The Examen: A Response to Languishing

Early in the pandemic, Mission in Motion published a post about a widely read article in the Harvard Business Review entitled, “That Discomfort You’re Feeling is Grief.” That piece provided a common vocabulary early in the shared experience of lockdown and identified the need to acknowledge and name our emotions in order to avoid becoming overcome by them. In response to that article, I offered the Ignatian practice of the Examen as a way of getting in touch with our temporary emotions and reflecting on how we might face the challenges of each uncertain day early in the pandemic. More than a year into COVID-19, another widely circulated article has provided an opportunity to explore the Examen as a possible response to a somewhat newly articulated concept of “languishing.” 

In this week’s Mission in Motion, we explore the concept of “languishing” and how the Examen practice can encourage flow experiences as an antidote. Photo from 2019 SCS Faculty and Staff Retreat at Georgetown’s Calcagnini Contemplative Center 

Adam Grant in the New York Times recently published “There’s a Name for the Blah You’re Feeling: It’s Called Languishing” about the phenomenon of languishing, which falls on the mental health spectrum between depression and flourishing. Depression, on the one hand, Grant calls “the valley of ill-being: You feel despondent, drained, and worthless,” and flourishing, on the other hand, Grant calls “the peak of well-being: You have a strong sense of meaning, mastery, and mattering to others.” Languishing, a term first articulated by the sociologist Corey Keyes, falls somewhere in between and receives less attention in mental health literature and it refers to the absence of well-being: 

“Languishing is the neglected middle child of mental health: It’s the void between depression and flourishing – the absence of well-being. You don’t have symptoms of mental illness, but you’re not the picture of mental health either. You’re not functioning at full capacity. Languishing dulls your motivation, disrupts your ability to focus, and triples the odds that you’ll cut back on work. It appears to be more common than major depression – and in some ways it may be a bigger risk factor for mental illness.”

Some of the hallmarks of languishing, which has been exacerbated by the pandemic, include constant distractibility, an inability to focus, and feeling let down by regular experiences that may have once delighted you, like an afternoon walk. And, Grants says, you may not seek help or even try to help yourself because you do not realize that you are suffering. So what, if anything, can be done in response to this common and shared experience of languishing? 

The antidote to languishing offered by Grant is the concept of “flow,” a term from the school of positive psychology that means an “elusive state of absorption in a meaningful challenge or a momentary bond, where your sense of time, place and self melts away.” Mindful that many barriers exist to flow experiences because of the demands of work, childcare, and other obligations, Grant outlines a few suggestions for entering into periods of flow, like giving yourself some uninterrupted time each day, focusing on small goals with a “just-manageable difficulty,” and carving out time to focus on a challenge that matters most to you. 

The notion of flow as an antidote to languishing has a clear and relevant link to Ignatian spirituality and the practice of the Examen. In his article “Towards an Ignatian Spirituality of Study” in Studies in the Spirituality of Jesuits,  the Jesuit Nicholas Austin makes an explicit connection between the Ignatian idea of consolation and the flow concept: 

“I would claim that there is indeed an ‘affinity’ between flow and consolation. Most of the essential elements of flow equally characterize experiences of consolation: the sense of effortlessness yet full engagement, a loss of any anxiety or preoccupations, self-forgetfulness during the experience, growth in a sense of self following the experience, a concentrated attentiveness and so on.” 

Austin goes on to note that the compatibility between these two ideas is not a perfect match since flow experiences do not necessarily relate to God but Austin concludes that Ignatian spirituality, and the practice of the Examen, welcomes the relationship. Any time an individual increases their awareness of their flow experiences, a possibility arises of noticing at a deeper level, either explicitly or implicitly, the work of the Spirit in one’s life. 

Interested in exploring the Examen as a possible response to feelings of languishing that you’ve experienced? Here are two suggestions: 

  • Please consider participating in the SCS Daily Digital Meditation offered Monday through Friday at 12:00 p.m. ET over Zoom (click here to participate). The final meditation of each week, on Friday, is a guided Examen for 10-15 minutes inviting participants in silence to review their experiences of the past week. Please join us! 

2021 Hoya Professional 30 Highlights SCS Students Living Out Jesuit Values

This year’s winners of the SCS Hoya Professional 30 reflect on how the Jesuit value of being “People for Others” has shaped their Georgetown experience and their professional lives.

Since its inception in 2015, the Hoya Professional 30 has become a celebrated and much-anticipated annual milestone in the life of SCS. The awards are given to 30 students at the School, representing a diversity of programs, professional experience, and future ambitions. In addition to the well-deserved recognition for some exemplary students, this process is an important mission opportunity to promote the Spirit of Georgetown, the characteristics and values of the Jesuit tradition that animate our work and study at SCS.

