This month’s issue of Connections is the first of two that highlight our schools’ partnerships with local community and civic organizations, or “town and gown.” It was wonderful to see how many schools were interested in contributing articles on this topic, and we are delighted to share them with you!

In addition to the eight thematic articles, we are also pleased to share a detailed update on what Congress is working on this spring in our Government Relations report. From the debt ceiling to appropriations, there is considerable activity in the nation’s capital this spring!

We hope that these last few weeks of the spring semester go smoothly and safely for you, your colleagues, and your students. Stay tuned for Part II of this issue in June!

By Deanna Howes Spiro, Vice President of Communications, AJCU

U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell meets with Spokane community leaders at Gonzaga Family Haven to discuss affordable housing needs and opportunities. Photo by Zack Berlat.

When U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) visited the Gonzaga Family Haven in Spokane, WA last November, she remarked on what she felt distinguished the new housing project: “You’re integrating the families here into the community in a much more aggressive way than other places like this. I really don’t know any other example like this: it’s a very holistic approach.”

Breann Beggs, Spokane City Council president, echoed the importance of the Haven’s focus not only on housing, but supporting residents. “The first solution for people who don’t have housing is housing,” Beggs said. “The secret sauce for this project is not just housing, it’s services — services curated to individuals.”

Gonzaga Family Haven, the seventeenth supportive housing project of Catholic Charities Eastern Washington (CCEW), is home to 70+ formerly houseless families, including 150 children in Spokane’s Logan neighborhood, where Gonzaga University is located. This first-of-its-kind community-based collaboration involving Gonzaga, Gonzaga Preparatory High School and St. Aloysius Gonzaga Parish was forged to help transition houseless families to “forever homes.”

“The challenges faced by our community members without homes are significant and affect a large number of children and adults,” said Gonzaga’s President, Thayne M. McCulloh. “We have made the commitment to be an integral part of helping houseless families in our community. Catholic Charities Eastern Washington is making such a difference in our city and region, every day. We are so grateful for the opportunity to work with them and our community partners to open doors for meaningful and lasting change.”

After the formal opening in March 2022, Gonzaga received $576,000 in funding from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to enhance wrap-around programming and services for residents. Senator Cantwell was vital in securing the funding, and her Haven visit included a tour and meeting with organizations partnering to offer a wide array of services to help residents successfully navigate their way into the future. And in true Jesuit fashion of “people for and with others,” Gonzaga Prep students and parents constructed beds, Gonzaga student-athletes helped families move in, trustees and regents assembled welcome packets, and eighth graders from St. Aloysius elementary delivered them to residents.

Gonzaga University and Catholic Charities Family Haven. Photo by Zack Berlat.

Since its official opening in March 2022, programs and services have deepened and expanded, ensuring a coordinated set of support services to help stabilize at-risk families:

Many of these programs show up as extraordinary learning and engagement opportunities for Gonzaga students. Graduate students in marriage and family counseling are developing activities to promote healthy family relationships. An all-neighborhood health clinic organized by faculty, staff and students of Gonzaga’s School of Nursing & Human Physiology offered free sports physicals for children, along with COVID-19 vaccines, flu shots, and more. After-school programs include mentorships, homework help, and fun sporting activities that guide youth to focus on academic success.

Several programs have been developed hand-in-hand with families, informed by focus groups and community conversations, including legal clinics, financial management clinics, and a health clinic. “It’s critical that our programs are informed by residents – they know the type of supports that will be beneficial for their families,” said Bailley Wootton, director of strategic partnerships for Gonzaga’s Center for Community Engagement. “Our families understand the value of cultivating connection and belonging at the Haven.”

Women’s programs that advance education and employment pathways through essential skills workforce development are emerging, with creative storytelling and leadership workshops helping resident mothers discover new avenues for growth and enjoyment.


Community events build a sense of belonging, with a monthly community meal for residents, tickets to campus sporting events, and a Christmas stocking for every family filled with gift certificates and Gonzaga memorabilia.

“In trauma-informed care, our residents need to experience love, trust and safety in order to move from surviving to thriving,” said Peggy Haun-McEwen, director of community at the Haven. “The most important thing our student volunteers bring is hope. Families are now encouraged to dream and hope for a future they could not imagine before moving to Gonzaga Family Haven. We are already seeing the power of education and engagement making a difference in the lives of our families, and we’re so excited to see what the future holds.”

“Gonzaga Family Haven is changing the lives of families who have experienced the trauma of homelessness and family separation,” said John Sklut, senior advisor to President McCulloh. “Through this innovative partnership, we are providing families with a safe place to live and access to services that help them make lasting improvements to their wellness and stability. Our goal is to break the cycle of intergenerational poverty for these neighbors.”

It is rewarding to everyone involved and needed now more than ever. Homelessness is a persistent problem. Locally, there are reportedly 191 households with children awaiting connection to a resource like Gonzaga Family Haven. Its partners expect the Haven and its programs to be a model for Spokane and in other cities across the country.

“Gonzaga Family Haven is now giving forever homes to families who had previously been living in their cars, living in shelters and, in some cases, living in tents or abandoned motorhomes,” said Rob McCann (‘95 M.A, ‘06 Ph.D.), president/CEO of CCEW. “This marks an amazing moment of contemplation in action for Catholic Charities and for Gonzaga University. It’s been a blessing to be a part of this incredible concept that now connects our Catholic Charities agency, our town, and our Catholic university’s campus in such a unique way. In my 23 years at Catholic Charities, I don’t think I’ve seen a project that has impacted the community in the special way that this one has. What a gift! What a blessing!”

