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 www.registerme.org to learn more about organ donation and register to be a hero and save lives. 

Career Counseling in an Ignatian Key

In her book, “Coaching with Careers and AI in Mind: Grounding a Hopeful and Resourceful Fit for a Digital World,” Adina Terry offers much needed insights about how to prepare job seekers for success in the turbulent digital age. Some, like the World Economic Forum, refer to our current epoch as the Fourth Industrial Revolution characterized by the advance of cyber-physical systems and artificial intelligence. In so many ways, the world of work has dramatically changed and preparation for these economic realities require a reimagining about how to provide career counseling. 

footprints and directional arrows - photo by imelenchon via Morguefile

This week’s post offers insights about career counseling in this digital age from the tradition of Ignatian discernment. Image from “Four Strategies for Discernment” by Vinita Hampton Wright at IgnatianSpirituality.com

The career counseling literature stresses the need for flexibility, adaptability, and lifelong learning in navigating the demands of work at a time of digital innovation and disruption. Much of what job seekers need is related to the development of technical skills and expertise necessary to fulfill the ever-changing demands of jobs that meet current economic and social needs. But more than technical practices, interior dispositions and capacities to tap into one’s deeper sense of meaning and purpose are necessary to align one’s skills to available work opportunities. In this way, career support needs to be about the “Whole Person,” a values-based commitment made explicit in the Spirit of Georgetown

Thankfully, SCS offers a set of resources to support students on their professional journeys, including career coaching from a certified career counselor. These curated resources are in addition to program-specific professional preparation and advising that take place within classes and in applied networking opportunities that occur outside of the curriculum. I believe that spiritual accompaniment resources should also be considered part of the overall well of support for career development. Students should consider their pastoral engagements with the suite of Georgetown’s multi-faith chaplains and staff, which occur in individual consultations and group settings like workshops, fellowship, and retreats, an important part of their career preparation. 

Engagements with spiritual guides can help students discern their “calling,” which scholars in an article in the journal The Counseling Psychologist entitled, “Purpose and Meaning in Career Development Applications,” describe as “linking what clients do at work to a broader impact” that “can enhance a sense that they are living out a calling and promotes purpose and meaning in their careers.” The key to this understanding of “calling” is that individual flourishing does not take place in isolation but depends on connecting one’s own well-being to the well-being of the entire community. Calling is truly a shared project. Calling is not discovered in a single “aha moment,” but discerned over the longer term. How, you might be asking, can one’s calling in work be discerned over the longer term of a career that needs to withstand the dynamic forces of an economic system in flux? 

Discernment is one of the essential practices at the root of the Jesuit tradition of spirituality and leadership. This approach necessitates that the seeker regularly grows in sensory awareness of their inner movements. These habits of self-awareness, cultivated through the Ignatian examen of consciousness, lead the individual to notice their emotions, feelings, affections, desires, attractions, and repulsions. The reflective stage of the examen invites the seeker to make meaning of these inner experiences. Am I being inclined by my inner movements to experience more connection and alignment with my true self and my authentic identity before my ultimate source of meaning (e.g., God, Ultimate Mystery, etc.)? Or am I noticing a troublesome disconnect between what I deeply desire for myself and how I actually feel? This journey of discernment requires regular attention to these subtle interior changes and this process should be supported by a trained spiritual guide. 

William Spohn, in his article “The Chosen Path” in America Magazine, presents the transformative possibilities of utilizing an Ignatian framework in making career decisions. Spohn names this potential for transformation through Ignatian spirituality as the opportunity to “discover our personal calling by aligning our gifts and aspirations with what we see as the deepest needs of our world.” We must remember that discerning one’s vocation is a continuous exercise and it is not generic, but a unique journey experienced as a “call to individuals tailored both to their talents and the community’s needs.” By bringing one’s deeper desires into the career discernment process, the individual taps into possibilities for self-growth and community service that extend beyond their technical skills and training. I hope that all involved in the career support ecosystem consider the multidimensional and holistic dimensions of assisting students on the journey to meaningful work. 

SCS Daily Digital Meditation Enters Its 5th Year – Join Today!