Which Jesuit value resonates most with you and why?

By asking each award winner to answer this question in their own words, the Hoya Professional 30 provides concrete examples of the Jesuit values in action. I feel pride each year listening to how these students express the many ways that they have interiorized Jesuit mission and values through their Georgetown SCS education and then put them into action as part of their professional development. The entire support network at SCS of faculty, staff, and community partners should share in this pride because the education we deliver at SCS is a shared project.

This year’s awardees reflected in a focused way on how much the social justice challenges facing our university, communities, and world inspires their way of proceeding. Karensa Thomas, for example, a student in the Master of Professional Studies in Cybersecurity Risk Management program, is motivated by the value of Community in Diversity:

“I believe in ‘Community in Diversity.’ Exemplifying support for diversity, trust, and equal rights during these unprecedented times is critical for rebuilding and healing our nation. As a trusted leader at Georgetown University and in the community, church, and the United States Armed Forces, I will continue to create diverse teams founded upon honor, inclusion, and trust.”

Morgan Payne, a master of professional studies student in the Integrated Marketing Communications program, picks up on this value as well as others, like People for Others and Faith that Does Justice:

“While much of my work promotes the need for diversity and undisputed benefits of unique representation, it is impossible to ignore the need for us to be ‘People for Others’ and be accepting and supporting of each other. Also with this, of course, comes the need for faith and justice. As a Black woman working in social and racial justice in a time of civil unrest, these values are at the forefront of everything that I do. When developing communications, marketing and strategy for clients, these values often serve as a north star for where we all should be looking to evolve towards as we chart the path to a better future.”

This week’s virtual recognition ceremony was an opportunity to learn more about the awardees. You can watch a recording here

The many inspiring examples of their public leadership and the ways that a Georgetown education has inspired the professional journeys of these students calls to mind the critical importance of action in the paradigm of Jesuit teaching style known as Ignatian Pedagogy. The Jesuit educational tradition at Georgetown, which arises from Jesuit spirituality, is always oriented to making discerned choices about how to serve justice and the common good in one’s unique circumstances. The stage of “action” in the Jesuit learning cycle, which follows the stage of reflection, is meant to inspire generous responses to a world in need: “It is hoped that real education will lead the student to take actions, large and small, to make the world a better place for all, and particularly those most in need.” This year’s awardees are already making the world a better place.

You can watch the SCS virtual award recognition here

You can read more about each of the 2021 awardees here

Commitment to Holistic Student Support Animates SCS Program Director

Rondha Remy, an SCS staff member who serves on the leadership team of the SCS Diversity, Equity, Belonging, & Inclusion Council (DEBIC), shares her insights with Mission in Motion. A passion for student affairs and empowering students on their journey guides Rondha’s work.

This week, Mission in Motion sits down with Rondha Remy, SCS Program Director for the Business and Management degree programs. Rondha discusses her approach to providing student support, her reflections on the ongoing work of diversity, equity, inclusion, and anti-racism at Georgetown, and advice about why it is so important to take time and space for rest and recharge.

1. Tell us a bit more about yourself. What brought you to Georgetown SCS and how does your role at the School align with your professional vocation and mission? 

I am the Program Director for the Business and Management programs serving students within the Higher Education Administration, Global Hospitality Leadership, and Supply Chain Management MPS degree programs.I primarily assist students in navigating their degree progression and pairing them with various resources available within the Georgetown community or within the field. I work collaboratively with my faculty directors, our program manager, and assistant dean, to ensure that we are able to offer a great overall student experience. 

Prior to my time at Georgetown, I worked in various student affairs positions at other higher education institutions and at a non-profit education organization servicing K-12 students. My experience sparked a need to familiarize myself with the potential threats to a student’s experience within the classroom and how I can best serve them there. I truly want to learn how to be a resource to students throughout all aspects of their educational journey. Here at Georgetown, I feel empowered to continuously act as a change agent/pioneer in how we service our students holistically. 

2. In addition to serving on the leadership group of the SCS Diversity, Equity, Belonging & Inclusion Council (DEBIC), you have been participating at Georgetown in the Doyle Conversations about Anti-Racism in Higher Education. Can you share some of the most important insights from these discussions?

The discussions were empowering because they gave me comfort to know that many departments across the university are incorporating new initiatives or ways to educate the community in relationship to diversity, equity, and inclusion work. One term that was used frequently to explain the notion of “digging deeper” in a conversation was interrogation. This wording may not have been intentional in their presentation but it was a word that I took notice to. 