By Mary Joan Hahn, Senior Director of Community Relations, Gonzaga University


Morning sunlight streamed through the office window of Rev. John Murray, S.J.,’76, assistant director of the Murphy Center for Ignatian Spirituality at Fairfield University, as he welcomed his “Aging With Grace” class participants onto their Zoom call the week after Easter last year.

The two dozen or so retirees in attendance ranged in age from 65 to 87 years old. Most, but not all, were Catholic. A few, like Bob Laska ’69, were Fairfield alumni. Many, like Joan Bolger, have been a part of the “Aging With Grace” community since the program began in 2018.

“Aging with Grace” is a semester-long course that meets twice a month for an hour and a half. Offered through the Murphy Center and rooted firmly in Ignatian tradition, the online class is open to retirees of all faiths who seek to deepen their relationship with God and enrich their daily lives. Using prayer, assigned readings, and personal reflection, Fr. Murray guides participants through an exploration of the spiritual dynamics of growing older.

“When Fr. Murray first offered this class, I was immediately intrigued by the name” said Bolger. “Certainly we can’t deny that we are aging, and to think we could do it gracefully was consoling.”

During this particular session, Bolger shared a story about a stranger in the supermarket parking lot who had witnessed her shopping list whisked out of her hand by a gust of wind; the gentleman ran to chase the little piece of paper, stopped it with his foot, and returned it to her. “For some reason, that touched me tremendously,” she said, vowing to pay the gesture forward. “We can’t fix [large issues like] Ukraine, but we can live in the world that I’m so grateful to be in, and pass on some form of kindness whenever possible.”

Finding God in all things – especially the little things – is the order of the day in “Aging With Grace”. With assigned readings by authors who have an Ignatian bent or background, Fr. Murray described the course as “kind of a book club, and also an invitation for individuals to look at the readings in a reflective prayer context – not just an intellectual context.”

The class originally met on campus, in person, but at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Fr. Murray switched to Zoom, where the group still meets today. With a mix of local and out-of-state attendees, conducting the program virtually allows Fr. Murray to meet all of the participants wherever they are.

“The class has evolved into a community of like-minded people sharing very deeply their own spiritual journeys and feelings,” said Fr. Murray. “They’re not all Catholic, but all men and women searching for a relationship with God as they conceive God to be, which is a wonderful thing.”

Look around a church on any given Sunday, and you’re bound to notice that the “regulars” in the pews are mostly older adults. Yet, pick up a parish bulletin and you’ll see it’s filled with religious education classes for children. Rarely are there programs designed to help senior citizens deepen their spiritual lives. This is where “Aging With Grace” comes in.

“Each person’s spiritual journey is unique and in the uniqueness, of course, is a developing relationship with Jesus that grows, depending on a person’s willingness to explore it deeper,” Fr. Murray said. “That can be as true for 20-year-olds as for an 80-year-old.”


Participants in the program are at a point in their lives when the path forward is shorter than the roads they’ve traveled. As retirees, they are free from the demands of a job and the pressure to succeed, but grapple with the health issues and limitations of growing older. As family elders, they rejoice at weddings and the births of grandchildren, but also mourn the loss of spouses, loved ones, and peers. As senior citizens, they’re grateful for the wisdom afforded them by age, but fearful of the specter of isolation in this chapter of their lives.

As noted by one class member on a springtime Zoom session, the assigned readings and class discussions in “Aging With Grace” encourage participants to balance fear with hope, offset guilt with gratitude, and soothe feelings of uncertainty and helplessness. As a result, members of the program have bonded into a tightknit community.

“The people in this group have become family for me,” said participant Jill Gecker. “They are good faith-filled people and with that comes a sense of comfort and trust. In this group, we can be vulnerable; there is no judgment at all. I don’t usually share much, but we can simply ‘be,’ and that’s okay, too.”

“We’ve all become such good listeners,” agreed classmate Barbara Kiernan. “Fr. John doesn’t comment after every person takes a turn to speak; he usually just says, ‘thank you.’ It’s so respectful – and such a good example to us of how the very act of listening opens up space for God.”

Members of the “Aging With Grace” community are heeding the call of 86-year-old Pope Francis, who has implored his peers: “Dear grandparents, dear elderly persons, we are called to be artisans of the revolution of tenderness in our world! Let us do so by learning to make ever more frequent and better use of the most valuable instrument at our disposal and, indeed, the one best suited to our age: prayer.”

Echoing his assertion of the importance of community in his encyclical, Fratelli Tutti, the pope continued: “Many of us have come to a sage and humble realization of what our world very much needs: the recognition that we are not saved alone, and that happiness is a bread we break together.”

The pope’s words were part of his message for the Church’s second annual World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly, which took place last summer on July 24, close to the feast day of Saints Anne and Joachim, grandparents of Jesus. The theme for the day was taken from Psalm 92:15: “In old age they will still bear fruit.”

Back on Fairfield’s campus on that sunny springtime morning, Fr. Murray reflected on the gifts he’s received through the “Aging With Grace” program. “It has enriched me in my own spiritual journey,” he said, “and it has allowed me to get to know a variety of people that I never would have gotten to know. In some ways, it’s like an online parish.”

The Murphy Center for Ignatian Spirituality at Fairfield University offers spiritual direction and promotes vibrant expressions of Ignatian spirituality at individual and group levels, both on campus and in parishes across the Diocese of Bridgeport, CT. For more information about the “Aging With Grace” program, please visit the Murphy Center’s webpage at or e-mail (This article is re-published with permission from Fairfield University; click here to view the original version online.)