This week’s post celebrates the fifth year of SCS Daily Digital Mediation, which takes place on Zoom Monday through Friday from 12:00 to 12:17 p.m. ET. Sign up online to receive a link to the virtual meeting. 

Four years ago, in the week that global lockdowns began in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, SCS started offering a 15-minute daily digital mediation over Zoom. The virtual practice, which you can sign up online , was never intended to be a permanent event, but a temporary resource to help ease some of the disquiet and anxiety that surrounded the early days of the pandemic. 

Since March 2020, more than 350 people from across Georgetown have signed up to receive the link to participate. Throughout the four years, a remarkable community has formed through this contemplative convening. What is beautiful about the daily event is that there is no pressure to attend and who shows up on a daily basis is almost always a surprise. And even in silence a community has formed, with unspoken bonds of affection and solidarity created by the fact of simple presence in a virtual meeting room.

While each attendee brings their own invisible needs to the space, there is a shared understanding that all are seeking quiet, centering, stillness, self-awareness, and pause (among other things). 

This week, I want to highlight the value of this resource that is “here to stay” and no longer considered a temporary event. Past posts from Mission in Motion have explored the meditations from different angles, include participant testimonials about their value:

In recent weeks, Mission in Motion has touched upon the value of mindfulness and its relationship to professional practices and concern for the common good. For instance, Becoming Spiritually Grounded Strategic Thinkers and Discerning Leaders examined the relationship between effectively mediating conflicts and achieving organizational objectives. Good leaders need to be able to tap into their own inner life and sensory awareness in order to manage high-stakes disagreements occurring in a group. 

In another post, SCS Retreat Invites Students Into Reflection on the Meaning and Practices of the Good Life, I emphasized the importance of taking “retreat” from one’s daily habits and obligations, even if for a single day (as is the case for the annual SCS student retreat). What so often emerges in these experiences is a recognition of how easy it is to forgo regular reflective practices in busy daily life, yet how important it is to reclaim this simple habit of an examen reflection or a “mental pit stop” as a way of staying true to one’s ultimate purpose and identity. 

Most recently, An Ongoing Journey Toward More Belonging: Some Recent Efforts took a closer look at some Georgetown efforts to create a more inclusive community . Central to the task of building inclusive spaces is the cultivation of individual habits of growing in greater awareness of how one’s own blind spots get in the way of recognizing barriers to flourishing for all members of an organization. The positive contribution of mindfulness to this work of inclusion is affirmed by Rhonda Magee (the subject of this Mission in Motion post in 2020) in her piece, “How Mindfulness Can Defeat Racial Bias.”

What better time than now to treat yourself to the treasure of quiet mindful contemplation? Sign up today! 

If you have any questions about the SCS Daily Digital Meditation, please reach out to me: Jamie Kralovec, SCS Associate Director for Mission Integration, at pjk34@georgetown.edu

An Ongoing Journey Toward More Belonging: Some Recent Efforts

The Mission in Motion platform is intended to deeply explore each of the values of the Spirit of Georgetown by telling the stories about how these Jesuit principles come to life at SCS. Embodying a Community in Diversity is one of these core values and has received renewed attention in recent years, especially as the COVID pandemic laid bare the underlying realities of racial and economic inequity in our society and around the globe. Taking up a commitment to supporting and sustaining an inclusive, diverse, and welcoming community that honors difference is a moral and religious imperative with roots across traditions and cultures. Georgetown’s embrace of this has uniquely Ignatian dimensions, which was examined in this recent post “Toward a Meaningful Diversity: Ignatian Resources for Realizing an Inclusive Community.” 

Georgetown’s Office of Student Equity & Inclusion recently opened a new hub on the Hilltop. You can learn more about it in this video

Three recent initiatives and events at Georgetown demonstrate the University’s ongoing journey toward realizing a more and more inclusive community. I would like to highlight each of these in the context of Georgetown’s mission commitment and values. First, the Office of Student Equity & Inclusion (OSEI) opened a new location on the Hilltop that serves as a hub for diversity, equity, and inclusion work. The space, which will be home to the Center for Multicultural Equity and Access, the Community Scholars Program, the Disability Cultural Center, the LGBTQ Resource Center, and the Women’s Center, is designed in ways that invite greater inclusivity, collaboration, and intersectional connection. Dr. Adanna J. Johnson, associate vice president for student equity and inclusion who leads OSEI, grounded this milestone in mission values: “We need to ensure that Georgetown’s approach is truly integrated across the campus because it is central to the success of all students and is clear in our Jesuit mission and values; this new space is in alignment with that mission!” 