We all understand interrogation. We know that it is intentional questioning to unpack a thought/action. “Digging deeper,” typically used in student affairs jargon, gives a passive tone while “interrogation” gives an active tone which I believe is important when we think about this work. We need to actively think about why we have certain assumptions and why we participate in certain behaviors. Once we interrogate these thoughts/behaviors we are able to recognize, educate, and create new thinking/behaviors. 

3. Your staff responsibilities include advising students. As you reflect on the future of your approach based on advising students over the last year of global pandemic, what lessons will you carry forward with you in this student-facing work? 

Intentional follow-up is extremely important to nurture relationships and help students remain focused on their goal/investment. Whether it’s follow-up with new information on new policies set by the School, following-up on a conversation about internships with a link to a position that was shared with you, or just following up to congratulate them on their family addition because you remember their child was due sometime that month. Intentional follow-up adds an important human touch to the relationship in a time where human touch can be problematic. 

4. What one message, takeaway, inspiration, or challenge would you like to offer readers? 

At times you need to step back in order to fully recharge! AND THAT’S OKAY!

We know the fastest way to charge our phone is to put it on Do Not Disturb or Airplane mode. You are not easily distracted by the notifications and your phone data is not being used. This allows your phone to focus on one thing — charging the battery. Once charged, you can move freely and have the power to do all the things you want to do.

SCS Faculty Director Dr. Erinn Tucker Participates in MLK Initiative Event on Food Equity, Racial Justice in DC

Georgetown’s MLK Initiative is an annual celebration of the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and consists of events, programs, and other opportunities to deepen the University’s commitment to the principles that animated Dr. King’s life and witness. Mission in Motion has written about one facet of the initiative, “Teach the Speech,” an annual invitation for students, faculty, and staff to explore critical dimensions of a speech by Dr. King with particular relevance for contemporary events.

Mission in Motion takes a closer look at an MLK Initiative event this week, “Cultivating DC’s Food Economy to Sustain Racial Justice,” which featured a panel of experts, including SCS Faculty Director Dr. Erinn Tucker

This past week, the MLK Initiative convened a panel to discuss issues of food, racial justice, and grassroots advocacy in Washington, D.C. The event, “Cultivating DC’s Food Economy to Sustain Racial Justice,” was a conversation among experts with experience in the hospitality industry, local government, community-based farming, food culture, and environmental sustainability. Dr. Erinn Tucker, SCS faculty director of the Global Hospitality Leadership program, as well as co-founder of DMV Black Restaurant Week, offered her insights about how the COVID-19 pandemic has encouraged an ecosystem among Black-owned restaurants and increased awareness of what Black-owned restaurants need to sustain their businesses. The hour-long program was a deep exploration of how we at Georgetown can engage in the critical work of food justice in our local communities.

Christopher Bradshaw, founder and executive director of Dreaming Out Loud, a local food equity non-profit organization (featured in Mission in Motion as a site of SCS staff member Tremell Horne’s regular volunteer activity), made the foundational point that we care about food because it is a common bond that we all share and it tells a story about us. Food reveals not only the ways our society comes together, but also the ways that our society is divided. Bradshaw called attention to the ways that Black farmers have historically been driven from their land, contributing to a significant racial wealth gap that persists today.

The MLK Initiative event is part of a year-long series of programs to deepen Georgetown’s intentional commitment to living out the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Dr. Erinn Tucker focused many of her contributions in the discussion to the way that the COVID-19 pandemic has surfaced the need for collaboration in supporting Black-owned businesses. A healthy, sustainable business ecosystem requires cooperation among many stakeholders. The pandemic has highlighted, for example, how small Black-owned businesses need more support from the technology industry in order to meet consumer demands during a prolonged period of take-out ordering. Dr. Tucker commented that many in this hospitality space are wondering how to most effectively harness the increased corporate financial support and interest in Black-owned businesses in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement. An ongoing challenge, which all of the panelists presented on to some degree, is to sustain and build upon some of the pandemic-related lessons learned about how to advance the goals of Black-owned restaurants and small businesses.

The MLK Initiative event was an important reminder about the critical importance of sustaining mutually-beneficial partnerships with local communities. The academic and professional discourses about food justice, the hospitality industry, and urban policy development provide opportunities for further exploration. The discussion illustrated two important insights about integral ecology and local culture from Pope Francis’s teaching document Laudato Si:

“There is a great variety of small-scale food production systems which feed the greater part of the world’s peoples, using a modest amount of land and producing less waste, be it in small agricultural parcels, in orchards and gardens, hunting and wild harvesting or local fishing…To ensure economic freedom from which all can effectively benefit, restraints occasionally have to be imposed on those possessing greater resources and financial power. To claim economic freedom while real conditions bar many people from actual access to it, and while possibilities for employment continue to shrink, is to practice a doublespeak which brings politics into disrepute. Business is a noble vocation, directed to producing wealth and improving our world. It can be a fruitful source of prosperity for the areas in which it operates, especially if it sees the creation of jobs as an essential part of its service to the common good (129).

