This week we highlight two important resources for students that directly address the upheaval and distance of this semester. Together, these opportunities reflect Georgetown’s commitment to a whole person education that attends to the many dimensions of student lives.
Contemplation in Daily Life is a week-long program that offers students opportunities to engage in contemplative practices from a variety of religious traditions with the accompaniment of a spiritual adviser. These spiritual advisers come from the multifaith team of Campus Ministry. Over the course of a single week (October 4 through October 9), participants will be guided through 30 minutes of daily practices and will meet one-on-one with a spiritual advisor for 30 minutes to reflect on their experiences. At the beginning of the week, participants will gather as a community of diverse identities to share their journeys. The retreat begins with a virtual gathering from 8 to 9:00 p.m. EST on Sunday, October 4 and ends with a virtual closing from 3 to 4:00 p.m. EST on Friday, October 9. Students need to apply by September 27 at midnight EST to be considered for the retreat.
The beauty of this retreat, which especially affirms the university’s value of Interreligious Understanding and Contemplation in Action, is that students can choose from among a diversity of programs. From “Deepening Friendship with God: A Prayer in Daily Life Retreat” to “Muraqabah and Mindfulness in the Islamic Tradition” to “Poetic Prayer in Daily Life: Protestant Christian Edition,” many possible paths are established for students on their contemplative journeys. The depth of this offering, represented by many spiritual advisors from across diverse traditions, illustrates the strength of Georgetown’s Campus Ministry.
Another opportunity for students to consider is the Wellbeing Workshop Series, a collaborative cross-campus effort between the Engelhard Project, Counseling and Psychiatric Services (CAPS), and Health Education Services (HES). The intention behind the series of workshops is to present skills-building resources for students to promote wellness and mental health. The workshops address a wide range of issues that impact wellbeing, including “Managing Stress and Anxiety During COVID,” “Bringing Your Authentic Self to a Virtual World,” and “Navigating Cultural Forces and COVID: Exploring Your Values.” Students can sign up for any of the workshops at this link.
In a profound way, these opportunities for students make clear that physical distancing need not mean social isolation. These resources, which flow out from commitments to the university’s mission and values, offer important support for students in these times of challenge.
This week marked an important milestone in efforts at the School of Continuing Studies to address issues of systemic racial injustice in our institution and in our communities.
A newly formed leadership committee of six full-time SCS faculty and staff announced the first public meeting of the Diversity, Equity, Belonging & Inclusion Council (DEBIC). All SCS students, faculty, alumni, and staff, are invited to participate in DEBIC, which will have its first public meeting on September 30 from 2 to 3 p.m. EST (sign up here to RSVP for the meeting). The purpose of DEBIC is to provide direction and leadership for initiatives at SCS that work to fully integrate diversity and inclusion values into all aspects of our academic setting.
The formation of DEBIC follows a summer of active listening sessions in which, through circles for faculty and staff, student and alumni forums, and open feedback forms, members of the SCS community expressed their experiences, feelings, and perspectives about racism and social exclusion. While DEBIC will focus on projects and activities that affirm and welcome all members of the SCS community in the diversity of their identities, they will place a particular emphasis on combating racism and racial injustice.
As we prepare for meaningful actions to ensure that SCS addresses the persisting manifestations of structural injustice and racial inequity, I think it would be helpful to reflect on why the shared work of combating racism and racial injustice is inherently a commitment rooted in our university mission. In other words, what does mission have to do with this work of racial justice?
The Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities (AJCU) offers a helpful starting place to explore the connections between mission integration and diversity and inclusion:
“In these days, when the coronavirus pandemic and police violence clearly impact people of color to a disproportionate degree, we implore our campus communities not just to decry injustice and bemoan the lack of opportunity. Rather, we must all pray, listen, learn and act. We are compelled to do all that we can, to make a difference for the better, for justice and equality.
For more than 200 years, our nation’s Jesuit colleges, universities, high schools, and middle schools have taken the slow and deliberate path of educating students for thoughtful, moral citizenship. Our efforts have been well-intended, yet imperfect. The killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and so many others challenge us to act against the covert and unrecognized racism that lurks in the American community and in the recesses of our own hearts. As our Jesuit mission calls us to do, let us use our collective voices as a lever for justice and the common good. We call upon our students, alumni, faculty, and staff to take concrete steps to make a difference in our institutions and in our nation.” (from AJCU Resources on Racial Justice)
This commitment by the AJCU has been joined by statements issued across the Jesuit network, from Jesuits and the colleagues that work alongside them. Fr. Brian Paulson, for example, the Provincial for the Midwest Province of the Jesuits offered this connection with mission:
“Because of our many privileges, we have a voice as individuals, as citizens, as a religious community and as a church, affiliated with often powerful institutions. Let us strive to be part of the solution and not part of the problem when it comes to dismantling systemic racism and promoting racial healing in our country. In the midst of these struggles, may we who have a voice, find a way, wherever we are, to give voice to the voiceless when basic human dignity and decency are violated.” (fromLetter from Provincial Brian Paulson, SJ on the Tragic Events in Minneapolis and Across the U.S.)
