations of structural injustice and racial inequity, I think it would be helpful to reflect on why the shared work of combating racism and racial injustice is inherently a commitment rooted in our university mission. In other words, what does mission have to do with this work of racial justice?

The Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities (AJCU) offers a helpful starting place to explore the connections between mission integration and diversity and inclusion: 

“In these days, when the coronavirus pandemic and police violence clearly impact people of color to a disproportionate degree, we implore our campus communities not just to decry injustice and bemoan the lack of opportunity. Rather, we must all pray, listen, learn and act. We are compelled to do all that we can, to make a difference for the better, for justice and equality.

For more than 200 years, our nation’s Jesuit colleges, universities, high schools, and middle schools have taken the slow and deliberate path of educating students for thoughtful, moral citizenship. Our efforts have been well-intended, yet imperfect. The killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and so many others challenge us to act against the covert and unrecognized racism that lurks in the American community and in the recesses of our own hearts. As our Jesuit mission calls us to do, let us use our collective voices as a lever for justice and the common good. We call upon our students, alumni, faculty, and staff to take concrete steps to make a difference in our institutions and in our nation.” (from AJCU Resources on Racial Justice)

This commitment by the AJCU has been joined by statements issued across the Jesuit network, from Jesuits and the colleagues that work alongside them. Fr. Brian Paulson, for example, the Provincial for the Midwest Province of the Jesuits offered this connection with mission: 

“Because of our many privileges, we have a voice as individuals, as citizens, as a religious community and as a church, affiliated with often powerful institutions. Let us strive to be part of the solution and not part of the problem when it comes to dismantling systemic racism and promoting racial healing in our country. In the midst of these struggles, may we who have a voice, find a way, wherever we are, to give voice to the voiceless when basic human dignity and decency are violated.” (from Letter from Provincial Brian Paulson, SJ on the Tragic Events in Minneapolis and Across the U.S.)

And at Georgetown, our Campus Ministry has explicitly put into dialogue the university’s Jesuit values with its commitment to responding to racial injustice: 

“As a Catholic and Jesuit institution, we uphold the words of the 32nd General Congregation of the Society of Jesus, that ‘the promotion of justice is an absolute requirement’ of the ‘service of faith.’ As people of diverse religious and non-religious backgrounds, we affirm that these words speak to a deeper, universal call – the call to care for the wounded among us, to seek understanding, and to dismantle the causes of all forms of violence. We commend all those who have responded to this call.” (from Georgetown University Campus Ministry “Our Response to Racism and Racial Injustice”)

All of these words make clear that Jesuit mission and values are integrally related to the ongoing struggle for racial justice. But this connection is about more than words or principles. Orienting our work for racial justice in the resources of our mission reminds us that the full measure of our efforts is action. Just action must flow out of a discerned awareness about how each one of us is called to respond to the barriers to justice. 

Our mission at Georgetown inspires all of us into a “commitment to justice and the common good.” And today, as we rely upon individual and communal discernment to reflect and act upon the greatest threats to justice and the common good, we are moved to sustained action to dismantle racist structures in our communities and in our institution.  Mission is not an after-thought of this shared commitment at Georgetown, it is central to this work. 

SCS Staff and Faculty Retreat Goes Virtual, Explores Ignatian Spirituality Through the Faces of Zoom

The virtual reality of our study and work has inspired all kinds of innovation at Georgetown. Spiritual formation programs have also embraced digital tools and platforms to support the university’s commitment to whole person development. This year’s SCS Staff and Faculty retreat was a great example of how traditional ways of proceeding can be imagined anew in these virtual times.

This year’s retreat for staff and faculty, “An Ignatian Retreat in the Age of Zoom: Meditating on Faces & the Image of God,” was led by two Jesuits, Fr. Mark Bosco, vice president for mission and ministry, and Fr. Jerry Hayes, director of Ignatian programs, along with Jamie Kralovec, SCS associate director for mission integration. Frs. Bosco and Hayes designed the template for the retreat and have been extending invitations to offices and departments across the university to experience the virtual program.