A consumerist vision of human beings, encouraged by the mechanisms of today’s globalized economy, has a levelling effect on cultures, diminishing the immense variety which is the heritage of all humanity. Attempts to resolve all problems through uniform regulations or technical interventions can lead to overlooking the complexities of local problems which demand the active participation of all members of the community… There is a need to respect the rights of peoples and cultures, and to appreciate that the development of a social group presupposes an historical process which takes place within a cultural context and demands the constant and active involvement of local people from within their proper culture. Nor can the notion of the quality of life be imposed from without, for quality of life must be understood within the world of symbols and customs proper to each human group (144).”

SCS Dean and Vice Dean Publish Chapter on Jesuit Values Guiding School’s Strategy in Response to the Pandemic

SCS Dean Kelly Otter and Vice Dean for Education and Faculty Affairs Shenita Ray have published a book chapter in Moving Horizontally: The New Dimensions of At Scale Learning in the time of COVID-19 about how the School has relied upon Jesuit values to guide its decision-making during the global pandemic. The chapter entitled, “Strategic Leadership and Partnerships to Scale a Remote Teaching Infrastructure Rooted in Jesuit Values,” speaks to the way that SCS administrative and faculty leadership have created a “thriving organization in the midst of uncertainty” by applying two key Jesuit values: cura personalis (care of the person) and cura apostolica (care of the work or institution). The text is an informative and inspiring insight to the degree that Georgetown’s mission and values have been intentionally embedded in SCS strategy and operations in recent years.

In this week’s Mission in Motion, a recently published book chapter by SCS Dean Kelly Otter and Vice Dean Shenita Ray highlight how Jesuit values have informed the School’s strategy in response to COVID 19.

Dean Otter and Vice Dean Ray introduce the chapter with the many shared and differentiated challenges facing SCS in particular and Georgetown as a whole. This respect for the unique context frames the SCS approach and is consistent with the first step in the Ignatian Pedagogical Paradigm (more on the IPP and teaching in the Jesuit style here in a prior Mission in Motion post). SCS’s considerable experience in creating, developing, and growing online programs made it a valuable institutional partner when the pandemic forced a quick transition to remote coursework in March 2020. The School focused on a three-pronged approach, writes Otter and Ray: “Creating a remote course template faculty could use to rapidly develop, deploy, and transition a face-to-face course to a remote class; restructuring and training existing internal personnel to support the transition for all full- and part-time faculty (400+); and establishing a faculty development program to provide weekly and one-on-one instruction on online pedagogy.”

The complexities of scaling this effort to meet the needs of students and faculty required significant collaboration and coordination of many units across SCS. These efforts were undertaken after coalescing around shared principles for the endeavor, like adaptability as conditions and exigent factors shifted, and shared goals, like raising awareness and changing the language across the instructional community about the distinctions among online, remote, and in-person courses substituted with synchronous tools. With a framework in place for strategic decision-making, Dean Otter and Vice Dean Ray point to the way that applying Jesuit values explicitly in this work reinforced a sense of community in teaching and learning when the virtual learning environment had the potential to foster significant dislocation, reduced educational quality, and a sense of disconnection.

The chapter by Drs. Otter and Ray illustrates how Georgetown’s Jesuit values have been intentionally integrated in the course design and delivery process during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The chapter goes on to outline strategic implications revealed by COVID-19, presenting a series of challenges that the pandemic surfaced and the way that SCS addressed these challenges. Of note, Otter and Ray point out that strengthening the School’s focus on integration of Jesuit values helped guide these efforts and ensured the University’s commitment to academic excellence: “Faculty and staff recognized that relying on ethics and values such as cura personalis and cura apostolica as the foundation for identifying and analyzing alternatives to solve unprecedented challenges in extraordinary times, would help to assure the quality of the School’s collective decision-making processes.”