And at Georgetown, our Campus Ministry has explicitly put into dialogue the university’s Jesuit values with its commitment to responding to racial injustice:
“As a Catholic and Jesuit institution, we uphold the words of the 32nd General Congregation of the Society of Jesus, that ‘the promotion of justice is an absolute requirement’ of the ‘service of faith.’ As people of diverse religious and non-religious backgrounds, we affirm that these words speak to a deeper, universal call – the call to care for the wounded among us, to seek understanding, and to dismantle the causes of all forms of violence. We commend all those who have responded to this call.” (from Georgetown University Campus Ministry “Our Response to Racism and Racial Injustice”)
All of these words make clear that Jesuit mission and values are integrally related to the ongoing struggle for racial justice. But this connection is about more than words or principles. Orienting our work for racial justice in the resources of our mission reminds us that the full measure of our efforts is action. Just action must flow out of a discerned awareness about how each one of us is called to respond to the barriers to justice.
Our mission at Georgetown inspires all of us into a “commitment to justice and the common good.” And today, as we rely upon individual and communal discernment to reflect and act upon the greatest threats to justice and the common good, we are moved to sustained action to dismantle racist structures in our communities and in our institution. Mission is not an after-thought of this shared commitment at Georgetown, it is central to this work.
The Mass of the Holy Spirit is a tradition as old as the first schools begun by Jesuits almost five centuries ago. Every year, Jesuit educational institutions around the world like Georgetown usher in a new academic year with this celebratory religious service. Typically, university students, staff, faculty, multi-faith chaplains, and Jesuits at Georgetown mark the occasion by joyously gathering on the lawn in front of Healey or in Gaston Hall. This year, due to the ongoing global pandemic, the celebration was broadcast virtually from Dahlgren Chapel (you can watch a recording of the entire mass on Georgetown’s Facebook page here).
There are many important reasons why Jesuit schools begin the academic year in this way. In past years, I have received much consolation from this annual ritual because it provided a needed pause for reflection and gratitude as I prepared to enter more fully into a busy year at Georgetown. Taking some time for reflection, in the company of the entire university community, helped remind me of my “why” for being at Georgetown.
The symbolic significance of this opening year mass cannot be overstated. At Georgetown, we share in a conviction that our work of education transcends the knowledge and skills that we learn in books and in classroom. The vision at the heart of Georgetown’s mission is that an education in the Jesuit tradition calls all of us, regardless of our profession of a faith tradition or none at all, to the deeper, more transformative purpose of schooling. We are each called to find meaning, purpose, and belonging in our work and study and to share this transformative learning generously with and for others. We are each invited to #SeekSomethingGreater (as we like to say at SCS).
Calling upon the help of the Holy Spirit to aid us on our individual and collective journeys felt different this year, but even more important. Fr. Peter Folan, a Jesuit at Georgetown and member of the Theology faculty, noted the extraordinary challenges facing our world and our university. The temptation for despair is ever-present, remarked Fr. Folan in his homily: “Hope is in short supply these days. That is why it bears repeating. The Spirit’s fire burns brightest when it looks like the flame of hope is about to be extinguished.” Fr. Folan issued a challenging invitation to the community to listen attentively to how the Spirit may be moving in us this year: “What is the fire burning in this collective community’s heart that must be spoken aloud?” He concluded with a reminder, especially in challenging times like these with the realities of global pandemic and persisting racial injustices, that we are all summoned to service: “Will the fire of the Spirit bring hope back into our world by reminding each of us that our lives are to be lived for others. Our educations are to be given away, so to speak, in service of others.”
As custom, President DeGioia concluded the mass with reflections about the year to come. He called attention this year to two critical ideas. First, President DeGioia affirmed the Jesuit character of Georgetown and celebrated the uniquely manifested gift of Jesuit hospitality that shows up in various ways at the university. He remarked:
“All of the members of the Jesuit community embody a characteristic virtue in practice. Hospitality. It’s another Jesuit, James Keenan, who describes Jesuit hospitality this way: ‘Our hospitality is a mobile one. Mobile because those who we serve are found throughout the whole earth.’
Tonight our Georgetown community is certainly found throughout the whole earth. You have, you will experience this welcoming, this hospitality when you are next here in this place. The distinctive aspect of Jesuit hospitality is that you can experience it wherever you are. I know you have experienced this in our special celebration tonight, in the celebration of this mass and in Fr. Folan’s beautiful homily. We are all witnesses to Jesuit hospitality.”
President DeGioia went on to offer that we as a university community can come together this year despite the physical distances that seem to separate us. He noted that the Spirit is always present, always available to meet us in our weakness and need for strength. According to President DeGioia, calling upon the Spirit for guidance is essential if we are to meet the major challenges facing the world: “What we believe, what our presence here together is witness to, is our conviction that the Spirit helps us in our weakness, that very Spirit intercedes for us. We can trust in the presence of the Spirit to guide us, in responding to these challenges.” He then named some of these pressing issues: a global pandemic, a financial crisis, an eroding civic culture, and an enduring legacy of slavery and segregation in our country.