This year’s SCS staff and faculty retreat, An Ignatian Retreat in the Age of Zoom, considered how the riches of Ignatian spirituality can help us see shared humanity and the divine in the faces that we encounter on Zoom. Photo of Zoom taken from Photo of St. Ignatius taken from

At the heart of this virtual Ignatian retreat, which lasts between 60 and 75 minutes, is a deeper contemplation of human faces and the way that these faces point us in the direction of the Divine. The retreat is a creative take on Zoom fatigue (which we discussed on Mission in Motion a few months ago). While virtual living, working, and studying pose significant challenges and stresses, “An Ignatian Retreat in the Age of Zoom” invites retreatants to ponder the deeper spiritual significance and potential for greater solidarity in contemplating the faces on our screens: “the face both reveals and conceals, drawing us into new ways of experiencing both our shared humanity, and our sense of the Divine shining through the face of the other.”

The retreat then deepens exploration of faces and the image of God through readings of the poem “As Kingfishers Catch Fire” by Jesuit Poet Gerard Manley Hopkins and an Examen meditation (described here on Mission in Motion) about the faces that we encounter each day. The point of these exercises is to invite retreatants to consider what is happening in their interior experience as they go about each day processing an overwhelming amount of visual data (and faces) on screens. Some questions to consider from a virtual day of life, work, and study:

What faces do I encounter in my day that bring me joy and remind me of the goodness and joys of life?

What faces in my day challenge, irritate, or annoy me?

What faces do I intentionally choose to ignore and exclude from my vision?

How can I enter into my next Zoom meeting with a reverence for the innate sacredness and human dignity of each face I contemplate? How do I recall that every face I meet, even the ones that challenge me, is an opportunity to gaze upon a glimpse of the Divine?

At Georgetown, living out the value of being Contemplatives in Action means taking needed time for pause, reflection, and spiritual grounding. Last year’s staff and faculty retreat was a time of community and inspired reflection, providing participants with some helpful rest and rejuvenation for the coming academic year. Attendees of last year’s student retreat had similar feelings about the retreat experience (read more in Mission in Motion about last year’s student retreat).  And this year’s staff and faculty retreat made clear that we can acknowledge and accept the many limitations and constraints of this virtual environment while finding in it some unexpected graces and the potential for greater shared humanity. 

This year’s retreat produced some helpful lessons about how best to design spiritual experiences in the age of Zoom. In the coming weeks, we will share additional ways that students and alumni can directly experience the transformative benefits of a virtual Georgetown retreat.

A Jesuit Tradition Marks the Beginning of the Academic Year, Invites Community to Reflect on Hospitality, Hope

The Mass of the Holy Spirit is a tradition as old as the first schools begun by Jesuits almost five centuries ago. Every year, Jesuit educational institutions around the world like Georgetown usher in a new academic year with this celebratory religious service. Typically, university students, staff, faculty, multi-faith chaplains, and Jesuits at Georgetown mark the occasion by joyously gathering on the lawn in front of Healey or in Gaston Hall. This year, due to the ongoing global pandemic, the celebration was broadcast virtually from Dahlgren Chapel (you can watch a recording of the entire mass on Georgetown’s Facebook page here)

There are many important reasons why Jesuit schools begin the academic year in this way. In past years, I have received much consolation from this annual ritual because it provided a needed pause for reflection and gratitude as I prepared to enter more fully into a busy year at Georgetown. Taking some time for reflection, in the company of the entire university community, helped remind me of my “why” for being at Georgetown.

Fr. Peter Folan, Georgetown Jesuit and faculty member in Theology, offered a homily at this year’s Mass of the Holy Spirit. You can watch it on Georgetown’s Facebook page linked here.

The symbolic significance of this opening year mass cannot be overstated. At Georgetown, we share in a conviction that our work of education transcends the knowledge and skills that we learn in books and in classroom. The vision at the heart of Georgetown’s mission is that an education in the Jesuit tradition calls all of us, regardless of our profession of a faith tradition or none at all, to the deeper, more transformative purpose of schooling. We are each called to find meaning, purpose, and belonging in our work and study and to share this transformative learning generously with and for others. We are each invited to #SeekSomethingGreater (as we like to say at SCS).

