By Eugene Curtin, Office of University Communications and Marketing, Creighton University
Last November, Creighton University’s President, Rev. Daniel S. Hendrickson, S.J., announced a new initiative that would enhance Creighton’s global programming while addressing issues of sustainability. The Common Home Project builds upon a consistent theme of Fr. Hendrickson’s presidency: enhancing global opportunities at the University.
René Padilla, Ph.D., Vice Provost for Global Engagement at Creighton, says that the Common Home Project will consolidate Creighton’s global presence into fewer locations while yielding measurable results. “The underlying goal of the Common Home Project is to generate projects around the world that can be measured according to outcomes of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the United Nations,” says Padilla.
The University currently has approximately 100 global partnerships that allow Creighton students to study or serve abroad. While students generally say that these experiences contribute to their overall education, there is a need for more detailed reporting on outcomes. “Students participate in global programs, and then they graduate,” Padilla explains. “We haven’t been effectively tracking outcomes, for Creighton or our partner organizations, other than the learning of students.”
An example of effective reporting is a water quality program that Creighton started several years ago in the Dominican Republic, where the University has maintained a presence for 45 years through the Institute for Latin American Concern (ILAC). “This year, the program was funded by a $100,000 grant, and we did what we were supposed to — the measurement is exactly what we expected in terms of impact,” Padilla says. “It provided water to over 4,000 people who previously did not have water.
“We were able then to register that project and outcome with the Higher Education Sustainability Initiative at the United Nations, so that when they write their report on the Dominican Republic — and they’re writing about water, which is one of the goals — this contribution would be added into their report. Our goal is to do that type of tracking in five hubs in which we have partnerships around the world.”
The reforms enacted by the Common Home Project focus on five areas of the world, or “hubs,” emphasizing consistent, long-term work, and achieving results that are measurable and conform to U.N. goals and standards, for future inclusion in U.N. development reports. The focus areas are the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, India, Uganda and the Philippines. Padilla notes that in the latter country, relationships are being formed with four Filipino universities within the Jesuit network.
Just one year prior to the Common Home Project, the University launched the Creighton Global Scholars program. A presidential initiative, Global Scholars study in at least four countries during their undergraduate careers. “In addition to preparing them for employment and leadership with international organizations, this program’s broadened perspective enriches the skill-set and — more importantly — the character of participants through immersion in foreign cultures,” Fr. Hendrickson says. “Intensifying global proficiency in the lives of Creighton students is a passionate interest of mine.”
Creighton also enjoys a robust relationship with China (which sends students to Creighton to achieve doctorates in the health sciences), and is enhancing a longstanding relationship with Saudi Arabia, which once sent pharmacy and dental students to Creighton, but now focuses on emergency medical services education.
Keli Mu, Ph.D., OTR/L, professor and chair of Creighton’s Occupational Therapy Department, leads China outreach as director of Asia Health Science International Programs. He explains that the China connection began in 2005, when Creighton was approached by a hospital in Shijiazhuang, whose leaders were eager to develop an occupational therapy program.
Fifteen years later, the University maintains a robust exchange program that sees Chinese students visiting Creighton’s campus for summer programs, while Creighton pharmacy, occupational therapy, physical therapy and nursing students visit China during the fall. (With the outbreak of the coronavirus, the U.S. government has restricted travel into the United States from China, and Creighton has suspended all University-sponsored travel to China until further notice.)
“We are very proud to say that Creighton is well known in China in the field of rehabilitation,” Mu says. “When we attend a conference in China, or take our students there, the conference attendees, when they talk about the United States, always say Creighton University first.”
Creighton’s Heider College of Business also has an agreement with Shandong Jiaotong University in China, to facilitate more student and faculty exchanges between the two institutions. The College also sponsors a two-week immersion course to China’s Pearl River Delta region, with visits to Hong Kong, Guangzhou and Macau.
While the Global Engagement Office is the locus of the University’s institutional outreach, it is not the only means through which Creighton students engage in international service and education. “There are student organizations that exist specifically to experience things abroad,” Padilla says. “We don’t run their programs, but we assist them as needed.”
Among these, Padilla notes, is Project CURA, a program of the School of Medicine, which, in 2019, saw students provide medical services and experience cultural immersion in Guatemala, India, Peru, Uganda, Vietnam and Indonesia. Others include the Model United Nations Club, whose members recently returned from a trip to Canada, and MEDLIFE (Medicine Education and Development for Low-Income Families Everywhere), which uses mobile clinics to promote health awareness at home and abroad.
Some foreign engagement opportunities involve a blend of service and learning, while others are wholly opportunities to study abroad, for a semester or even a full year. All of this, Padilla says, results in about one-third of Creighton’s student body experiencing service or study abroad at some point during their years at the University.
Creighton’s extensive foreign opportunities reflect the University’s approach to the educational experience. University President, Fr. Hendrickson says, “Involvement in the wider world is a critical component of life at Creighton. It stems from Creighton’s identity as a Jesuit university and reflects the nearly instantaneous emphasis of the Society of Jesus to engage, understand and impact the world. Creighton is well-positioned on the global stage, and we are poised to stand even taller.”
All photos courtesy of Creighton University.