President DeGioia concluded by making an explicit connection between the support provided by the Holy Spirit and the shared task of realizing racial justice at Georgetown:
“We have seen again this past week how urgent it is that we accept our responsibilities to address the original sin of this nation. So let me close by sharing these words by Austin Channing Brown from her book I’m Still Here. And I quote: ‘Our only chance at dismantling racial injustice is being more curious about its origins than we are worried about our comfort. It is not a comfortable conversation for any of us. It is risky and messy. It is haunting work to recall the sins of the past. But is this not the work we have been called to anyway? Is this not the work of the Holy Spirit? To illuminate truth and inspire transformation. When we talk about race today and all the pain packed into that conversation the Holy Spirit remains in the room.’
The Spirit is here with us. The Spirit that will illuminate truth and inspire transformation. The Spirit that remains in the room. As we continue our journeys. As we engage in the challenging work ahead. This is what we celebrate tonight.”
Our journeys at SCS have already begun this fall. I invite all of us in this community to reflect on these themes of hospitality and hope. How are you finding hope these days? How are you growing more hospitable, more generous in your service of others? What and who do you call upon in times of need?
May the Holy Spirit, however you understand it in your own life, experience, and vision of a transcendent reality, bless you this year.
The pilgrimage is a popular image in the spirituality of the Jesuits. It comes from the life of St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits, who thought of himself as a pilgrim always on the road. There is an innate freedom in being a pilgrim and the thing about journeys is that they begin someplace but never really end. This is one way we might think about the shared project, as students, staff, faculty, alumni, of a Georgetown education.
As we enter into the fall semester, Mission in Motion pauses this week to recognize the beginning of something new. This week we asked Michael Canter, SCS Senior Associate Dean for Students and Academic Operations and long-time member of the Georgetown community, for his advice to new and continuing students beginning their own educational journeys this fall.
1. You’ve spent a considerable part of your life in the Georgetown community, both as a student and as a staff member. What can you say about Georgetown to a new student experiencing the university for the first time?
Oftentimes, I hear from students that they feel intimidated to be here or can’t believe that they are attending Georgetown. Some wonder whether they can handle the experience. They are always surprised when I share that as both a student and a staff member there have been times when I’ve felt the same way. Why am I here? What do I bring?
I’m a first generation college student. Education wasn’t a major push in my family. Most barely graduated middle or high school. Many spent time incarcerated. A few suffered from substance abuse issues. I share these facts not in any judgment of my family but to provide that my upbringing was challenging in parts. And all of these parts made me who I am today. I brought all of this with me when I entered the gates at 37th & O Streets N.W. many years ago and I bring this with me every day to my current position. I’m better for it. And Georgetown is too.
We don’t arrive at Georgetown with clean slates. We bring a life that has been lived. Experiences. Perspectives. Students bring all of that power with them. They have the ability to shape and define what it means to be a member of this community. The landscape should be evolving. Ever changing. We need their voices. We need their stories. But most of all we need their honesty. All of this is what makes Georgetown a fantastic place to grow and explore. I invite all students to bring their full selves to this experience and to our community. They’ll be better for it. And so will we.
2. Can you share more about your role at SCS and how you and your team support student experience at the school?
Currently, I’m the Senior Associate Dean of Students and Academic Operations where I oversee the department that manages the student experience and administrative functions for all the degree seeking programs at SCS. Our team covers new student onboarding, advising, course scheduling, faculty contracting, student events, student communications, and many other fun administrative projects that help the degree programs function. Our team works side-by-side with our awesome Faculty Directors who oversee the curriculum for our academic programs and manage their specific faculty communities.
From a team perspective, I count myself pretty lucky. The team is filled with diverse, talented and driven individuals who bring a tremendous amount of passion and creativity to their work. They truly enjoy the connection with students and the ability to work with cross functional teams across the school to create new opportunities for our community. We are a team that constantly wants to improve and so thrives upon feedback from our students. Feedback can be a loaded term but I truly mean it.
I say this to share with students that we welcome all feedback. We genuinely enjoy meeting with students to hear their ideas, good experiences, or possibly areas where we didn’t quite meet their expectations. All of the above are the reasons why we do the work that we do. We want your time with us to be transformative and fulfilling so don’t hesitate to reach out to us.
3. Of all of the values in the Spirit of Georgetown, which one resonates the most with you and why? How have you brought this value into your work at Georgetown?
I always want to say, “Cura Personalis.” I feel like that is more a fan favorite. But I prefer to give some love to another key value “Educating the Whole Person.” I find a substantial amount of fulfillment in creating opportunities for individuals to grow both personally and professionally. It is what first drew me to returning to Georgetown in the first place. As a student, I felt the power of the staff and faculty. It was almost overwhelming at first because I didn’t know or understand how to accept that kind of commitment to my success. Yet, these teams pushed me towards new heights and helped me to uncover areas of my life that I hadn’t yet fully realized. They created and offered opportunities to me that I could not have produced on my own.