By Jeannine (Carolan) Graf, Fairfield University ’87


Though San Francisco has long been seen as a place of great diversity and a mecca for equity, that hasn’t always been the case for the Black community, particularly in the city’s Fillmore neighborhood. Despite its reputation for equity, San Francisco has seen a Black outmigration, with the Black population decreasing 50% from 1970 to 2010. This marked decline from the 1970s was a direct result of racist policies implemented via redevelopment that led to the displacement of tens of thousands of Black families. Ironically, San Francisco’s progressive reputation has been formed by grassroots activists, including Black residents who fought decades of redevelopment that displaced people from their homes (Brahinsky, 2018). Though the city has retained these activists’ legacies, it has not retained the activists themselves; 2020 Census data indicate that only 5.7% of the city population is African-American or Black.

With awareness of and sensitivity to this historical context, Engage San Francisco (ESF), contributes to and supports a vibrant, thriving Fillmore community by bringing together community members with University of San Francisco (USF) students and faculty to elevate African American histories and knowledge; foster learning, college access, and literacy; and build partnership capacity. Located within the Leo T. McCarthy Center for Public Service and the Common Good, ESF is a place-based initiative (PBI) at USF, where we partner directly with community-based organizations, city agencies, and individuals working in and with the Fillmore neighborhood.

Yamamura and Koth (2018) define a PBI as “a long-term university-wide commitment to partner with local residents, organizations, and other leaders to focus equally on campus and community impact within a clearly defined geographic area.” To realize ESF’s vision, we recognize, honor, and draw from the legacy of Black San Francisco. We hold close our commitment to demonstrate cultural humility; employ an asset-based approach to community engagement; and enact our commitment to anti-racism through partnerships, coursework, and programming that cuts across campus silos. Below we highlight a few examples of our programming since ESF’s launch in 2014.

African American Histories and Knowledge
In 2019, we celebrated the publication of Changemakers: a book in both print and online formats. This was the culmination of a multi-year collaboration with two community members, Mrs. Lynnette White and Ms. Altheda Carrie, who invited one hundred students from the Esther Madriz Diversity Scholars and Martín-Baró Scholars programs, along with professors Stephanie Sears and David Holler, to help them research and write the biographies of African-American activists. To date, 1,500 copies of Changemakers have been distributed to local schools, libraries, summer reading programs, and communities. And, just last fall, the San Francisco Public Library, in partnership with the San Francisco Human Rights Commission, hosted a panel of Changemakers in conversation with USF faculty and students.

Partnership Capacity and Health
One multi-year, multi-faceted partnership is with the Success Centers San Francisco, where we co-hosted several members of the AmeriCorps VISTA program who developed projects including: expanded infrastructure for information management; documentation of public health concerns; and curriculum for Code on Point, a technology training program. In addition, Executive MBA students worked with the Success Centers’ board on their strategic planning process. In past years, we have also co-hosted pop-up mobile community clinics in the Fillmore neighborhood, where the USF School of Nursing and Health Professions and the School of Education worked in partnership with community-based organizations.

Learning, College Access and Literacy
ESF Literacy employs 60+ undergraduate students who tutor K-5th grade children in public elementary schools and community-based after-school programs within the Fillmore. We strive to develop literacy-informed, anti-racist, and equity-minded tutors who can expand our partners’ ability to provide high quality education and care. Tutors read articles, watch videos, write reflections, and have group discussions to reflect on their personal access to educational resources, the ways systemic racism has impacted the Fillmore, and how oppression functions broadly. Most important, our training curriculum provides tutors with both current and historical examples of work for the community by the community.


We recognize our obligation to identify and hold ourselves accountable for institutions’ role in perpetuating racial inequity, both historically and currently. This requires us to acknowledge our direct affiliation to USF and its actions, and to remain consciously aware of how white supremacy and anti-Blackness enter our work, both in how we are perceived by and interact with the community. ESF is therefore charged with the responsibility of deconstructing norms of whiteness within our initiative, and incorporating antiracist thought and practice in our training with professional and student staff.

Collectively, the ESF staff discusses how power, privilege, and identity affect our work systemically, institutionally, and personally. We continue to identify intentional ways that USF community members can learn of and repair harm inflicted by the institution. This continued evolution of our work is informed in approach by Critical Race Theorists and Black feminist scholars such as Patricia Hill Collins and bell hooks.

While ESF is not a traditional community-engaged learning program, we are keenly aware that we may fall into patterns that support white supremacy culture and practice. As such, we work to address the historical realities of race and racism on internalized, institutional, organizational, and systemic levels and, in doing so, we draw upon the Center’s anti-racist statement and our commitments to students and communities. We actively recognize the lived experience and histories of community partners, students, faculty, and staff in ways that support critical analysis in programming, day-to-day interactions and student preparation. This works to counter white supremacy culture that is assumed to be the normative epistemology in much of higher education, and more specifically a common thread within the field of community engagement. We invite colleagues who are interested in our approach to place-based work to join the Place-Based Justice Network.

By Karin M. Cotterman & Dresden June Frazier, University of San Francisco

Karin M. Cotterman directs Engage San Francisco at the University of San Francisco; Dresden June Frazier manages Engage San Francisco Literacy at USF.


When Rev. Timothy Brown, S.J. came to Loyola University Maryland to teach law and social responsibility in 1987, Loyola was establishing an annual trip to do service in Mexico through Campus Ministry. It was clear, however, that there was also a need and interest in “serving in our own backyard” in Baltimore.

Fr. Brown helped Loyola develop partnerships and programming and, in 1992, he co-founded the Center for Values and Service with Erin Swezey—then director of Loyola’s Community Service Office, who now works for fellow Jesuit institution, Seattle University.

Early efforts included a handful of service partnerships, with a focus on helping those experiencing homelessness, and immersion programs like Spring Break Outreach, which engaged Loyola students in service in Appalachia and American cities for the week of spring break.