Calling upon the help of the Holy Spirit to aid us on our individual and collective journeys felt different this year, but even more important. Fr. Peter Folan, a Jesuit at Georgetown and member of the Theology faculty, noted the extraordinary challenges facing our world and our university. The temptation for despair is ever-present, remarked Fr. Folan in his homily: “Hope is in short supply these days. That is why it bears repeating. The Spirit’s fire burns brightest when it looks like the flame of hope is about to be extinguished.” Fr. Folan issued a challenging invitation to the community to listen attentively to how the Spirit may be moving in us this year: “What is the fire burning in this collective community’s heart that must be spoken aloud?” He concluded with a reminder, especially in challenging times like these with the realities of global pandemic and persisting racial injustices, that we are all summoned to service: “Will the fire of the Spirit bring hope back into our world by reminding each of us that our lives are to be lived for others. Our educations are to be given away, so to speak, in service of others.”

President DeGioia concluded the service with reflections about how to proceed in the work of racial justice in the coming year.

As custom, President DeGioia concluded the mass with reflections about the year to come. He called attention this year to two critical ideas. First, President DeGioia affirmed the Jesuit character of Georgetown and celebrated the uniquely manifested gift of Jesuit hospitality that shows up in various ways at the university. He remarked:

“All of the members of the Jesuit community embody a characteristic virtue in practice. Hospitality. It’s another Jesuit, James Keenan, who describes Jesuit hospitality this way: ‘Our hospitality is a mobile one. Mobile because those who we serve are found throughout the whole earth.’

Tonight our Georgetown community is certainly found throughout the whole earth. You have, you will experience this welcoming, this hospitality when you are next here in this place. The distinctive aspect of Jesuit hospitality is that you can experience it wherever you are. I know you have experienced this in our special celebration tonight, in the celebration of this mass and in Fr. Folan’s beautiful homily. We are all witnesses to Jesuit hospitality.”

President DeGioia went on to offer that we as a university community can come together this year despite the physical distances that seem to separate us. He noted that the Spirit is always present, always available to meet us in our weakness and need for strength. According to President DeGioia, calling upon the Spirit for guidance is essential if we are to meet the major challenges facing the world: “What we believe, what our presence here together is witness to, is our conviction that the Spirit helps us in our weakness, that very Spirit intercedes for us. We can trust in the presence of the Spirit to guide us, in responding to these challenges.” He then named some of these pressing issues: a global pandemic, a financial crisis, an eroding civic culture, and an enduring legacy of slavery and segregation in our country.

President DeGioia concluded by making an explicit connection between the support provided by the Holy Spirit and the shared task of realizing racial justice at Georgetown:

“We have seen again this past week how urgent it is that we accept our responsibilities to address the original sin of this nation. So let me close by sharing these words by Austin Channing Brown from her book I’m Still Here. And I quote: ‘Our only chance at dismantling racial injustice is being more curious about its origins than we are worried about our comfort. It is not a comfortable conversation for any of us. It is risky and messy. It is haunting work to recall the sins of the past. But is this not the work we have been called to anyway? Is this not the work of the Holy Spirit? To illuminate truth and inspire transformation. When we talk about race today and all the pain packed into that conversation the Holy Spirit remains in the room.’

The Spirit is here with us. The Spirit that will illuminate truth and inspire transformation. The Spirit that remains in the room. As we continue our journeys. As we engage in the challenging work ahead. This is what we celebrate tonight.”

Our journeys at SCS have already begun this fall. I invite all of us in this community to reflect on these themes of hospitality and hope. How are you finding hope these days? How are you growing more hospitable, more generous in your service of others? What and who do you call upon in times of need?

May the Holy Spirit, however you understand it in your own life, experience, and vision of a transcendent reality, bless you this year.

Support for Your Journey: Advice for New and Continuing Students from a Veteran of Georgetown

The pilgrimage is a popular image in the spirituality of the Jesuits. It comes from the life of St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits, who thought of himself as a pilgrim always on the road. There is an innate freedom in being a pilgrim and the thing about journeys is that they begin someplace but never really end. This is one way we might think about the shared project, as students, staff, faculty, alumni, of a Georgetown education. 