Second, this week marked the inaugural cohort of the SCS Certificate in Strategic Thinking & Leadership. This leadership academy stands out for many reasons, but one distinctive element is the thread woven throughout the five modules about the critical importance of leading inclusive organizations. One of the modules, “Succeeding with an Inclusive and Aligned Culture,” taught by Sharon Newport and Jessica Srikantia Field, explicitly takes up the topic of transformational leadership from the standpoint of DEI principles. In my module, “Becoming a Discerning Leader,” I invited students to consider the contribution of Ignatian spirituality to the ideas and practices of inclusive leadership with a particular emphasis on how emotional awareness can help inclusive leaders become more aware of their blind spots. While each of the faculty members offered a unique perspective on the professional development and methodology necessary to realize this more inclusive community, all of the presentators offered insights from their lived career experiences that added up to some valuable shared understandings. This certificate is a promising effort to cultivate leadership skills and habits that are needed in the world. 

3.21 HEA DEBIC event graphic, including headshot photos of the panelists.
SCS Diversity, Equity, Belonging, and Inclusion Council along with the Master of Professional Studies in Higher Education Administration recently hosted a panel about challenges to DEI in higher education. 

Third, the SCS Diversity, Equity, Belonging, and Inclusion Council (DEBIC) along with the Master of Professional Studies in Higher Education Administration (HEA) program hosted an event, “Journeying Toward More Belonging in Higher Education: Assessing and Responding to DEI Challenges in Culture and Policy.” The influential and insightful panel of experts included two HEA faculty members, Dr. Judith Perez-Caro and Dr. Kimberly Underwood, as well as Rosemary Kilkenny, Georgetown’s Vice President for Institutional Diversity & Equity and Chief Diversity Officer. The hour-long discussion focused on the current challenges to DEI integration in higher education and strategies for addressing these challenges on campuses. One emphasis that stood out from the discussion is that colleges and universities should anchor their DEI commitments in mission. 

The journey toward inclusion requires ongoing commitment. It is helpful now and again to pause and grow in awareness about promising efforts that are helping the Georgetown community more fully realize its mission to become a Community in Diversity.

SCS Retreat Invites Students into Reflection on the Meaning and Practices of the Good Life

This year’s SCS student retreat, “Journeying the Good Life,” sold out and brought together participants from 15 different degree and non-degree programs. 

Every year, SCS hosts an overnight retreat at the Calcagnini Contemplative Center that is made available to degree and non-degree students. There is a certain rhythm to this yearly experience. First, the retreat developers brainstorm a theme around which the event will be organized. Second, marketing, communications, and program staff teams work to amplify and promote the retreat. Third, students across the School sign up and claim their spots. Fourth, participants receive detailed instructions (mostly logistical in nature) about what to expect at Calcagnini. Fifth, the retreat day arrives and participants descend upon the 640 Massachusetts Avenue SCS campus to meet the departing bus and each other. Sixth, the retreat takes place and all who are gathered deeply engage with the schedule and activities. Seventh, the retreat ends with a bus return to the SCS campus, evaluations are shared, and the community disperses back to their respective home locations. Eighth, reflective evaluation of the experience leads to new insights and new ideas about how to meet the spiritual needs of the SCS student community. 

Each of these steps necessitates great leaps of faith and trust that the retreat will be received in nurturing and life-giving ways by all who engage it. There is certainly some doubt that finds its way into the process. Will students actually sign up? Will the retreat theme and the practices inspired by it resonate with the group? How will this seemingly random collection of individuals, diverse in every indicator of diversity, come together in unity and form a group? Will the weather challenge the contemplative spirit and recreational activities? Will everyone find the food and accommodations suitable to their expectations? 

This year’s retreat involved asking all of these same questions and receiving some resoundingly positive feedback about what is possible when SCS students say a big “Yes” to an uncertain experience and allow themselves to be personally transformed.