It is with hope that the chapter ends. COVID-19 has helped SCS sharpen its approaches to key elements of decision-making and ongoing strategy formation. With “renewed vision for teaching and learning,” Dean Otter and Vice Dean Ray offer some key lessons about how an intentional incorporation of Jesuit values in working, teaching, and learning can help address the myriad challenges facing our communities and the world. This chapter reminds me of several themes from Jesuit history of education. In his chapter “Mission and the Early Jesuits” in the book Saints or Devils Incarnate? Studies in Jesuit History, renowned historian Fr. John O’ Malley writes that the educational strategy of the religious order has always been ministerial and about boldly serving mission in spite of challenging circumstances:

“First, the schools became an instrument of ministry that the Jesuits carried with them as they set out to new places in Europe or elsewhere, and in that way the geographic sense of ‘mission’ continued to be fulfilled. Second, the schools were themselves a great innovation for a religious order, and hence can be understood as going out to meet a challenge rather than sitting passively on the sidelines. Constitutive of the idea of ‘mission’ was ‘seeking out,’ as Paul had done. The schools were simply one more instance of the inventive proliferation of new ministries in the sixteenth century that the Jesuits promoted and exemplified – signaling a great break with the highly formalized and ritualized service offered by the local clergy. This was all part of being ‘apostolic.’”

I see some parallels in the inspiration for Jesuit schools in its early period and the way that SCS has innovated to flexibly and adaptably meet the working, teaching, and learning needs arising from COVID-19. As this chapter makes clear, SCS has gone out to meet great challenges in the midst of uncertainty by relying on Georgetown’s foundational values and mission.

Interfaith Service Prays to End Anti-Asian Violence and Violence Against Women

Georgetown’s Campus Ministry came together for an interfaith service to pray for an end to anti-Asian violence and violence against women in the wake of recent attacks. Ven. Yishan Qian, Sr. Thu Do, and Umbreen Akram, representing the Buddhist, Catholic, and Muslim traditions, prayed at the service. You can watch a recording here

In light of increased violence against the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community, and recent murders in Atlanta and across the country, Georgetown came together last week to denounce hate crimes against AAPI and women. In a demonstration of solidarity with the AAPI community and others impacted by this hatred, and an affirmation of the university’s commitment to religious diversity, Campus Ministry hosted an interfaith service to pray for healing and for justice. You can watch a recording of the service here on the University’s Facebook page.

In addition to honoring the loss of innocent life, religious leaders summoned the Georgetown community to rise to the challenge of eradicating hatred and dismantling systems of racism that pervade our society: Rabbi Rachel Gartner, director of Jewish Life, invited us to have courage to speak truth to power–fueled by a righteous anger against hatred that is grounded in justice, not revenge; Umbreen Akram, Muslim residential minister in Henle Village, prayed for the empowerment of women and the rooting out of xenophobia; Rev. Ebony Grisom, interim director of Protestant Christian Ministry, asked us to repent our culture’s allegiance to toxic masculinity and white supremacy; Ven. Yisah Qian, Buddhist residential minister in Copley Hall, implored the community to see the interconnection of all beings and to experience an awakening in compassion; Sr. Thu Do, Roman Catholic residential minister in Village A, called on us to be prophets of reconciliation and peace who build up our communities in love; and Fr. Greg Schenden, director of campus ministry, appealed to our Jesuit principles and our Ignatian spirit in responding to the cries for justice.

The prayer service was a powerful reminder of the strength of our community in diversity, a commitment at the heart of the Spirit of Georgetown. I invite you to experience the service for yourself and take to greater prayer and reflection on how we might work together to dismantle the structures of violence in our communities.

Reflections from SCS Diversity, Equity, Belonging & Inclusion Council on Racial Bias Incident at GU Law Center

Over the last week, Georgetown leaders have issued strong condemnations of the racial bias incident at the Law Center.  As many know, two (now former) faculty members of the Law Center were involved in a conversation that revealed a pernicious form of racism that would have remained hidden had the discussion not been recorded. In the wake of this incident and the responses that followed it, this episode has been framed as a learning opportunity for engaging more deeply in the shared work of realizing racial justice, equity, and inclusion at Georgetown. But what can be learned from this and who needs to learn it? How can we make sense of the reality that each of us, because of our different identities, have different learning edges and needs arising from this case?

Kristen Hodge-Clark, Ph.D, SCS senior assistant dean for program planning, Janet Gomez, Ph.D, SCS assistant dean for summer and special programs, and Michael Canter, JD, SCS senior associate dean for students and academic operations, offer personal reflections about the racist incident at the Law Center.

In this week’s post, Mission in Motion offers space for personal reflections from three SCS staff members who serve on the leadership committee of the Diversity, Equity, Belonging & Inclusion Council (DEBIC).  These personal reflections are intended to provide material for deeper exploration and engagement with the myriad issues surfacing from this particular incident.