“Loyola was one of the first Jesuit schools on the East Coast with a dedicated community service office and with an internship model of inviting students to take charge of community-based partnerships and student recruitment,” says Fr. Brown, associate professor of law and social responsibility, as well as director of mission integration. He remembers that time as a “movement” of exciting growth and change for Loyola’s academics, athletics, and more.

Over the past three decades, the center—now the Center for Community, Service, and Justice (CCSJ)—has grown and evolved into a “one-stop hub for all kinds of pathways for engagement,” says executive director Gia Grier McGinnis, Dr.PH. “CCSJ is the connector between the campus, the broader community, and the city of Baltimore and beyond, with a focus on the York Road corridor.”

CCSJ is critical to Loyola’s Jesuit mission, especially in helping students let the “gritty reality of this world into their lives, so they can learn to feel it, think about it critically, respond to its suffering, and engage in it constructively,” as called upon by Rev. Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, S.J., former Jesuit Superior General.

“We put faith in action by integrating our Jesuit values and providing people practical ways to get involved as we walk with our partners as collaborators,” McGinnis says.

In a typical year before the pandemic, more than 2,500 Loyola students and 70 faculty participated in community-engaged courses, legislative internships, volunteering, immersions, community development, advocacy work, and more. The past few years have been a time of rebuilding—and positioning for future growth.


Loyola has become a model for place-based initiatives through the York Road Initiative (YRI), with a focus on community development in the neighborhoods adjacent to its Evergreen campus in northern Baltimore City. The YRI works to improve education and youth development, build civic capacity, and strengthen the York Road commercial corridor.

One highlight is the well-established and beloved Govans Farmers’ Market, which is gearing up for its twelfth season offering affordable, fresh and local produce in an effort to ensure food equity for all. This program, and all of YRI’s initiatives, are made possible through strong partnerships.

“CCSJ helped propel me and the York Road Partnership into new territory,” says Donna Blackwell, York Road Partnership president from 2016-20, who further established and gained visibility for the coalition of 20+ neighborhoods, organizations, and nonprofits in part through her advocacy work with city agencies.

This spring and summer, YRI will move forward with York Road community development projects—including efforts to support the farmers’ market, provide youth opportunities, and paint a mural—through the support of a U.S. Small Business Administration grant.

“We will continue to find ways to be in solidarity with our neighbors up and down the York Road corridor,” says Terrence M. Sawyer, J.D., president of Loyola who, in a prior role, was instrumental in developing and launching the YRI. “I plan to become further involved in working with partners to address issues impacting our city of Baltimore and to help us build on our many strengths; CCSJ is a critical part of this work.”


CCSJ will continue to grow in its pursuit of Magis—the more—from a position of strength as Loyola’s dedication to community engagement has become recognized widely. Among recent accolades, the YRI received a Transform Mid-Atlantic’s P20 Partnership Award for demonstrating a community-based approach to learning, with equity and social justice at the forefront. In addition, Loyola was the only university in Baltimore City—and the only private institution in Maryland—to be awarded the national Carnegie Community Engagement Classification, a coveted distinction held by only 350 universities in the country.

What’s more, CCSJ has proven invaluable for the thousands of students who have participated in its programming, like Jacob Bierstaker, ’23, a sociology major who has held several CCSJ roles, including most recently with the YRI commercial corridor, as he’s prepared for a career in social work.

“Working with CCSJ has made me realize that it is necessary for institutions to be involved within their communities and to be an ally for the people and city in which they find themselves,” Bierstaker says. “Throughout the last four years, I have gained so much perspective, insight, and knowledge around issues of justice and equity and how we can build a better world—many of the values central to our mission of diversity, equity, and inclusion that I plan to carry with me for the rest of my life.”

By Jessica Goldstein, Content Specialist, Loyola University Maryland

Learn more about Loyola’s Center for Community, Service, and Justice at


If you ask Le Moyne College President Linda LeMura, Ph.D. what it takes to solve complex problems, she is sure to cite faith, hope and imagination. But that is not all – in fact, far from it. Dr. LeMura is also quick to stress how important sound partnerships are, not just in addressing challenges, but in embracing opportunities. During her March 2014 inaugural address, Dr. LeMura recalled these words from French theologian and scientist Rev. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, S.J.: “Our duty, as men and women, is to proceed as if limits to our ability did not exist. We are collaborators in creation.”

Over the course of her presidency, she has sought to put that sentiment into action. The College has, in particular, forged numerous thoughtful, strategic alliances with the local and state government. Many of them are already beginning to bear fruit. The College’s ERIE21 program provides members of the Le Moyne and surrounding communities in Syracuse with greater academic opportunities that will help grow the local economy; the Salt Springs Neighborhood Association is strengthening the College’s connection to families who live closest to the campus; and the Le Moyne Area Neighborhood Development Strategy (LANDS) program is driving future plans for the area closest to the College.

Forging a New Path Via ERIE21
Upon its completion in 1825, the Erie Canal launched an expansion of commerce that catapulted Central New York into an era of unparalleled economic growth. Nearly 200 years later, and with financial support from the state of New York, Le Moyne has launched a modern version of this technological marvel – ERIE21. Its aim is to address the region’s twin problems of persistent high poverty and the inability of employers to attract and retain talent.

Like the original Erie Canal, ERIE21 is centered on a series of locks, which made the canal more navigable by lowering and raising watercraft. Locks 1 and 2 offer tech-based experiences and programming to local middle and high school students in an effort to equip and empower them with the skills they will need to thrive in college, followed by careers in an innovation economy. Lock 3 provides Le Moyne students from underrepresented backgrounds pursuing majors or minors linked to STEM or innovation, with the opportunity to participate in a highly successful collegiate support program. Lock 4 designs and delivers services, including custom-tailored clinics, Le Moyne certificate programs, and career training to individuals throughout Central New York, particularly those who are traditionally underrepresented in the tech industry.

