Cancer Awareness Month at SCS Shines Spotlight on Value of Cura Personalis

SCS staff put the University’s Jesuit values into practice every day in their interactions across our learning community. This post in “Mission in Motion” is offered by Nicole Thomas, social media marketing manager, who offers reflections about integrating Jesuit values in staff-led efforts to promote deeper connections at SCS between Cancer Awareness Month and Georgetown’s commitment to educating the whole person. 

Members of the SCS staff participate in “On Wednesday We Wear Pink” as part of Breast Cancer Awareness Month

As the social media marketing manager, I’m constantly thinking about ways to connect with the SCS community and the larger Georgetown community in a way that breaks down perceived barriers between groups and creates an interaction or experience that reminds individuals that they belong. Originally, I thought, “How can I engage a large group of people in a way that challenges the community to move outside of their comfort zone…but not too far from it?” As I continued to think about our community of students, faculty, and staff, my original (smaller) idea grew into an all-month event that engaged faculty, staff, and students.

For the month of October, Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I worked with colleagues across SCS departments, including Operations, Academic Programs, Events, and Finance to hold three events. First, “On Wednesday We Wear Pink” encouraged faculty and staff to wear pink to show support for breast cancer research. Second, we encouraged students the following week to write messages of hope and support to cancer patients. Third, we invited the community to make an explicit connection with Georgetown’s Jesuit value of cura personalis. We put up a sign outside of the library in the atrium and encouraged the community to respond in writing to the prompt, “What will you do this month to care for your health?”

Once my ideas were solidified, I had to answer one major question to my colleagues and, really, to myself: Why am I doing this? What is the purpose of trying to engage with these various communities of people in this particular way—about cancer, health and well-being, and the relationship to our university’s Jesuit values?

The first reason is because at some point in our lives, we have all been impacted by cancer. We’ve all seen the pain, trauma, (and occasionally hope), that cancer can create. We all have this common human experience of facing the mortality of those we love. This experience has the power to deeply connect us to each other and remind us of our shared humanity. In some way, we have each experienced grief and sadness and hope. We become people for others when we see everyone around us as the people they are, not just as work associates, but as people whose human experiences are valued and honored. The events we planned offered a place for us across the SCS community to connect with each other through sharing our vulnerabilities together. This goal felt important to me because, as a Georgetown employee, I can easily fall into a routine of going through the motions and forgetting the people around me are vulnerable human beings, too. I wanted to create an inviting space—a space where people felt like they could express their vulnerability in a communal environment. When you can allow yourself to be vulnerable with your peers, you create an opportunity to deepen your relationships and build trust. Georgetown University fosters these kinds of moments because of our foundational Jesuit heritage and our strong commitment to being more than just an academic institution or place of work, but a place that encourages creating spaces for fostering community that addresses human needs.

Outside of the SCS library, a “Cura Personalis” banner encourages students to express how they plan to care for their well-being

I also wanted to create an opportunity for students, faculty, and staff to remember the popular Jesuit value of cura personalis, which translates to “care for the whole person.” We, as faculty, staff, and students, all play our respective roles in this organization—roles that can be neatly defined: student, employee, faculty member, etc. Cura personalis sees the person as more than a role, however, but a person with “unique gifts, challenges, needs and possibilities.” Cura personalis is a reminder that the roles you are assigned in certain spaces do not define you; you are unique, and as a unique person, you must take care of all the unique parts that make you, you, which include your mental and physical health.

Writing on a poster board about how you will take care of your health may seem like a small exercise in self-care, but taking a moment to reflect on yourself, your needs, and your health is a gentle reminder—even in the midst of a busy day—that you are more than a transcript or a salary. Our Jesuit heritage, grounded in the value of cura personalis, encourages us to develop as whole persons. My goal with these recent events was to remind students, faculty, and staff that your unique gifts and needs have a place here at Georgetown.