In their book about facilitating dialogues around race, Race Dialogues: A Facilitator’s Guide to Tackling the Elephant in the Classroom, scholars Kaplowitz, Griffin, and Seyka maintain that the vulnerable sharing of personal narrative about race is “an important factor for breaking down unconscious and conscious bias, stereotypes, entrenched prejudice and discrimination” because “research on storytelling reveals that in the long run, people are more likely to remember a personal story than data.”  Through their personal sharing, Dr. Kristen Hodge-Clark, SCS senior assistant dean for program planning, Dr. Janet Gomez, SCS assistant dean for summer and special programs, and Michael Canter, SCS senior associate dean for students and academic operations, offer us narratives that can deepen understanding about the reality of racism at Georgetown and in other higher education spaces.

Kristen Hodge-Clark: “The racist assumptions and statements made by two GU Law faculty have reminded me of my daily reality and the painstaking questions I ask of myself almost every day as a participant in several spaces (within and outside of Georgetown) where I am one of a few, or the only person of color.   

I often wonder, now that I am here in this room, what is assumed of me because of my race before I even speak?  What judgements will I face because of my race before I even work? What is said about me because of my race? How will what I say or do be measured against a standard that was predicated on racism and bias?  Will who I am, what I have achieved, what I have contributed, what I have “proven” ever be enough to shield me from racist assumptions? Of course, I already know the answer to that question. So, I live another day with this burden on my back and these questions in my mind. 

At this moment, I am also reflecting on the horrific tragedy and hate crime in Atlanta that resulted in the murders of several women from the AAPI community. I am again reminded that racism is both a pernicious and pervasive beast that rears its ugly head every day in every way imaginable. Racism and its devastating impact on numerous communities is nothing short of a national crisis. As an academic institution, we have a moral imperative to work every day and in every way towards dismantling the assumptions that lead to racist rhetoric and racist actions.“

Janet Gomez: “As many have articulated, the events that occurred at the Law Center are horrifying, dehumanizing, and have no place in our Georgetown community or anywhere. Events such as those underscore the need for more anti-bias and anti-racist training and education. It underscores the need for inclusive pedagogy training and practice. It underscores the need for difficult conversations that lead to proactive measures and not reactive bandaids until another event. It underscores that our work here still has a long way to go. We not only need to do better as a community, we need to BE better. If you are as angry as I am, you should be, but anger without productive action does not lead to change. What will you be doing about it?”

Michael Canter: “I made the goal of attending law school around the age of eight. Long before I understood what studying the law meant or what I would have to sacrifice to attend in the first place. Yet as a child, and more notably now, it was the power and allure of words that drew me to that profession. The ways in which people frame their statements. Their choice of tone and length. The structure of rules and regulations. And ultimately, the way in which the above shapes the experience of all members of our society. It has fascinated me. Inspired me. And infuriated me. All at the same time. 

During my time in law school, I was very focused on my own experience and attempting to survive what at times seemed like an impossible task. I often never thought of those alongside me and what those individuals had to sacrifice on their own before their matriculation, but then most importantly, in the classroom. I wasn’t recognizing that I was taking my privilege of safety and comfort as a white man for granted—I could ask questions, perform poorly, put myself out there without a thought. Fail. Rinse and repeat. And do it again the next day without judgment. But what of my fellow students? Where was I in understanding their experiences? 

Learning is vulnerable. Allowing our minds to expand. Challenging our ideals. Making mistakes. And pushing the boundaries of inherent skill sets. All make the classroom such a sacred place. And the leaders of the classroom, trusted figures. We entrust them with guiding students to success and most importantly pushing them towards their own personal evolutions. 

Learning of the videos, I immediately viewed and reviewed as I am sure many others did across the world. I was, of course, drawn to the words. The tone. The framing. The pauses. All of which infuriated me. Not only for the loss of trust within our sacred spaces. Not for the feedback about budding legal scholars. Not just because of the disappointment in the faculty members. But I was angry with myself. Angry about my own ignorance from many years ago when I attended law school. Angry that I didn’t move to put my passion for words into action. Why did I not look to the left and to the right at my classmates? Did situations like this occur for them? Why was I unwilling to wrestle with my privilege? I don’t have answers to these questions but I do know that my heart and mind are ready in the present. Ready to use my words. And ready to continue to confront my privilege and to fight against systemic racism. “

For more Mission in Motion content on the relationship between Georgetown’s mission, values, and the quest for racial justice, see:

A Resource for Doing the Interior Work of Racial Justice“

How Our Religious Traditions at Georgetown are Responding to Cries for Racial Justice and Solidarity” 

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

Violence at the U.S. Capitol and Reflections from the Jesuit Network” 

Association of Jesuit Colleges & Universities Introduce ‘Anti-Racism Examen’”

Recent SCS Programs Emphasize Mission, Diversity & Inclusion Values”

Recent SCS Programs Emphasize Mission, Diversity & Inclusion Values

The School of Continuing Studies advances the overall mission of Georgetown University while promoting its own unique mission from within the context it serves:

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.