The total direct, indirect and induced economic impact of ERIE21 in Onondaga County over the span of a decade is projected to be $1.8 billion, including the creation of 1,973 jobs. As with the original Erie Canal locks, ERIE21 locks make the contemporary economy more navigable for individuals by providing targeted, in-demand training and education.


The Salt Springs Neighborhood Association
The Syracuse neighborhood that Le Moyne calls home, known as Salt Springs, is tremendously diverse, with a mixture of college-aged students residing in off-campus housing, young families, and retirees. Many of the latter have lived in the neighborhood for 30 or even 40 years. However, given the inevitable transitions that urban neighborhoods face amidst changing demographics, Le Moyne has supported the creation of the Salt Springs Neighborhood Association (SSNA) to ensure that neighbors can work together to address the needs of the community.

The SSNA empowers neighbors to communicate with one another, tackle projects jointly, and advocate for their collective needs. Since its founding in Summer 2022, the association has played a significant role in building trust and creating opportunities locally. What’s more, it has enjoyed the support of the leaders of the City of Syracuse and Town of DeWitt (Le Moyne is located in both municipalities), who have sent representatives to its meetings.

This past fall, the SSNA partnered with the nonprofit housing and community development organization Home Headquarters to support a Block Blitz, in which a number of beautification and maintenance projects, including painting and landscaping, were completed. Other activities included a fall craft fair on Le Moyne’s campus.

Members of the SSNA hope to collaborate with nearby community centers to offer English classes to new residents for whom English is not a first language, and to establish a seasonal market on campus where local businesses owners can sell their products. Most important, the SSNA is committed to building trust and creating opportunities for the people who live adjacent to Le Moyne.

The LANDS Survey
A joint initiative of Le Moyne, the City of Syracuse and the Town of DeWitt, the Le Moyne Area Neighborhood Development Strategy (LANDS) initiative was established to build community and develop a vision for the area’s future. Informed by results of a neighborhood survey, a draft plan has been created that focuses on improvements in transportation, housing, infrastructure, municipal services, economic development, and overall quality of life in the neighborhood.

Today, Le Moyne’s leaders are working with the city on several infrastructure-related issues, including lighting, crosswalks and bike lanes. Consistent with Le Moyne’s mission-based commitment to social improvement and innovation, plans call for developing a neighborhood brand; connecting individuals who are interested in earning a college degree with the appropriate office at Le Moyne; strengthening connections with nearby schools, libraries and community centers; and continuing to support Le Moyne initiatives and partnerships with neighborhood and regional workforce development programs.

As she looks to the future, Dr. LeMura is eager to facilitate neighborhood collaborations in order to grow the economy and provide greater opportunities for students and community members. “As a Jesuit institution, Le Moyne prides itself on being a strong community partner,” she said. “We are committed, in the years to come, to building new bridges, new relationships and new ideas.”

By Molly McCarthy, Office of Communications at Le Moyne College

Le Moyne’s ERIE21 initiative was recently highlighted in an editorial in the Post Standard.


Loyola Marymount University’s (LMU) successful initiative to bring virtual dance instruction to local middle schools during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic provided a creative lifeline for many students. Three years later, it has expanded to offer a repertory-style model of in-person traveling lectures, demonstrations, and performances to Los Angeles-area middle and high schools. This initiative, now called the Community Dance Project (CDP), is funded by the Max H. Gluck Foundation, and is rooted in the desire to share the transformative impact of dance with students in under-resourced communities where access to social and emotional support systems are lacking.

During the pandemic, CDP offered a study guide and virtual dance instruction of Bill T. Jones’ work “Deep Blue Sea” to middle school students. In the post-pandemic world, the project has grown to include a teaching-based program that brings dance into the classrooms of Title I middle schools, and a performance-based program that presents high-quality dance performances to high school students. The dances and choreography are then critically examined and deconstructed through interactive lectures and presentations.

Through CDP, LMU dancers and faculty members have visited Foshay Learning Center, Gabriella Charter School, Fremont High School, Hamilton High School, and Inglewood Unified School District. They have also invited young students to LMU, where they have learned about emotional resilience, self-expression, inclusivity, spirituality, and racial and gender equality, through dance.

For faculty members Bernard Brown and Taryn Vander Hoop, who spearhead the performance-based branch, one goal of CDP is to show high school students that learning, research, and academics can intersect with art, creativity, energy, and joy. Kristen Smiarowski, clinical associate professor of dance, heads up the teaching-based program, which focuses on teaching middle schoolers the work of legendary choreographer Bill T. Jones. She connects Jones’ choreographic manifestations of Martin Luther King, Jr., and Herman Melville’s writings with their academic study, and allows them to dance and explore making movement themselves.

In 2022, the LMU group centered the experience around “Glimmer”: a dance choreographed by Brown in Fall 2021. The dance touches on themes of spirituality, centering Black women, superheroes, community uplift, and empathy. “‘Glimmer’ is in service to my history and my lineage as an African American who was raised by an African American woman, so I wanted to honor her and also honor all people who feel like outsiders in our society,” Brown said. “It was very important to physicalize what it’s like to lift up the people who feel like outsiders, to create a sense of community, of working together, of empathy, so we can progress as a society.”

For the 2023 iteration of CDP performances, a dance by Vander Hoop will accompany “Glimmer.” “When will I be?” examines ideas of “home” as not just a sense of place, but the body itself, and asks us to confront how we care for our mental health, ourselves, and each other, in a late-stage capitalistic society. The lecture/demonstration involves discussion with the high school students about home and homelessness – what it means to feel “at home” in location and being, and what it means to live in a time and location where homelessness is ever-present.