As we enter into the fall semester, Mission in Motion pauses this week to recognize the beginning of something new. This week we asked Michael Canter, SCS Senior Associate Dean for Students and Academic Operations and long-time member of the Georgetown community, for his advice to new and continuing students beginning their own educational journeys this fall.

One potentially helpful way of fully entering into a new semester is by imagining oneself on a continuous journey or pilgrimage. Where are you headed in your educational goals and how do you want to get there?

1. You’ve spent a considerable part of your life in the Georgetown community, both as a student and as a staff member. What can you say about Georgetown to a new student experiencing the university for the first time? 

Oftentimes, I hear from students that they feel intimidated to be here or can’t believe that they are attending Georgetown. Some wonder whether they can handle the experience. They are always surprised when I share that as both a student and a staff member there have been times when I’ve felt the same way. Why am I here? What do I bring? 

I’m a first generation college student. Education wasn’t a major push in my family. Most barely graduated middle or high school. Many spent time incarcerated. A few suffered from substance abuse issues.  I share these facts not in any judgment of my family but to provide that my upbringing was challenging in parts. And all of these parts made me who I am today. I brought all of this with me when I entered the gates at 37th & O Streets N.W. many years ago and I bring this with me every day to my current position. I’m better for it. And Georgetown is too. 

We don’t arrive at Georgetown with clean slates. We bring a life that has been lived. Experiences. Perspectives. Students bring all of that power with them. They have the ability  to shape and define what it means to be a member of this community. The landscape should be evolving. Ever changing. We need their voices. We need their stories. But most of all we need their honesty. All of this is what makes Georgetown a fantastic place to grow and explore. I invite all students to bring their full selves to this experience and to our community. They’ll be better for it. And so will we. 

In this week’s Mission in Motion, Michael Canter, SCS Senior Associate Dean for Students and Academic Operations, offers some wisdom for new and continuing students as the fall semester at Georgetown gets underway. 

2. Can you share more about your role at SCS and how you and your team support student experience at the school? 

Currently, I’m the Senior Associate Dean of Students and Academic Operations where I oversee the department that manages the student experience and administrative functions for all the degree seeking programs at SCS. Our team covers new student onboarding, advising, course scheduling, faculty contracting, student events, student communications, and many other fun administrative projects that help the degree programs function. Our team works side-by-side with our awesome Faculty Directors who oversee the curriculum for our academic programs and manage their specific faculty communities. 

From a team perspective, I count myself pretty lucky. The team is filled with diverse, talented and driven individuals who bring a tremendous amount of passion and creativity to their work. They truly enjoy the connection with students and the ability to work with cross functional teams across the school to create new opportunities for our community. We are a team that constantly wants to improve and so thrives upon feedback from our students. Feedback can be a loaded term but I truly mean it. 

I say this to share with students that we welcome all feedback. We genuinely enjoy meeting with students to hear their ideas, good experiences, or possibly areas where we didn’t quite meet their expectations. All of the above are the reasons why we do the work that we do. We want your time with us to be transformative and fulfilling so don’t hesitate to reach out to us. 

3. Of all of the values in the Spirit of Georgetown, which one resonates the most with you and why? How have you brought this value into your work at Georgetown? 

I always want to say, “Cura Personalis.” I feel like that is more a fan favorite.  But I prefer to give some love to another key value “Educating the Whole Person.”  I find a substantial amount of fulfillment in creating opportunities for individuals to grow both personally and professionally. It is what first drew me to returning to Georgetown in the first place. As a student, I felt the power of the staff and faculty. It was almost overwhelming at first because I didn’t know or understand how to accept that kind of commitment to my success. Yet, these teams pushed me towards new heights and helped me to uncover areas of my life that I hadn’t yet fully realized. They created and offered opportunities to me that I could not have produced on my own.

Dr. O’Connor, Dr. Glavin, Dr. Hirsch, Dr. Ortiz, and Dean Chiarolanzio were major influences on my collegial journey. I was never the best student but they treated me as such. The lessons that they shared with me are lessons that have inspired some of the most creative endeavors of my life. I joined the US Marine Corps. Completed further degrees. And even started writing music. 