This statement gives a clear sense about how SCS connects the students and communities it works with to the relevant knowledge, skills, and values needed in the marketplace and larger society. The SCS liberal and professional education curriculum responds to changing social and economic trends, striving to anchor its many programs in the values that animate Georgetown University. By being so directly grounded in professional life and practice, the School enacts its mission through its many partnerships with external organizations, companies, and governmental agencies.

As part of a newly developed SCS program, “Hoyas Ask Experts,” Dawnita Wilson, VP of Diversity and Inclusion at JBG Smith, offered guidance and reflections about the behavioral and cultural changes needed to realize a more equitable organization.

Two recently launched programs demonstrate how SCS lives out its mission in this education context by incorporating principles of diversity, equity, and inclusion that are critically needed today:    

  • This spring, SCS launched a partnership with the National Forum for Black Public Administrators (NFBPA) to create the Innovative Leadership in Public Administration Certificate Program. Developed around leadership and professional development skills, the program helps address the challenges facing public administrators in diverse communities. By cultivating and forming leaders through an innovative, applied curriculum that attends to the whole person, the program aims to transform the communities served by these public administrators.

    Georgetown’s Jesuit values are being intentionally incorporated into this leadership program. In an interview with The Hoya student newspaper, SCS Dean Kelly Otter noted how the program’s culminating Capstone provides opportunities for participants to develop strategies rooted in social justice to improve their local communities. Julia Murillo, senior director of custom programs at SCS, highlighted the program’s emphasis on cultivating mindfulness and self-care, making a direct connection with the Jesuit value of cura personalis. You can learn more about the program in this SCS webstory and in this article printed in The Hoya student newspaper.
  • The second recent SCS program event examined how local and global companies are developing and advancing diversity and inclusion strategies in response to the racial and social justice movements of 2020. The event took place as part of a new series, “Hoya Ask Experts,” and featured Dawnita Wilson, vice president of diversity & inclusion at JBG Smith. Convened by Mike Canter, SCS senior associate dean of students and academic operations, and Walid Bouiachi, student in the Master of Professional Studies in Real Estate program, the hour-long session explored the criteria for an effective and meaningful diversity and inclusion strategy.

    Dawnita Wilson presented on the way that she has shaped JBG Smith’s framework in diversity and inclusion, emphasizing that intentionality and leadership’s commitment to change are critical components of cultural and behavioral transformation on issues of diversity. A thorough assessment of the existing culture needs to guide the diversity and inclusion approach, said Wilson, and should attend to both champions of this equity work and those who are resistant. I was struck by the emphasis in the presentation on the importance of individual conversations that can guide and inform the overall work of greater inclusion in an organization.

Mission in Motion has addressed why diversity, equity, and inclusion are a constitutive element of SCS mission and values. These recent programs highlight some of the ways that the School has committed to this integration.

SCS Staff Leader Offers Guidance on Managing Difficult Interactions

This year of living in a pandemic has challenged our university community in unprecedented ways. With grace, patience, and creativity, SCS students, staff, and faculty have upheld the standards of a Georgetown education while navigating difficult circumstances that have required flexibility and new ways of thinking and working. One area of the SCS educational experience that has dramatically shifted is the relationship between student and student advisor.

Photograph of SCS staff and faculty on retreat. Meg Cohen offers lessons about how staff can pause, reflect, and find their sanctuary before responding to difficult advising situations.

Meg Cohen, SCS senior assistant dean, offered an insightful set of reflections and guidance this week in a piece entitled, “It’s Been Emotional: How to Manage Difficult Student Interactions.” Meg’s suggestions for how staff can manage challenging situations that involve “heavy emotional burdens” are deeply anchored in our Georgetown Jesuit values. I would like to make some connections between the guidance offered by Meg and the lessons of Ignatian Spirituality that are at the heart of the Spirit of Georgetown.