In the lecture/demonstrations, students explore the choreographic process, deconstructing the history and meaning behind the dances. The demonstrations allow students to connect the meaning behind the dances to the final performance, and to experience the artistic process in a completely new way, regardless of dance experience or interest.

Many of the high school students have never seen a live, professional dance performance. In reflections captured after the project in 2022, one student said, “The fact that I was able to view a dance performance up close rather than through a screen was my favorite part of the experience. My favorite part of the dance was when all of the dancers got together at one point to help a girl who had fallen. They all joined in to help one another out.”

There is an equally powerful impact for LMU students who participate in the project because they learn to translate elite-level artistry to young audiences. By engaging directly with the students, they observe firsthand what dance can do to transform the energy and attention of individuals and communities. Due to the popularity of repertory experiences in undergraduate dance programs, Brown and Vander Hoop hope to make this project a permanent feature of LMU Dance, bringing not just repertory, but also hands-on teaching experiences to LMU students.

“There’s so much to be learned through embodiment, through doing and practice, which allows us to transmit ideas and concepts physically, which in many ways can be more meaningful than to simply articulate the same ideas,” Brown said. “This type of experience is very sought after in dance education – to have a repertory built into the program where students go out and perform. To offer this experience to our students and to our community is really a dream, and I’m thrilled to be a part of it.”

Vander Hoop believes artists must also be flexible in their performance spaces and open to new forms of audience engagement—a lesson that is a vital part of a well-rounded dance education. “We are continually exploring avenues to teach lessons in innovative ways. The repertory model, touring around local area high schools, benefits both LMU student dancers and our surrounding communities,” she said. “It’s so advantageous for our students to take the work they’ve developed on stage, under the lights, and perform it in a new space. These experiences are so impactful and important as part of an education as an artist, because you will continue to do those things throughout a professional career.”

For Rosalynde LeBlanc Loo, professor and chair of the Dance Department, the project is particularly meaningful because of LMU’s focus on educating the whole person. “LMU’s mission is one of social action,” LeBlanc Loo said. “It’s really about creating students who are active and responsible citizens. What dance can teach the community and young students out in the world, is the ability to take an idea and manifest it in the body, which gives it a whole new significance. For this program to be at LMU is incredibly meaningful, because it activates our mission.”

To learn more about the Community Dance Project, please watch the following video:

By Kate Shirley, Associate Director of Academic Communications for the College of Communication and Fine Arts at Loyola Marymount University


In Summer 2014, Dr. Michael R. Lovell was taking the helm as president of Marquette University. At the time, area residents and longtime anchor businesses were experiencing — and independently trying to operate through — unprecedented increases in crime on Milwaukee’s Near West Side, which stretches from Marquette’s campus several miles west to Harley-Davidson’s headquarters and Molson Coors’ Miller Brewing facilities.

Urged on by President Lovell, Marquette soon teamed up with a dynamic group of community stakeholders to form Near West Side Partners (NWSP) — a nonprofit that, through community-engaged research, strives to revitalize and sustain thriving business and residential corridors across the seven neighborhoods of Milwaukee’s Near West Side to make it a great place to live, work, play, and stay.


Forming a Partnership
During her first meeting with President Lovell, Rana Altenburg, associate vice president of public affairs at Marquette, recalls learning the president’s top priority for the University.

“At that initial meeting, he asked me, ‘What is the biggest risk to Marquette and its success?’” Altenburg reflects. “And when I told him it was safety, he immediately suggested we look at any data we had and engage with other neighborhood stakeholders who were experiencing similar challenges.”

Interns in Marquette’s Office of Public Affairs conducted preliminary research to determine the surrounding areas experiencing the most crime. The data, Altenburg says, revealed that of the more than 100 blocks between the Marquette and Harley-Davidson campuses, only 10% of the blocks were high crime zones.

Just two months prior, a stray bullet went through the window of a conference room where a crisis management meeting was being held at Harley-Davidson. The bullet was the result of an unrelated domestic dispute that originated in another neighborhood. That event, which thankfully resulted in no physical injuries, had the company wondering about its future in Milwaukee.


The data, Altenburg says, served as two reminders. First, if a global company like Harley-Davidson — which provides jobs and reinvests in the community — were to leave the area, it could have a devastating impact on the surrounding neighborhoods. Second, working independently to address these challenges was daunting, so beginning a dialogue between the two institutions that shared similar goals could be game changing. Altenburg connected with key players including Paul Jones, who at the time was the chief legal officer for Harley-Davidson, and now serves as general counsel and vice president for university relations at Marquette.

Out of this, NWSP was born. Today, the organization’s anchor institutions include Marquette, Harley-Davidson, Advocate Aurora Health, Molson Coors, and Potawatomi Business Development Corporation. Through its efforts, NWSP has launched a crime reduction initiative, has helped establish dozens of businesses, assisted in creating affordable housing, and more.

“We started discussing what we could do differently,” Jones says. “And we decided rather than to individually build our walls taller, we’d like to see what would happen if we opened our gates and engaged with others. What if we harnessed all our strengths to better the greater community? Those conversations brought in other anchor organizations. We started there and we’ve kept going ever since.”


Revving Things Up and Seeing Results
Under the leadership of the Marquette University Center for Peacemaking, NWSP launched the Promoting Assets Reducing Crime initiative (PARC), a multidisciplinary and cross-sector effort to improve housing conditions, activate commercial corridors, improve safety, and change perceptions of the Near West Side.

The partners worked to evaluate the needs of the NWS neighborhoods and the areas that could serve as potential business and housing locations. Just two years later, NWSP launched Rev-Up MKE, a small business competition that provides start-up entrepreneurs the chance to launch or expand their businesses, and get the support needed to make them successful in the Near West Side through resident engagement and more. Competition finalists get hands-on business training at Marquette’s 707 Hub in preparation for a final live business pitch event. Winners receive significant resources to enhance their new venture, which will be located in a Near West Side storefront.