The 2024 retreat, “Journeying the Good Life,” certainly had some unexpected and unplanned moments. No one could have predicted that a steady and strong downpour of rain would persist throughout the first day of the retreat. But instead of worrying about the weather, the group made a firm commitment to accept the sogginess and make the most of it. This embrace of wet slightly complicated the nature hikes sprinkled throughout the agenda, but it also led to some memorable moments. 

It was somewhat unexpected for the group to gel so quickly, becoming interested from the beginning in each other’s stories and making space for intimate and vulnerable sharing in small and large groups. One measure of a fruitful retreat is the vitality and volume of chatter over meals in the dining hall. In this case, I was struck by the handful of engaged table conversations happening over delicious meals. 

Rabbi Rachel Gartner presented on the good life by sharing “Arguments for the Sake of Heaven” from out of the Jewish tradition. 

The retreat’s principle content is shared through two short talks delivered by me and Rabbi Rachel Gartner, SCS Senior Adviser for Spiritual Care. I shared some insights, “The Good Life from the ‘I’ to the ‘We’ to the ‘Universal,’” based on two primary sources. Philosopher Adam Adatto Sandel’s recent book, Happiness in Action: A Philosopher’s Guide to the Good Life, and Jesuit Greg Boyle’s book, The Whole Language: The Power of Extravagant Tenderness, get at the topics of the good life in slightly different ways. Sandel argues that ends-oriented goal-setting, a hallmark of contemporary economic culture, needs to be upended by three virtues—self-possession, friendship, and engagement with nature—which cultivate flourishing and deeper happiness in the means/practices themselves. Boyle contends that the root of some of our individual and collective despair has to do with the need to recognize the “unshakable goodness” that exists in ourselves and in each other. Finding goodness in this way leads to loving, especially important when loving is made harder by structures that exclude those we allow to be “othered.”  

 Students enjoyed the Calcagnini Contemplative Center in spite of heavy rains on the first day of retreat. 

Rabbi Rachel built on these foundations in her talk about “Arguments for the Sake of Heaven.” She utilized the primary source texts of the Talmud and presented on the Jewish sages Hillel and Shammai. The reflective interpretation exercise invited close and careful reading and a discussion about the ideas of the good life rooted in this spiritual reading of texts. One particular outcome of Rabbi Rachel’s talk was deeper consideration about the importance of healthy and respectful argumentation in making communal claims about what constitutes virtuous living. 

Throughout the experience, the community brought to life Georgetown’s mission values, especially a commitment to Contemplation in Action. By the retreat’s conclusion, it was evident that students would return to their engaged lives refreshed and renewed by this brief interruption in their daily habits and responsibilities. 

As with any retreat, the effectiveness of the effort depends on how participants felt about the experience. Here is a sampling of responses to the question: “How are you returning home?”

  • “I am more grounded. I take away the importance of a community and how we are all connected and can learn from each other.”
  • “I’ve discovered more about myself in the sense I know what my mission is and I should hold onto those I love.” 
  • “I feel more grounded, peaceful, and grateful. I want to hold onto that as long as possible through daily meditation and physical connection with nature.” 
  • “I am definitely more grounded. I have a better understanding of my priorities in life. I know I must continue to explore other worldviews.” 
  • “I am returning as a more open person. I take away more connection and viewpoints. I am taking away an appreciation for Georgetown.” 

SCS students can learn more about the School’s approach to sharing Georgetown’s mission values on our Spiritual Life page and can learn about more retreat options here.

Becoming Spiritually Grounded Strategic Thinkers and Discerning Leaders

 This week’s post considers how strategic thinking and leadership can be enhanced by bringing in the ideas and practices of spirituality. The inaugural SCS “Strategic Thinking & Leadership Academy” will emphasize these connections. 

What comes to mind when you hear the term, spiritual leadership? For many, I suspect, this brings up associations with institutionalized religion and following the codes and creeds of a particular tradition’s dogmas and rules. There is a particular association for many people with spirituality as something that is private and potentially not appropriate for discussion in public situations, including the workplace. 