Give Yourself Permission to Experience Your Emotions: In an advising situation that involves a strong emotional reaction, Meg recommends resisting the urge to react in the moment by taking some time and space to get in touch with the emotions that arise in the advisor. Feeling your emotions is ok and normal, not something to avoid or resist. This lesson connects powerfully with the reflective tool of the Examen. This reverential review of one’s day (presented here) is fundamentally about naming one’s emotions, both positive and negative, consoling and desolating, so as not to be controlled by them. Connecting with one’s emotions is a way of resisting the temptation to be overcome by powerful emotions. These emotions are signals that we should pay attention to. As advisors with busy schedules and heavy loads of students, it might seem difficult to find this time and space in the midst of activity. But Contemplation in Action invites just this kind of reflection for active people. It is in the midst of activity that we ground ourselves in deeper contemplation. Ignatian Spirituality is inherently practical.

Empathize: The progression of responses to an emotionally intense advising situation leads to a shift in mindset grounded in empathy. Meg suggests that the advisor consider the student’s context and what might be happening at a deeper level. This move to empathy is also a move to honoring a student’s context, appreciating that Educating the Whole Person involves attending to all parts of the human person. This is precisely why the Ignatian Pedagogical Paradigm (discussed by Mission in Motion here) begins in Context before moving onto Experience, Reflection, Action, and Evaluation. The student advisor cannot begin to fully assist the student without understanding what is happening in the background of the student’s life. The Ignatian Presupposition (covered here by Mission in Motion), which assumes the best of the other’s intentions, also comes to mind. This is not to say that advisors should see themselves as counselors or therapists. Rather, even the slightest expression of empathy by the advisor can engender trust and mutuality in the student advising experience.

Who Else Needs to Know About This? Meg offers that involving the perspectives of trusted colleagues can help the advisor determine the best response to a challenging situation. This points to the need for community and collegiality in the workplace and in the learning community. It is also a lesson with deep resonance in Ignatian Spirituality. St. Ignatius suggests always consulting with a trusted guide in order to make sense of one’s prayer experience and reflection. Our university mission is ultimately strengthened when students and their advisors feel like they are connected to the entire community.

These lessons, and their connections to the Spirit of Georgetown and Ignatian Spirituality, can apply to all professional interactions.  I invite you to consider how you might approach challenging situations, at work and elsewhere, by getting in touch with your emotions, practicing empathy, and consulting others, when appropriate, for guidance about how to proceed.

“Press Pause” Series Highlights Diverse Contemplative Practices, Care of Mind, Body, and Spirit

The most recent edition of “Connections,” the online magazine of the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities (AJCU), focuses on the ways Jesuit schools, in the spirit of cura personalis, are serving the physical and mental health needs of students, faculty, and staff throughout the pandemic. Mission in Motion has written about several of the ways that Georgetown has met the physical, mental, and spiritual needs of our community during a time of unprecedented personal and collective stress, for example,  SCS’s Daily Digital Meditation, Monday through Friday at 12 p.m. EST, has offered a space for reflection and contemplation (consider signing up here). As a reminder, students seeking mental wellness resources should connect with the Counseling and Psychiatric Service (CAPS) and staff and faculty should reach out to the Faculty & Staff Assistance Program (FSAP).

The individual and collective stress caused by the pandemic has led to many initiatives that attend to the mental health and well-being of our community. Georgetown’s Campus Ministry is offering a weekly “Press Pause” Series in March and April to address our community’s spiritual health needs.

The article “Finding Peace of Mind at Loyola Chicago” especially caught my attention. This piece addresses the significant emotional and physical benefits of mindfulness meditation, something that Mission in Motion addressed this past summer. I resonated with the article’s concluding point made by Fr. Scott Hendrickson, S.J., a chaplain and Associate Provost for Global and Community Engagement at Loyola University Chicago. Fr. Hendrickson makes an important connection between the damage that unaddressed stress can do not only on our minds and bodies but on our spirits. He says: “These negative reactions [to stressful circumstances in our lives] often cause us to complain about, and to, other people, which is destructive in maintaining meaningful relationships – including our relationship with God.”

In an effort to meet the spiritual needs arising from our community as a result of pandemic-related stress, Georgetown’s Campus Ministry is offering a regular series called “Press Pause: Co-Creating Sacred Time.” The series begins on March 2 and ends on April 28 with each weekly session taking place at 5 p.m. ET over Zoom (you can log in each week here). Press Pause, building on Georgetown’s inter-religious commitment and multi-faith model of chaplaincy, will feature contemplative practices from diverse faiths, traditions, and cultures. The sessions are led by experienced practitioners and are open to all, offering accessible introductions to the practices while honoring their traditions of origin. You can see the entire schedule below.

The “Press Pause” series celebrates the diversity of faiths, traditions, and cultures while honoring the traditions of origin. Log in each Tuesday at 5 pm EST from the week of March 2 to April 28 through Zoom

I invite you to take advantage of this unique Georgetown opportunity to experience the sacred by taking a pause in the midst of your daily life.