I show up to work each day hoping to have that kind of influence on my team, colleagues, but most especially our students. I’m no saint. My execution is sometimes flawed. I can have an “off” day or two or ten. But my greatest joy in life is seeing others succeed. For me, that is part of the magic of what we do here. If I can help one person, I’m a success.

4. What advice do you have for students as they proceed into the fall semester? 

Work each day to block out the negativity that abounds when you are attempting to succeed at something new. People love to hate on things that they might not be able to understand. Cancel out the noise. Forget what that member of your circle said about who you are and what they believe you should do. Forget them. Leave it at the door. You deserve to be here. You deserve to have this experience. And you deserve to have the opportunity to evolve. Do it! 

Communicate with your team at SCS. I’m talking about your program support, your faculty directors, your faculty members, your classmates, your resource center representatives, your amazing operations and security team (when we are back in the building)…

Did you notice what I did there? Your team is pretty large and all here to help YOU. Use them! 

5. Anything else to share? 

Of course! You’ve made it this far so the least I can do is leave you with few recommendations for non-school activities:

Books on my desk this week:

Almost Everything: Notes on Hope by Anne Lamott

New Seeds of Contemplation by Thomas Merton (A book Mr. Kralovec recommended to me.)

The Source of Self-Regard by Toni Morrison (I keep referring back to many essays in this book. I share her Sarah Lawrence Commencement Address and The Individual Artists as highlights.) 

Music in my ears this week:

Silences by Adia Victoria

The Balladeer by Lori McKenna

Janet. by Janet Jackson 

In A Dream by Troye Sivan

In Search of Lost Time by Protoje

And finally a joke:

Q: Why do magicians do so well in school?

A: Because they’re good at trick questions! 

Spotlight on SCS Mission Integration: How We Proceed in This Work

This week SCS highlighted the work of mission integration in its weekly email to students. As we prepare to end summer and enter into the Fall semester, this is a good opportunity to provide more insight into what mission integration is and how it fits into the overall Georgetown experience. My hope is that better understanding the “how” of mission integration might encourage more students, faculty, and staff to accept mission-related invitations that they might receive along the way.

This week, SCS highlighted for students the resources of mission integration. What do we mean by that term and how to experience mission at Georgetown?

Mission integration is all about the many intentional ways that we animate Jesuit mission and heritage in the formation and development of students, faculty, and staff, especially through courses, seminars, retreats, service learning, religious services, and other forms of spiritual grounding. Georgetown is the oldest Catholic and Jesuit university in the United States and integrates the core Spirit of Georgetown values in an inclusive way that respects a multitude of religious traditions and spiritual experiences. Georgetown SCS mission integration is guided by four commitments or, as the Jesuits would say, ways of proceeding:

  • Intentional: we think carefully about how the university’s Catholic and Jesuit identity is shared in various contexts and with differing audiences;
  • Explicit: we narrate the meaning and significance of the mission in regular and visible ways;
  • Inclusive: we welcome people of all faith traditions, backgrounds, and identities into our community; and
  • Invitational: we discern new and creative ways to encourage members of our community to appropriate Catholic and Jesuit heritage with the potential to enrich the life of the university.

The SCS Mission in Motion blog was created to help spread the word about the many different ways that our community embodies Georgetown’s Jesuit values and puts them into practice. We have highlighted, for example, how mission comes alive in coursework, in pedagogical innovation, in retreats, in direct service for and with marginalized persons and communities, and in public events that make our mission and values visible and recognizable to outside stakeholders. These are only a few examples of how SCS community members passionately and thoughtfully incorporate mission in significant and lasting ways that serve the common good.

This next academic year presents new opportunities to creatively adapt our mission resources to meet the pressing challenges of the present moment. In the coming weeks, I will highlight more ways for our community, especially our new students, to engage our mission at a deeper level. My hope is that these challenging times might challenge and invite all of us to deepen our commitment to the university’s mission of forming persons to be “reflective lifelong learners, to be responsible and active participants in civic life and to live generously in service to others.”