Marquette alumnus Pete Cooney won the first Rev-Up MKE competition for his ice pops business, Pete’s Pops, which is now thriving in the neighborhood. Pete’s Pop’s success supplied momentum for other local entrepreneurs to open new businesses in the Near West Side, which now boasts 350 businesses — many of which are minority-owned.


“The really cool thing is that through Rev-Up, we have been able to strategically connect business owners with property owners and landlords who really want commit to the mission of Near West Side Partners,” says Kelsey Otero, senior director of community engagement at Marquette.

Through NWSP’s revitalization efforts, Altenburg adds, the organization has addressed many of the issues relating to crime, particularly violent crime. NWSP has, in the last eight years, partnered with more than twenty-five university departments and remains committed to several different initiatives outside of crime reduction and business recruitment, including one dedicated to expanding access to healthy foods.

In 2018, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development awarded NWSP and Marquette a $1.3 million Choice Neighborhoods Initiative grant to create a locally driven, comprehensive strategy to transform a local multifamily housing development and the surrounding neighborhood into an inclusive community of opportunity. The grant includes funding for six community improvement Action Activities.


Pat Kennelly, director of Marquette’s Center for Peacemaking, says that through its efforts to make neighborhoods the best they can be, NWSP easily positions itself within Marquette’s values and mission. “When it comes down to it, what Near West Side Partners does is the practical application of peacemaking,” Kennelly says. “At its core, peacemaking is about building relationships so that communities can flourish. A part of that is a sense of safety, economic opportunity, healthy equity, personal agency, and access to education. Near West Side Partners takes a holistic approach to foster these qualities for all through different projects and initiatives.”

All photos courtesy of Marquette University.

By Shelby Williamson, Senior Communication Specialist in the Office of University Relations at Marquette University


As director of the Donelan Office of Community-Based Learning at the College of the Holy Cross, Isabelle Jenkins ’10 likes to refer to herself as a matchmaker.

“I like to refer to our office as a matchmaking service for faculty and community partners,” Jenkins explains. “Our goal is to help faculty meet the learning goals they have for their students through the experiential learning component, and then, simultaneously, we’re working with community partners to help them meet their goals.”

CBL, as the office is known at Holy Cross, aims to bring classroom learning to life through local projects and opportunities that meet partner needs and enable students and faculty to live out the College’s mission through academic work. Since 1843, the College has called Worcester, MA, home. Today, Worcester is the second-largest city in New England, home to a growing, diverse population of more than 200,000 residents.

The city is so valuable to Holy Cross that a collaborative partnership with Worcester is one of six pillars anchoring the College’s recently released strategic plan for the next decade. For Holy Cross, to be “in and of Worcester” is a key guidepost, for embracing and promoting the world of opportunity in its own backyard, and being an active partner in the city’s continued success, growth and revitalization.

“As a liberal arts academic institution, to have service directly tied into a course makes explicit that two of our goals for students are to become educated through the liberal arts and to be of service for and with others,” Jenkins says. “Community-based learning enables that to happen because they’re connecting their academics with hands-on experience.”

Greg Tremba is the principal at City View Discovery School, a Worcester public school that has partnered with CBL for the past three years. Ten Holy Cross students from Latin 101 and 102 work with a group of twelve to fourteen 4th and 5th graders at City View once a week, as part of an after-school program. When the program began in 2019, City View students were introduced to Latin; this year, Holy Cross students are helping the City View students learn mythology by creating their own mythical characters and stories. In turn, the City View students are helping Holy Cross students learn their course content more deeply.

“My students see these really great Holy Cross students come into our building, and they’re engaging, intelligent and articulate. And they work really well connecting with our kids,” Tremba says. “We’re trying to create a real outlet for our students to see what’s out there, what kids are doing in college, what it really looks like. And the feedback from the Holy Cross students is that they feel like they are making a difference with our students.”

Through Holy Cross’ J.D. Power Center for Liberal Arts in the World, academic courses partnering with CBL span departments across the College, such as those in anthropology, biology, world languages, psychology, political science, and visual arts. Not only do CBL courses help meet a need at local organizations, but experiential learning is also a teaching strategy proven to reach all types of learners. CBL courses at Holy Cross combine lectures and a hands-on component at the partner organizations, as well as reflection.

“It matches how a lot of students learn best, particularly students with minoritized identities,” Jenkins says. “A student can enter the learning cycle at any point. Someone who learns more traditionally might start with an education theory and then apply it in the after-school program where they are tutoring. Someone who is a visual or relational learner might say, ‘This happened while I was tutoring a kid in the after-school program and now that theory makes sense.’”

Jenkins values the staff at the partner organizations as co-educators for the Holy Cross students. The office partners with 40 community organizations in the city, from schools and after-school programs, to health care organizations and nonprofits. She says, “It expands who is teaching our students, and where knowledge is generated and valued. As a teacher, I am learning alongside my students, and there’s other people, particularly community members, who are knowledgeable and have really important insight, expertise, cultural backgrounds and identities, who expand teaching and learning beyond what happens in the four walls of the classroom.”

Jenkins emphasizes that meaningful service work with Worcester partners happens in offices across the Holy Cross campus, from its large student-led community service and justice program, to community-service work study, to the College’s Teacher Education Program. The J.D. Power Center is also home to the Scholarship in Action (SIA) program, which advances Worcester-based faculty research that makes and provides experiential learning opportunities for students, all while collaborating with organizations in the city. Funded by a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, SIA aims to create a body of research that can spark long-term and systemic social justice changes, while also addressing an organization’s immediate needs.