Scholars of spirituality tend to make a distinction between “religion” on the one hand and “spirituality” on the other. The former tends to be related to the institutionalized manifestations of a particular tradition’s efforts to be organized formally. The latter tends to be considered the more experiential and interiorized personal phenomena of being in an intentional relationship with God, or the Transcendent Other, through a set of practices. Spirituality scholar Sandra Schneiders, for example, describes spirituality as “the experience of conscious involvement in the project of life integration through self-transcendence toward the ultimate value one perceives.” 

In recent years, the contribution of spirituality to leadership development has received more and more attention. The interest in this combination is arising not only from spiritually minded practitioners and ministry leaders but directly from the world of secular professional practice. Without going into too much detail, the basis of this interest has to do with what individual spiritual practices, cultivated by employees and members of groups on their own, have to positively offer to the health and vitality of organizations. Spirituality then becomes a well of resources for cultivating strong ethical leadership skills that can help organized groups of all kinds better realize their missions and their bottom lines. 

In this spirit, Georgetown’s School of Continuing Studies is running an inaugural  “Strategic Thinking & Leadership Academy” this March. This comprehensive, intensive 3-day program is designed to “empower aspiring leaders in government, industry, education, and nonprofits with the skills and knowledge needed to make informed decisions, implement strategies, and lead effectively in today’s environment.” What is especially exciting about this academy is that it brings together faculty whose own professional experience and perspectives on strategic thinking and leadership add up to a truly interdisciplinary academic experience, with a particular emphasis on the need to build truly inclusive organizational cultures. I am delighted to offer one of the modules, “Becoming a Discerning Leader,” which will introduce program participants to the critical importance of developing interior practices that help leaders notice their emotions with clarity and acknowledge their blind spots. Discerning Leadership is a purposeful reference to the wealth of resources for professional practitioners that are made available by Jesuit values and the traditions of Ignatian Spirituality. 

One such ongoing example of work at SCS that brings together the richness of the ideas and practices of Ignatian Spirituality and the critical work of personal group leadership development is the facilitated use of the book Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High. Now on its third edition, the book presents a series of practical suggestions for how to skillfully and gracefully navigate conversations that involve opposing opinions, strong emotions, and high stakes. In short, the book argues that such Crucial Conversations, which often end up in seemingly intractable workplace conflicts, can be better managed with more effective dialogue skills, greater emotional awareness, and a willingness to pause during heated situations and calmly assess both the surface-level and underlying interpersonal dynamics. Administrative units at SCS are encouraged to use the book and explore how these practices might shape healthier, more productive, and more mission-driven accomplishment of organizational goals. 

There is a false choice in leadership development praxis between purely scientific or purely spiritual strategies. Using the lens of Ignatian Spirituality to more richly explore the potential connections within Crucial Conversations for the work of SCS faculty and staff leaders brings together these worldviews. The book need not be experienced as an entirely secular framework, even if the authors are not explicit about the contributions of spirituality to the discussion. Chapter 5, “Master My Stories: How to Stay in Dialogue When You’re Angry, Scared, or Hurt,” for example, presents some compelling opportunities for integration with the Ignatian tradition. 

At one point, the authors emphasize the importance of emotional literacy and awareness: “When you take the time to precisely articulate what you’re feeling, you begin to put a little bit of daylight between you and the emotion. This distance lets you move from being hostage to the emotion to being an observer of it” (87). This idea relates well to the Ignatian Examen, a daily practice that encourages self-awareness and discovery by reverentially reviewing one’s emotional experiences, both those that are consoling and those that are desolating, for signs of how one is being called to more loving and generous leadership and service. Noticing and naming the emotions we experience is one step toward healthy indifference and detachment from harmful emotions that get in the way of better discerned action. 

Another Ignatian connection in the book is the emphasis on practicality in terms of how actions of leaders cannot depend on excessive self-reflection: “Why would you stop and retrace your Path to Action in the first place? Certainly, if you’re constantly stopping what you’re doing and looking for your underlying motive and thoughts, you won’t even be able to put on your shoes without thinking about it for who knows how long. You’ll die of analysis paralysis” (85). This point relates directly to the Jesuit value of Contemplation in Action, which stresses the pragmatics of daily life and seeks to cultivate habits of discernment that can be exercised in moments that call for decisive action. A retreat removed from daily life is simply not possible on a daily basis so discerning leaders need to practice the habits of healthy discernment in order to make decisions within reasonable time frames. 

