By Deanna Howes Spiro, Director of Communications, AJCU
On October 11-13, more than 100 people from Jesuit institutions across the world gathered at Seattle University in Seattle, WA for the 34th Alpha Sigma Nu Triennial Conference. Sponsored by Alpha Sigma Nu (ASN), the only academic honor society to bear the name “Jesuit,” the conference drew student leaders from 31 ASN chapters; faculty advisers and coordinators from 18 chapters; and leaders of 11 alumni clubs.
This year’s Triennial featured a robust agenda that included an opening keynote address by Seattle University’s president, Rev. Stephen V. Sundborg, S.J., on discerning the future of Alpha Sigma Nu as the Jesuit honor society. Subsequent presentations focused on internalization, diversity and inclusion, all of which were followed by opportunities for individual and group reflections. Separate breakout sessions were held for chapter leaders, faculty advisers and alumni club leaders.
The conference was preceded by a board meeting and concluded with a meeting for new directors, during which a new president, Thomas M. Nolan, was elected to serve a 3-year term. Nolan said, “The Alpha Sigma Nu Triennial was simply excellent: wonderful hospitality on the part of Seattle University, challenging speakers, productive working sessions, and three days of rain-free Seattle weather. Most important, especially in these days of polarization and pessimism, the chance to spend time with the best that Jesuit education has to offer was a particular treat; their enthusiasm, learning, commitment to justice and vibrant faith were wonderfully refreshing. Ignatius would be delighted!”
The conference presented ample opportunities for students to meet and share best practices with each other on managing the ASN chapters at their home institutions. Stephen Gretchen, a senior and vice president of the ASN chapter at Wheeling Jesuit University, said, “It was truly a blessing to attend the Alpha Sigma Nu Triennial in Seattle this past weekend. The conference was full of eye-opening presentations and realities that are all at our fingertips as members of the society. Alpha Sigma Nu inductees are wonderful people interconnected throughout the world, doing purposeful work with the Jesuit values on display that were instilled at their respective universities. It is a network that I am glad to be a part of.”
Faculty advisers play a key role in nurturing ASN on their campuses. Some are new to their role and found the Triennial to be a great resource. Debra J. O’Connor, Ph.D. is an associate professor of accounting at the College of the Holy Cross, where she recently began her tenure as an adviser. She said, “Having only one year under my belt as a faculty adviser and never having attended an Alpha Sigma Nu conference before, I was not sure what to expect. I was more than pleasantly surprised. It was very helpful talking with other faculty advisers about best practices and I received many great suggestions. I was also extremely impressed with the energy, enthusiasm and dedication of the Alpha Sigma Nu network of students and alumni. It was an inspiring and rewarding conference.”
Over the past few years, ASN has expanded internationally: in addition to the United States, chapters can now be found in Canada, South Korea and Spain. Ignacio Garrido Cruz came as a representative of the newest chapter, Loyola University Andalucia in Seville, where he is also working as an assistant in the office of international relations. He said, “When we talk about Alpha Sigma Nu members, we are talking about people who are natural collaborators in the Jesuit mission. It was very inspiring, during the Triennial, to see all of these students working together and collaborating for the unique purpose of figuring out ways to make their communities, universities and the world a better place. I found the internationalization and diversity of Alpha Sigma Nu to be one of the main themes during the conference, and that participants seemed to be excited and encouraged by the idea of having a more global honor society of Jesuit colleges and universities.”
In addition to his roles at Loyola Andalucia, Garrido Cruz is working on communications outreach for the International Association of Jesuit Universities (IAJU), which was officially established this summer during a global assembly of Jesuit university leaders in Deusto, Spain. IAJU was the subject of a presentation during the Triennial: together with Joe Orlando, director of the Center for Jesuit Education at Seattle University, ASN’s executive director, Kate Gaertner, discussed how ASN can become an important partner in the growth and development of IAJU. “The challenge of the Deusto Assembly energized the 2018 ASN Triennial. Not only did ASN’s leaders strategize for their chapter and club programs for the year, they were challenged by our speakers to embrace their Jesuit education as a call to service, and to see themselves as part of the global Jesuit network…the network of Jesuit educated alumni mobilized by IAJU and poised to be change-makers for the marginalized.”
Highlights from the conference included presentations on Jesuit Worldwide Learning (JWL) by Mary McFarland, Ph.D., R.N., co-founder and global research director of JWL, and diversity and inclusion in Jesuit universities and ASN by Monica Nixon, Ed.D., assistant vice president for equity, inclusion and social justice for NASPA (Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education). During the conference’s closing banquet, ASN bestowed awards to two ASN members: Rev. Michael J. Garanzini, S.J., Secretary for Jesuit Higher Education, and David S. Zamierowski, M.D. Fr. Garanzini received the Richard and Ann Panlener Award for his recognition of ASN as a member of the global Jesuit educational apostolate; Dr. Zamierowski received the Peg Fennig Award for his support of ASN students through the creation of the Seelos Grant program.
The conference concluded with elections of two new student board members, who will both serve three-year terms: Francisco Sanchez Cuellar of Loyola University Andalucia and Maria Meyer of Boston College. Meyer, a senior nursing major and president of the ASN chapter at BC, said, “To me, being a part of Alpha Sigma Nu is about being a part of an international community that values Jesuit education and personal and community development. Attending the ASN Triennial meant so much to me because I was able to connect with other students, alumni and administrators who all want to work together to further the society and to make our Jesuit university communities the most inclusive, loving and loyal places possible. I am thrilled to be a student board member because I am so passionate about assisting and supporting ASN student chapter board members in their endeavors to make their respective chapters the best that they can be!”
Photos and Reflections on the 34th Alpha Sigma Nu Triennial
All photos courtesy of Alpha Sigma Nu. Supplemental information contributed by Kristina Tadeo, assistant director of Alpha Sigma Nu.