By René Padilla, Ph.D., Vice Provost for Global Engagement, Creighton University

René Padilla, Ph.D. (photo courtesy of Creighton University)

René Padilla, Ph.D. (photo courtesy of Creighton University)

This fall, members of the AJCU Conference on International Education didn’t have to travel far for their annual meeting. From October 27 through November 6, 107 attendees participated in seven virtual sessions that drew on the Universal Apostolic Preferences (UAPs) as the way to anchor the work of international educators in the Jesuit mission and Ignatian identity of our institutions.

The first set of sessions focused on decision-making and the need for Jesuit international education to be based on authentic discernment and paying attention to our own interior movements – and those of our students or the communities we interact with. Drew Roberts and Sarah Brockmeyer (both from Santa Clara University) set us in motion during a session entitled “Partners in Mission: Using Jesuit Values to Guide Decision-Making,” which focused on identifying existing challenges and evaluating practices to support international students from a stance of accompaniment, as they navigate governmental or institutional processes.

In their session entitled “Covid Innovations and Jesuit Response,” Rev. Roy Pereira, S.J. (Creighton University) and Rashmi Lee George (St. Xavier’s College, Mumbai, India) guided participants though ways in which the Covid-19 pandemic has caused Jesuit institutions to sometimes dramatically change their way of proceeding and “go beyond while also making do with what one has.” Ultimately, our Jesuit mission calls us to rise up to our highest potential in times of crisis.

Two other sessions focused participants on pragmatic integrations of Jesuit values in decision-making. In a session on “Integrating Service-Learning into Intranational Education to Promote Global Citizenship,” Daniel Walsh (Creighton University) reminded us of a remark from Jesuit Superior General Rev. Arturo Sosa, S.J.: “Seeing ourselves as world citizens should be one of the outcomes of studying or working in a Jesuit university.” The presentation provided an overview of service-learning as a pedagogical model that contributes to the UAPs, especially in accompanying young people in the creation of a hope-filled future.

The set of decision-making sessions ended with one on “What Were They Thinking? Decision-Making Processes for U.S. Institution Outbound Study Abroad,” facilitated by Karli Webster (Marquette University), Lea Minniti (Xavier University), Brian Johnson (Loyola University Chicago) and Sara Branley (Santa Clara University), with contributions from Sharon Li (University of San Francisco ). In this session, participants described ways that Jesuit institutions made quick decisions about when to bring students home from studying abroad in early 2020, due to the rapid spread of the coronavirus across the world. The session concluded with an interesting discussion about how – and when – institutions will begin resuming travel in the future.

The second section of the conference focused on emerging forms of collaboration that can result in meaningful outcomes emblematic of the Universal Apostolic Preferences. In a session on “Relationships of Solidarity and Depth: Ignatian Social Enterprise, Jesuit Higher Education, and Collaborating for the Long Term,” Cristina Rossini (Yomol A’Tel) and Rev. Stephen Pitts, S.J. (Jesuits US Central and Southern Province) introduced participants to tenets of alternative economic development models that go beyond the shareholder-centric model of business. They challenged participants to participate in deeper forms of partnerships such as Yomol A’Tel, a collaboration between indigenous communities in Southern Mexico and partners within and outside Mexico – several of them Jesuit universities – that markets and distributes premium-quality organic coffee, soap and honey, and pays producers living wages by maximizing and localizing profits. That session was followed by another example of partnerships, with a panel on “Spes Nova: Academic Partnerships for a Sustainable and Inclusive Worldwide Development.” In this session, Erick Rengifo, Victor Sapkota and Ithiel Engambaram (all from Fordham University) elaborated on Spes Nova, an initiative based on a three-pillar approach of microfinance, market development and microinsurance that seeks to improve families’ and communities’ lives. Spes Nova’s vision is to build a global network of academic institutions that engage their students in for-credit coursework that fuel micro-enterprises through the power of international collaboration.

The final session, “Leveraging Our Jesuit Network During the Global Pandemic: Virtual Dual Immersion Program Supports Institutional Internationalization,” presented by Diane Ceo-DiFrancesco (Xavier University), Carolina Maturet de Paris (AUSJAL), Oscar Mora (Universidad Pontificia Javeriana, Cali, Colombia) and Xóchitl León Oyarzabal (Universidad Iberoamericana Torreón, Mexico), examined the pedagogy and impact of virtual dual-immersion in expanding global learning opportunities and intercultural interactions on – and between – campuses.

The AJCU Conference on International Education was organized for the promotion and development of global education among AJCU member institutions. In addition, the Conference supports collaboration and partnership with Jesuit institutions worldwide. Special attention is focused on the importance of international and global education to the Jesuit mission and the promotion of justice.