There are many more instances in the book in which a spiritual lens might deepen the conversation about how to become a strategic thinker and discerning leader who is capable and skilled during a Crucial Conversation. This exercise in connecting these seemingly secular ideas with the roots and heritage of our Jesuit values is another manifestation of the unique ways that Georgetown SCS inspirits the University’s mission in how it delivers applied professional education to a continuum of learners at various places in their careers.

An Invitation to Ride the Georgetown Circulator Bus!

This week’s post encourages SCS community members to ride the new Capitol Campus Loop provided by the Georgetown University Transportation Shuttle. 

The French Jesuit and social theorist Michel de Certeau was particularly interested in reclaiming the poetics of urban life by embracing the everyday practices of the city that help shape a community of people in a physical place. His concern was that top-down planning efforts and the highly abstract architectural forms of the city would work against the textures of spontaneous human interactions that make up the organic city.  In his essay “Walking in the City,” Certeau encourages the everyday practices of urban life like walking: “The ordinary practitioners of the city live ‘down below,’ below the thresholds at which visibility begins. They walk – an elementary form of this experience of the city; they are walkers, Wandersmanner, whose bodies follow the thicks and thins of an urban ‘text’ they write without being able to read it. These practitioners make use of spaces that cannot be seen.” 

This somewhat mystical and very poetic understanding of the city and its practices can inspire our own encounter with the city. As an urban planner, I highly value the way that I can get to know places and people in the city by walking the city and making time and space for unplanned interactions and observations. Too often, our lives are driven by the demands of rushing to our next meeting. But it is necessary, once in a while, to simply relish in the humanity that makes up an urban community. It is with this theoretical understanding in mind that I encourage everyone at SCS to ride the bus! 

Georgetown’s growing physical presence in Washington, D.C., principally at the developing Capitol Campus, is connected via a set of highly dependable Georgetown University Transportation Shuttle (GUTS) bus routes. These routes were already critically important to helping members of the University community access campus locations efficiently and safely. And now that the Capitol Campus is becoming more and more of a reality, the GUTS network of routes will become even more important. Georgetown recently announced a special dedicated Capitol Campus Loop, which connects rides with local neighborhoods and major points of interest, including Union Station and Trader Joe’s. 

This expanding University-wide network of access and connection to the various geographic homes of Georgetown in the city is about more than transportation logistics. As a regular GUTS commuter during my time at SCS, I can share that this experience of riding the bus over the years has led to actual sustained friendships and new insights about the city and the University. Every time I ride the GUTS bus between the Hilltop Campus and the SCS Campus, I learn something new about either the city or the University. In my rides across town, I’ve learned about centers and offices at Georgetown I’m not aware of where bus riders are commuting to. I’ve also observed the physical and human city during these voyages, enjoying the beautiful vistas and views of the skyline and the Potomac River but also growing in greater awareness of the reality of urban challenges, like the current crisis of homelessness and a considerable population of unhoused people present along these routes. Each trip is a new learning experience, and I look forward to what I might encounter and experience such that it might inform my own actions in the city. 

History: Argentine Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio (R), now Pope Francis, is pictured travelling by subway in Buenos Aires
Pope Francis, shown here when he was an archbishop riding public transportation in Argentina, describes the environmental and social benefits of riding the bus. 

In his landmark environmental sustainability teaching encyclical, Laudato Si, Pope Francis describes the “ecology of daily life,” which very much resonates with Certeau’s understanding of the everyday practices of the city. Pope Francis describes the need for quality public transportation that makes integration easier between the different parts of the city. Riding the bus is an environmentally sustainable practice that reduces car trips and even contributes to greater kinship and solidarity among people. Having ridden the buses of Buenos Aires as an archbishop, Pope Francis knows from direct experience that encountering humanity in rich ways is possible on the bus. 

I hope that members of the SCS community will consider riding the GUTS network during their time at the University. This is more than a transport system as I believe it is a vital way to grow deeper connections between the various places and people of our campus communities.