Dr. O’Connor, Dr. Glavin, Dr. Hirsch, Dr. Ortiz, and Dean Chiarolanzio were major influences on my collegial journey. I was never the best student but they treated me as such. The lessons that they shared with me are lessons that have inspired some of the most creative endeavors of my life. I joined the US Marine Corps. Completed further degrees. And even started writing music.
I show up to work each day hoping to have that kind of influence on my team, colleagues, but most especially our students. I’m no saint. My execution is sometimes flawed. I can have an “off” day or two or ten. But my greatest joy in life is seeing others succeed. For me, that is part of the magic of what we do here. If I can help one person, I’m a success.
4. What advice do you have for students as they proceed into the fall semester?
Work each day to block out the negativity that abounds when you are attempting to succeed at something new. People love to hate on things that they might not be able to understand. Cancel out the noise. Forget what that member of your circle said about who you are and what they believe you should do. Forget them. Leave it at the door. You deserve to be here. You deserve to have this experience. And you deserve to have the opportunity to evolve. Do it!
Communicate with your team at SCS. I’m talking about your program support, your faculty directors, your faculty members, your classmates, your resource center representatives, your amazing operations and security team (when we are back in the building)…
Did you notice what I did there? Your team is pretty large and all here to help YOU. Use them!
5. Anything else to share?
Of course! You’ve made it this far so the least I can do is leave you with few recommendations for non-school activities:
Books on my desk this week:
Almost Everything: Notes on Hope by Anne Lamott
New Seeds of Contemplation by Thomas Merton (A book Mr. Kralovec recommended to me.)
The Source of Self-Regard by Toni Morrison (I keep referring back to many essays in this book. I share her Sarah Lawrence Commencement Address and The Individual Artists as highlights.)
In his historically significant 2000 address at Santa Clara University, then Superior General of the Jesuits, Fr. Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, S.J., provocatively reflected on the service of faith and the promotion of justice in Jesuit colleges and universities in the United States. Part affirmation, part challenge to Jesuit higher education, Kolvenbach’s remarks are famous for his articulation of how Jesuit colleges and universities should be measured in terms of their effectiveness in meeting the mission of the Society of Jesus. According to Kolvenbach, Jesuit schools strive to form students not just for world success but for a deeper personal and social commitment: “The real measure of our Jesuit universities lies in who our students become. For 450 years, Jesuit education has sought to educate ‘the whole person’ intellectually and professionally, psychologically, morally, and spiritually…Tomorrow’s ‘whole person’ cannot be whole without an educated awareness of society and culture with which to contribute socially, generally, in the real world. Tomorrow’s whole person must have, in brief, a well-educated solidarity.”
In this week’s Mission in Motion, we take a closer look at how Georgetown SCS has been forming students for such a “well-educated solidarity,” an especially needed disposition in these times to address the multiple, intersecting challenges of social injustice facing our communities. We asked Karim Trueblood, an alumna of the Master of Professional Studies in Emergency & Disaster Management (EDM), about her time at Georgetown and how her Jesuit education has informed her personal and professional life since graduation. I have been blessed to know Karim both as a student in the SCS Jesuit Values in Professional Practice course described here and as an advisee for her Capstone project, “Integration of Ignatian Principles in Emergency and Disaster Management Education,” which contributed to Karim being named EDM’s Outstanding Student of the Year at the 2019 Tropaia Ceremony.
What are you up to since graduating from Georgetown? How has the global pandemic affected you personally and professionally?
Since graduating from Georgetown in Spring 2019, I took some time off for reflection and family time. My son graduated high school and enlisted in the United States Marine Corps and is now living in California. I am very proud of his service to our country. I also completed a graduate certificate in education at the University of Central Florida. I am currently furthering my education at Creighton University, where I am pursuing a Doctor of Education in Interdisciplinary Leadership. In addition, I launched my own consulting company, guided by Jesuit values. I am very passionate about this project because I am able to incorporate my dedication to Ignatian spirituality, emergency and disaster management, and education.
As we are faced with a global pandemic, it has been a struggle, personally and professionally. I had to move on from previous projects and readjust my goals and expectations for the near future. The isolation restrictions, like for many other people around the country and the world, had a negative impact on my mental and physical health. But the pandemic has also forced me to develop new skills and learn to express gratitude for what I used to take for granted.
I also have reconnected long distance with old friends, and I was able to attend a five-day silent retreat at Ignatius House in Atlanta. This was very meaningful and beneficial because it allowed time for contemplation, reflection, and healing. Silence urged me to be still and develop a deeper, more meaningful relationship with God. It also gave me a different perspective for those affected by the pandemic and discern who I am and where I belong.
What are the knowledge, skills, and values that you find yourself using most from your Georgetown education? How did your time at Georgetown form who you have become?