“Engaging in the city of Worcester, or whichever city any Jesuit school is in, is about doing justice,” says Michelle Sterk Barrett, director of the J.D. Power Center and former director of CBL. “The real measure of our success as institutions is who our students become as human beings, which is deeply formed by engagement outside of campus. Effective education aims toward the whole person and educates the mind and the heart simultaneously. And part of how you educate the heart is by having people in relationship with other people on campus and off campus in the city of Worcester. Being in relationship with people who suffer the negative effects of structural inequality can make students care about structural inequality in a way that they otherwise would not.”

By Maura Sullivan Hill, Contributing Writer, College of the Holy Cross

At the beginning of each new Congress, the House and Senate lay out ambitious agendas that will guide their work throughout the two year session. Each Committee Chair defines his or her priorities with the goal of raising awareness about key issues and hopefully passing legislation to advance those goals. With the Republicans controlling the U.S. House of Representatives, and the Democrats controlling both the U.S. Senate and the White House, finding common ground on an agenda, and advancing legislation, is going to be a challenge for the 118th U.S. Congress.

As Spring comes to Washington, Congress will soon reconvene, with Members returning to the Capitol from their district work period. Members of Congress and their staff will have some busy days in front of them: holding hearings, drafting legislation, managing appropriations, issuing Dear Colleague letters, and sorting through and ranking important Community Funded Projects. In contrast to all of that activity, Members of Congress and staff are also doing a lot of waiting.

So, what is Congress working on behind the scenes and on center stage?

Debt Ceiling
The number one issue facing this Congress is the debt ceiling. It is the elephant in every room. When government spending exceeds receipts, the government has to borrow money to meet its obligations. According to Congressional Research Service, the “amount of money that the U.S. Treasury may borrow, is restricted by a statutory limit on the debt,” or, a debt ceiling. Congress has to raise that ceiling to ensure our nation makes good on its debts. See this White House Explainer for more information.

Most Republicans (including House Speaker Kevin McCarthy) will only consider a debt ceiling increase if it is tied to spending cuts that will reduce the nation’s deficit. President Biden demands a “clean extension,” i.e., an increase without any concessions. The Speaker has asked for meetings with the President; in response, President Biden has said that the Republicans must first release a budget, as he did in March. With the House Republicans expressing their desire to cut spending as part of the debt ceiling debate, one can see how that position complicates the Appropriations Committee’s work for funding federal government programs. The standoff over the debt ceiling is already limiting progress on the more straightforward appropriations bills and will continue to do so until it is resolved. Dueling letters, dueling positions, and high stakes for our national and world economies—this is a must-do agenda item without a clear path toward passage.

Both the House and the Senate have held numerous hearings on the Administration’s FY24 budget. Released on March 9, the President’s Budget included a 13.6% increase to federal education programs for a total of $90 billion in discretionary funding. The budget included a proposed $820 increase to the maximum Pell Grant (of which $500 is discretionary) and level funding for the Campus Based Aid programs ($910 million for the federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant program and $1.23 billion for Federal Work Study). While the funding Subcommittees continue to hold hearings, weigh testimony on spending priorities from Agency heads and outside witnesses, and navigate tight deadlines for recommending Community Funded Projects, it is hard to see how this work advances to the next stage, especially in the Senate, without a clear understanding of what the top line numbers are for each of the appropriations subcommittees. Despite the House majority’s ambitious timeline for completing work on the FY24 budget and appropriations, this work will stall until the debt ceiling issue is resolved.

House Education Committee
The Republican-controlled House Education and Workforce Committee has put a spotlight on education, by flexing its muscle in the oversight arena. Chaired by Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC), the House Education and Workforce Committee has been diving into such issues as protecting free speech on college campuses and examining the implication of the Biden Administration’s student loan policies on students and taxpayers. The Committee majority has portrayed the American educational system as one in crisis, and investigated what they perceive is at the root cause. One of the first bills considered on the House floor was the partisan H.R. 5, a.k.a. the “Parents Bill of Rights,” which passed by a vote of 213-208 (with only five Republicans voting against it). With its focus on K-12 education, it sent a sign that education will remain in the spotlight. This key authorizing Committee is looking through a very different lens in comparison to their Senate colleagues, as they choose which policy issues to prioritize in their jurisdiction.

Senate Education Committee
Led by the Democrats, the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee has focused on hearings in the labor and health care space. The Committee has sought answers to the issue of increasing drug prices for COVID-19 vaccines, and investigated businesses that have sought to make joining unions more difficult. On a bipartisan front, Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Ranking Member Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-LA) have teamed up on issues including child labor violations and have asked for input on the reauthorization of the Education Sciences Act. These bipartisan efforts may yield results and allow legislation to advance in the Senate. To date, there have been no hearings about the Higher Education Act or education in general. While operating in a more bi-partisan mode, there are still issues like the President’s student loan forgiveness proposal that divide both parties in the Senate.

U.S. Department of Education
Perhaps the busiest of bees this spring are not the ones pollenating outside, but the staff of the U.S. Department of Education, who have laid out a most ambitious agenda for regulations in higher education. By May, we expect to see final Title IX regulations requiring new policies for campuses related to nondiscrimination on the basis of sex. The Department is currently seeking comment on Title IX changes related to transgender students’ eligibility for athletic teams. In addition, the Department has put forward far-reaching guidance on the definition of Third Party-Servicers, as well as Online Program managers. In the wings, there is a proposed negotiated rulemaking that could cover any one of nearly twenty topics, all of importance and impacting institutions of higher education. These are far reaching in scope, potentially impacting programs like TRIO, and raising issues on complex topics like state authorization, gainful employment, and factors of financial responsibility.

We will keep you apprised of these issues in the weeks and months to come.

By Jenny Smulson, Vice President for Government Relations, AJCU