The academic skills that I learned from Georgetown are fundamental. Academic excellence and seeking meaning from my educational journey to better serve the community and for the greater good are why I continue to further my education. The better prepared I am, the better I will be able to serve the community.
The comprehensive approach of Georgetown’s educational programs and the concept of educating the whole person served me well because I try to continue to apply that approach to everything I do in my life. I am on a journey to become a better person, seeking internal peace and detachment. I am more aware of God’s presence, as my time at Georgetown helped me become more reflective and present. It also gave me the tools and skills to use my voice and advocate for those living in the margins.
One of the most important lessons I learned at Georgetown is that God meets you where you are. God loves me as I am, imperfect, and a constant work in progress. The concept of community in diversity in Georgetown, an inclusive community where everyone belongs and everyone is accepted, taught me to be more mindful of every individual’s unique journey. And as I reflect on my journey, I learned that God calls us to serve in different roles, and all calls for service are all as essential, and we must be alert enough to discover what our call is.
Self-knowledge and self-acceptance are only possible once we learn to be our true selves. I am still seeking more, but my Georgetown experience helped me develop skills to recognize God’s presence where there is a need for service and education.
What do Georgetown’s Jesuit Values mean to you? How have you grown in your understanding of them and their application to your personal and professional life since graduating?
Georgetown’s Jesuit Values mean that the university’s foundational moral compass was built on a tradition of working for the greater Glory of God and for the greater good. The Jesuit tradition of tolerance and understanding people of diverse religions and cultures embedded since inception in a tradition of service and promotion of justice sets a standard that I must follow to try to be better. As a flawed individual, I believe Jesuit values guide us to be the best version of ourselves.
Overall, Georgetown Jesuit Values are vital because they align with my core values. It is critical to go to a school or be part of an organization that models ethical values that will be part of your internal moral compass regardless of religious background.
Georgetown’s commitment to social justice and to work for the community impacted me immensely since it paved the way for me to develop into further research and application of Ignatian spirituality into the education of emergency and disaster management and public service.
Georgetown’s promotion of justice led me into my current project working on the application of Ignatian spirituality to guide better decision-making for the greater good in emergency and disaster management. Also, to focus on fostering better relationships between vulnerable populations and stakeholders, to bridge gaps respectfully and sensitively, and by promoting reflection.
The inequalities our country is living regarding social, racial, and law enforcement controversies motivated me to seek implementation of Ignatian spirituality to serve the communities and serve public service by practicing discernment and reflection as tools for self-care. Embracing our emotions and feelings to act more compassionately towards others and ourselves generates a more positive work environment and, consequently, a stronger community.
If you could share one message with SCS students during this challenging period?
Embrace the trying times as an opportunity for service. Write in a journal and allow time for reflection. Be open-minded and compassionate with others and with yourself.
This week’s announcement by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Student and Visitor Program (SEVP) unsettles our learning community and contributes to feelings of uncertainty for our international students at Georgetown. Both President DeGioia and Dean Otter issued statements this week decrying the SEVP guidance and expressing solidarity with our international community. This news compounds other distressing news–in addition to intersecting pandemics of COVID-19 and systemic racial injustice, we find ourselves confronting another profound challenge. Feelings of confusion, disappointment, and concern are pervasive, which might give rise to hopelessness.
We are again in a position to ask how our university mission, values, and heritage might provide resources for hope in this time. Last week, I reflected upon the legacy of Jesuit higher education in the United States and invited you to more deeply consider what being a student, staff, or faculty member at a Jesuit institution means to you. This week, I’d like to share a framework for helping engage constructively with your emotions. Here is my invitation: How best to move from feelings of disappointment to discerned action about how to proceed in these times of challenge? Whether the difficult feelings rising up for you are about the SEVP guidance, racial injustice, fall operating plans, COVID-19, and/or other inter-related challenges facing our Georgetown community and the broader world, this framework for meaning-making may be helpful to you.
Anchored in both Jesuit spirituality and experiential learning theory, this approach is intended to help you reflect and learn from your experiences. Utilized in community-based learning courses, including the SCS Jesuit Values in Professional Practice course described here, the framework assumes that all experiences, including the raw data of our feelings, provide an opportunity for deeper learning, self-growth, and social transformation. Even the most difficult emotions can be formative to your growth and development. The model moves through this pattern: Awareness (What?) > Understanding (So What?) > Action (Now What?). Let me briefly explain each stage in this theory of reflection.
Awareness (What?): There is power in naming the feelings of disappointment. Feelings are temporary and go away. Being explicit about naming feelings is the first step toward finding balance because your feelings may be indicating other concerns in your life that need to be addressed. In this first stage of growing in awareness of your feelings, I invite you to breathe, identify, observe, name, and withhold judgment. If possible, write out all of the feelings that you are noticing in yourself. You might consult a feelings vocabulary list to help you explicitly articulate your interior emotions. There is power in naming feelings.
Understanding (So What?): The next stage invites you to make meaning of your feelings and subjective, personal experience. This step in reflection critically considers, analyzes, and understands your feelings. The goal is to obtain a deeper form of knowing about your experience and the implications for your life. In this second stage of reflection, I invite you to connect your feelings in this moment with other experiences you’ve had and learned from in the past. For example, do you have memories of dealing with similar feelings? Are there resources in your education, including books, theories, projects, mentors, or other meaning-making structures like your faith community, family, etc. that might help you make sense of your emotions and reactions? How can you engage these feelings at a deeper level?
Action (Now What?): The final stage is one of transformation, a movement from feelings of frustration into discerned action for the future. This is not possible until you have named and accepted your feelings. Having done that, you can grow in greater interior freedom. Such detachment frees you to practice compassion for others. Herein lies the truly transformative potential of confronting difficult feelings. How do you make difficult feelings a learning experience that deepens your commitment to social transformation, to acting for justice?
Consider signing up for SCS Daily Digital Meditations offered over Zoom each day of the work week at 12 pm EST. Georgetown’s Office of Campus Ministry also offers spiritual and religious programs that you can learn more about here.
Reach out to your peers to inquire about how they are doing. Consider forming a small support group to create open space for sharing and reflecting on your feelings.
Develop your own interior practice of naming your feelings. You might consider practicing the Ignatian examen, a structured form of regular reflection as a way to get in touch with your emotions.
As we make our way through this summer, and continue to address the intersection of the COVID-19 pandemic and systemic racial injustice, I invite all of us in the SCS community to take a reflective pause and ask: what are we about as a Jesuit institution of higher learning? What is distinctive about our mission and values as a Jesuit school and how can this history and perspective inform how we proceed through these difficult times?
Each of us likely has our own viewpoint on what it means to learn and work at a Jesuit institution–some are deeply motivated and inspired by this tradition and it is the reason we choose to be part of Georgetown, while others might not reflect about what the university’s mission and values mean to us. Regardless of how one engages with our Jesuit heritage, however, we each have the opportunity to be inspired or challenged by this heritage in a way that deeply animates our time at Georgetown. Each of us is invited to make our Georgetown experience more meaningful and more impactful by journeying with the tools and resources made available by our Jesuit heritage.
This week, the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities (AJCU), an umbrella organization that represents the 27 Jesuit institutions of higher education in the U.S., marked its 50-year anniversary as a body. AJCU produced this short video to reflect on its first half-century of work and ponder what the next 50 years will look like in American Jesuit higher education. There is much to say about the characteristics of Jesuit education in terms of pedagogy, structure, inspiration, and application, but I would like to focus on two ideas in the video and invite you to reflect on them.
First, Charlene Brown-McKenzie, Georgetown’s Director of the Center for Multicultural Equity & Access and a student in the Doctor of Liberal Studies program, celebrates Jesuit education’s commitment to critical reflection. Charlene says in the video: “Jesuit history comes out of being innovators, progressive in so many ways, anchored in this critical question of inquiry and discourse.” Later on, Christopher Kerr, Executive Director of the Ignatian Solidarity Network, states: “We [in Jesuit higher education] see everything as inter-connected, a very-holistic model of working for justice. What are the connections to economic justice? What are the connections to racial injustice and inequity in our society?”
Blending together these two themes of critical inquiry and inter-connection, I invite you to consider this question for reflection: in your work and study at Georgetown, in the midst of intersecting pandemics of COVID-19 and systemic racial injustice, what topics or issues of concern are leading you into deeper reflection about how to act justly in the world as a professional?
Second, the AJCU video presents Ignatian discernment as a critical tool for proceeding in these times to meet our local, national, and global challenges. We’ve highlighted the Jesuit examen of consciousness before, and how this form of structured daily reflection helps us make sense of our feelings and grow in deeper awareness of how we are called to act in the world. Kerr addresses the relationship between justice and discernment when he says: “[Jesuit higher education] is going to be seeking to be on the frontiers of our world, where we find the greatest need, find people who are most vulnerable.” Linking discernment and justice in this way makes clear how important it is to maintain a regular interior practice of meditation, mindfulness, and/or prayer. We might ponder this question:
How are you practicing regular discernment? And how is your discernment and reflection these days informing how you are called to meet the world’s greatest needs and the needs of the most vulnerable in our society?
I invite you to take some time reflecting on these questions and exploring how the university’s Jesuit mission and values may help you deepen your experience at Georgetown. Please reach out to me, Jamie Kralovec, SCS Associate Director for Mission Integration (email@example.com), if you have questions or suggestions about how our university mission and values can more fully meet the challenges of this moment.
Since 2016, the School of Continuing Studies has annually offered degree-seeking students in the Master of Professional Studies and Liberal Studies programs a unique course opportunity to deeply engage with both their own personal values and the values that animate the mission of Georgetown University. The course, “Jesuit Values in Professional Practice,” has become a popular offering among SCS students and satisfies degree plans as a free elective.
With the help of Georgetown’s Center for Social Justice Research, Teaching & Service, the class is designed as Community-Based Learning (CBL) so that students take on direct work with a community-based organization addressing identified needs of marginalized persons and communities in the DC area. This community service outside of the classroom provides students with data for ongoing individual and group reflections that sustain the 15-week course.
Diverse learning activities in the class include presentations by officials responsible for advancing Jesuit mission and values in their work at Georgetown and beyond, regular individual and group reflection, and learning materials that make the Jesuits’ 500-year old tradition come alive for contemporary professionals. The class is open to and welcomes students of all faith traditions or no faith tradition at all, utilizing a “whole person” approach to education that considers the intellectual, professional, moral, and spiritual aspects of human development.
As “Jesuit Values in Professional Practice” enters its fifth fall semester, the course will be delivered this year in a remote format. The CBL requirement will also become virtual for students, who can serve in community-based organizations with opportunities for such virtual service coordinated by the Center for Social Justice (an example of how the CSJ has already promoted these remote service possibilities for students can be found here and here). We can embrace and adapt to virtual forms of teaching and learning consistent with the spirit of a “community in dispersion,” a concept that arises out of the early Jesuits’ history of “remaining intimately connected through the technology” of the day in spite of their own disruptions and separations.
Fr. Matthew Carnes S.J., associate professor in Georgetown’s Department of Government and Walsh School of Foreign Service and past presenter in the SCS course, describes more fully the uniquely Jesuit contribution to the motif of a “community in dispersion” here.
Given the social challenges facing our communities at the intersection of the COVID-19 pandemic and systemic racial injustice, the course’s objective to help students “identify ways to serve justice and the common good in both a professional and personal context” is particularly relevant today. I have found that students tend to enjoy the class because of the extended opportunity it provides for guided and structured discernment about developing one’s personal mission and values as a professional. I have also found that students at SCS enjoy the interdisciplinary nature of the learning and the occasion for engaging with students outside of their professional disciplines and degree programs.
More than any advertisement, perspectives from course alumni testify to the curricular value. Here is a sampling of what past students have had to say about the class:
“I finally understand what makes Jesuit spirituality unique. It is a spirituality that is externalized, that actively shapes one’s choices and actions, it is contemplation in action, being people for others and aspiring for the Magis (the more).”
“The speakers who moved me the most had journeyed deeply inside their humanity and touched mine.”
“CBL truly opened my eyes to the ways people dedicate their time to fight for justice everyday. I enjoyed serving those in need and getting to know them and their stories. It was an experience that I will carry on into my own work and life.”
“I learned the foundational aspects of Jesuit values and caring for the whole person. In working to develop a right relationship with all, I learned much about Jesuit spirituality in practice and about the process of accompanying, serving, reflecting on data, researching, communicating and raising awareness in order to transform the life of another, one person at a time.”
Degree-seeking students with questions about “LSHV 480: CBL Jesuit Values in Professional Practice” (CRN: 31553, meets Thursdays at 5:20 pm in the fall) should reach out to course instructor and Associate Director for Mission Integration, Jamie Kralovec (firstname.lastname@example.org).
A hallmark of Jesuit education is a commitment to a style of teaching, known as Ignatian Pedagogy, which emphasizes the personalization of learning, the social context in which learning occurs, and the ultimate goals of education: serving each other and the common good. The paradigm of Ignatian Pedagogy, which flows from Jesuit spirituality and features a dynamic inter-play of the five stages of Context-Experience-Reflection-Action-Evaluation, is not a rigid one-size fits all manual for teaching but rather a spur to deeper consideration of students as whole persons in the learning process. The paradigm’s often overlooked fifth stage, evaluation, offers all of us at Georgetown an opportunity to comprehensively reflect on what we have learned from our teaching and working during the last two months so that we might proceed with a better understanding for how to more effectively journey together as we meet the challenges before us.
This year’s Teaching Learning and Innovation Summer Institute (TLISI) conference, an annual conference hosted by the Center for New Designs in Learning & Scholarship after spring semester ends, provided rich opportunities to more deeply evaluate what we learned from educating in the virtual environment from March to May. TLISI is always an engaging experience of cross-campus, peer-to-peer sharing, and SCS has contributed significantly to the conference in the past few years, offering a number of mission-related sessions (including here, here, and here). Two panels stood out at this year’s all-virtual conference: one session led by students and another session led by Georgetown’s Deans.
Evaluation, in the context of Ignatian Pedagogy, needs to be understood as broader and deeper than simply assigning a numerical score for performance. Rather, evaluation in the Ignatian style involves taking a deep look at how teaching encouraged “fuller human growth” beyond simple “academic mastery.” Did this learning experience foster opportunities for “further reflection” beyond simply transmitting knowledge or skills? I was so heartened to hear a range of student voices reflecting on what worked and what didn’t in their virtual learning. These insights, some of which I summarize below, provide important reminders about how much traditional methods of teaching need to adjust to this unprecedented moment:
One-on-one faculty engagement with students matters now more than ever. Students reported that their sense of belonging and community deepened when faculty members reached out to check in on them. A relationship of trust between teacher and student helped learners stay connected to the content of their courses. This one-on-one commitment also reinforced a sense of solidarity and mutuality between students and faculty during a time of crisis.
Faculty conducting virtual classes need to mix up their learning activities and provide space for students to actively engage the subject matter and each other. 20 or 30 minutes is probably the maximum time a student can sit through a synchronous class session without being invited to share a reflection, ask a question, or actively explore the class material. Students shared that they were more likely to stay engaged if they were drawn into active participation by faculty. The students also emphasized that flexibility is crucial as some students might not be as disposed to participate actively in class due to adverse conditions in their home learning environments.
The panel of Georgetown deans offered similar insights as they shared lessons learned from managing their organizations during this time. While each school operates in its own unique context and faces different challenges and opportunities, the panel reflected many things held in common. The deans emphasized several shared themes about the need in this time of crisis to:
Deliver clear and well-coordinated communications to their students, staff, and faculty.
Cultivate structures of community (amongst faculty, staff, and student groups) in which the bonds of personal and communal connection can help withstand feelings of dislocation and separation through self-growth opportunities like the SCS Daily Digital Meditations.
Embrace change and adaptability about existing ways of doing business. This crisis actually invites new ways of proceeding that will ultimately improve the management of Georgetown’s operations.
Express gratitude for the gifts of our community, especially the heroic and inspiring actions that our students, staff, and faculty are taking to uphold the mission of Georgetown University.
There is still much to ponder as we evaluate the experience of closing out the spring semester by learning and working in an all-virtual context. But I am hopeful that the valuable reflections at TLISI provide a helpful foundation for deeper discernment about how we are called to meet this moment. Our unique mission and values as a university present a depth of resources for how to proceed in our learning and working at Georgetown. As Mara Brecht notes in a recent article in America Magazine, COVID-19 invites an even fuller commitment to our Jesuit mission and heritage:
” Overrun hospitals, a halted world economy and a pervasive aura of fear and anxiety turn abstractions about mission and identity into reality. In this moment, need becomes nakedly apparent: our own existential and economic needs, the need of people who are sick and suffering for compassion and care, and the desperate needs of the poor and vulnerable among us. Responding to need, in its wide range and many manifestations must become our starting point for assessing the distinctively Catholic nature of our institutions.”
This week’s post comes from Mary J. Novak, associate director for Ignatian Formation for SCS & the Law Center, and adjunct professor of Law. Mary also serves as Chaplain-in-Residence in the Gewirz Residential Community located on the Law Center’s Capitol Hill Campus.
Talking to students, staff, and faculty at any Jesuit institution, I will often use the word “vocation.” To some ears, this language is familiar and serves as an invitation to a deeper conversation. To others less familiar with Ignatian language, I will see the slight furrowing of the brow.
If I am quick on my feet, I will say: “You know, the Frederick Buechner definition of vocation of ‘where your deepest desires meet the world’s greatest needs and the community confirms your call,’ therein you will find your vocation.” Buechner is much more eloquent than I am, saying, “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”
It is Buechner’s definition of vocation that Jamie Kralovec and I use to end the SCS student retreats (pictures of which Jamie included in his last blog post). Buechner says this (and please pardon the gendered language):
“IT COMES FROM the Latin vocare, to call, and means the work a man is called to by God.
There are all different kinds of voices calling you to all different kinds of work, and the problem is to find out which is the voice of God rather than of Society, say, or the Super-ego, or Self-Interest.
By and large a good rule for finding out is this. The kind of work God usually calls you to is the kind of work (a) that you need most to do and (b) that the world most needs to have done. If you really get a kick out of your work, you’ve presumably met requirement (a), but if your work is writing TV deodorant commercials, the chances are you’ve missed requirement (b). On the other hand, if your work is being a doctor in a leper colony, you have probably met requirement (b), but if most of the time you’re bored and depressed by it, the chances are you have not only bypassed (a) but probably aren’t helping your patients much either.
Neither the hair shirt nor the soft berth will do. The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”
In higher educational settings, we so often focus on the first part of this definition of vocation, what the student needs most to do. During this pandemic, I know I am not alone in focusing more and more on the second part of Buechner’s definition, what “the world most needs to have done” and I wonder if the order of these questions needs to change.
This pandemic reveals more fully than ever in my lifetime that our systems and society do not value all life, especially the lives of those who have been historically marginalized, the materially poor and the most physically vulnerable. The raging pandemic has revealed our systemic operative racism, ageism, classism, toxic nationalism, etc. in ways that are stark and hard to ignore.
Last month in the Financial Times, Arundhati Roy called this moment in our world history a “portal,” saying:
“Historically, pandemics have forced humans to break with the past and imagine their world anew. This one is no different. It is a portal, a gateway between one world and the next.”
Can we imagine our world anew? What does the world most need to have done to get there? And only when we answer that question can we ask: what do you/I/we most need to do? This is the treasure of our Jesuit Heritage: not only can we ask these questions in this setting, but we can lean into discerning them together as community to build a better world in the common good.