Last month, we began a two-part “town and gown” issue of Connections to highlight AJCU schools’ partnerships with local community and civic organizations. This month’s issue features more great examples of how our schools have contributed to their communities, from creating new opportunities for experiential learning, to providing temporary housing for those in need.

In addition to the seven thematic articles, we are also pleased to share our Government Relations report, which provides a detailed update on issues that Congress will be working on this summer, including a review of the Higher Education Act (HEA) of 1965. Read on to find out how the House and the Senate are approaching the process of HEA reauthorization for the first time since 2008.

We hope that you enjoy a restful and restorative summer break, and we look forward to returning with the first issue of Connections for the 2023-24 academic year this fall!

By Deanna Howes Spiro, Vice President of Communications, AJCU


More than a decade before he became head coach of Creighton University’s baseball team, Ed Servais was visiting Omaha, NE to catch his first NCAA Men’s College World Series (CWS). On June 1, 1991, Servais arrived at Rosenblatt Stadium as a neutral observer. He had no dog in this fight. He was just there to watch some baseball.

Yet funny enough, the first CWS game he saw happened to also be the first CWS game Creighton’s baseball team had ever played. Servais still remembers the stadium shaking as his eventual employer beat Clemson, 8-4.

In addition to the excitement of that and all other games in that year’s series, Servais recalls his awe of the event itself. Five years later, he would join Creighton baseball’s coaching staff and get involved behind the scenes of the CWS. “All this time later, I’ve never lost my awe of it,” Servais says. “This is a special event that just keeps getting better. And at Creighton, we try to do our part year after year to make this the best possible experience for the players, the coaches, and the fans.”

Creighton University — the CWS’ host institution since 1950 — is in the tournament’s DNA. Creighton is, of course, just one member of the team ensuring the CWS’ success, a partnership that includes CWS, Inc.; the NCAA; the City of Omaha; the Metropolitan Entertainment and Convention Authority; the local business community and others. But like every other partner helping to run the series, Creighton’s role is essential.

What does it mean to be the CWS host institution? Anything. Everything. Every June, Creighton gets to live out its Jesuit values of service in a truly unique way — caring for the whole tournament. Dozens of Creighton Athletics staff dedicate nearly every waking hour to the CWS, providing the resources and expertise needed to keep the Greatest Show on Dirt running strong.

“Whatever you need, we’ll be there to provide it,” says Glen Sisk, Creighton’s associate sports information director.

“Our job is to stay out of the way and keep everything moving,” says Rob Anderson, Creighton’s sports information director.

In their respective eleven and twenty-one years with Creighton, Sisk and Anderson have done a little of everything at the CWS — moderating press conferences, testing bats, providing box scores, stats and play-by-plays to the media and NCAA, serving as the games’ official scorers, answering questions for the teams, organization, press and fans.

In two decades, Anderson has only missed about a dozen CWS games. Only a few Creighton Athletics staff could beat that streak. One of them is Carol “Ketch” Ketcham. Ketch worked in Athletics for forty-four years before retiring in 2014. She started her career as an assistant to former head men’s basketball coach Eddie Sutton and ended it as the Senior Woman Administrator of Athletics. In between, she worked many different jobs. She held just about every title but athletic trainer, coach or athletic director at some point or another.

For 40 years, Ketch was a staple of the CWS crew. So much so that the Omaha World-Herald wrote an article about her in 2003. She was believed to have worked more CWS games than anyone, save for former official scorer Lou Spry and former public address announcer Jack Payne, who recently passed away.

Ketch wore a lot of hats. Her first CWS task, in 1974, was making bologna sandwiches in the press box. She would later become the series’ play-by-play recorder. At first, she had no clue what she was doing. “But once I figured out the game of baseball, I really came to enjoy it,” she says.

Ketch’s other duties over the years included everything from managing tickets to arranging hosts for the hospitality suites to lining up courtesy cars for the teams. Often, after a team had been eliminated, players would abandon courtesy cars at the airport before leaving town. Ketch spent many nervous hours searching for lost vehicles in parking garages, hoping she could get them back to the Oldsmobile dealership in time.

We’ve just scratched the surface. Here are some other ways that Creighton helps out with the CWS:


Teams travel with their own athletic trainers, of course. Self is there to meet any additional needs, or to help players connect with any of the dozens of health professionals volunteering their time at the series. On hand are a physical therapist, chiropractor, dentist, eye doctor, massage therapist and physicians in internal medicine, sports medicine and orthopedics. “We try to keep everything we can in the stadium,” Self says. “From IVs to sutures, from X-rays to diagnostic ultrasounds.”

They even have medical services for nonhumans. When the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill made it to the series a few years back, they came to Omaha with Remington, a golden retriever who serves as the Tar Heels’ athletics training assistance dog. Before the team and the dog arrived, Self arranged for an Omaha veterinarian to be on call. Just in case. “Like we like to say to all of the teams,” Self says, “Anything … anything you need, we’re here for you.’”

Of course, playing host has its advantages for Creighton, too. Working at the CWS every year is, without question, one of his favorite parts of the job. Many families are enticed by the University right down the street. Campus tours spike during the College World Series. So much so that Enrollment Management has created programs to accommodate larger groups.

How many paths to Creighton started on the Road to Omaha? Creighton’s ties to the CWS go back to nearly the beginning.

The first two series were played in Kalamazoo, MI, before moving to Wichita, KS, for one year, and then Omaha in 1950. The CWS was in the red for most of its first decade in Omaha, but a dedicated group of supporters kept the tournament going. One of them was a Creighton alumnus — Byron Reed, BS’29, of the PR and advertising agency Bozell (then Bozell & Jacobs).

In 1967, another Creighton alumnus, Jack Diesing, Sr., BA’40, JD’41, created College World Series of Omaha, Inc., the tournament’s local nonprofit organizing committee. Creighton’s contributions as host school continued to grow during this time. “One thing we continue to work hard at is not taking the College World Series for granted with the NCAA,” says Jack Diesing, Jr., who was elected as president and chairman of CWS, Inc.’s board and executive committee upon his father’s retirement.

In the early years, Diesing, Jr. says, the NCAA’s contracts with CWS, Inc. were yearly. By 1990, they were upped to five-year extensions. And in 2011, the NCAA and CWS, Inc. started an unprecedented 25-year agreement to keep the series in Omaha through 2035. But even with that guarantee, says Diesing, Jr., no one is resting on their laurels.

“We’re always doing what we can to make the series a little better each year for the fans and players. Among others, Creighton has played a key role in this and in Omaha becoming synonymous with the College World Series.”

In 1950, hosting an NCAA championship in the same city year after year was an experiment never before tested. Seven decades later, the results speak for themselves. Not only through Omaha’s longevity as host city, but in the ways that the model has been replicated.

In 1990, Oklahoma City became the permanent home for the Women’s College World Series. The NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships, meanwhile, are frequently held in Eugene, OR. “College World Series, Inc., and Omaha created the blueprint for the NCAA looking at other championships,” says Bruce Rasmussen, former longtime athletic director at Creighton. “The College World Series has shown that instead of having to reinvent the wheel every championship, you can take what’s worked and tweak it a little every year.”

Rasmussen says that the University’s work with the CWS has benefited Creighton Athletics in countless ways. For one, it’s strengthened the University’s relationship with the NCAA, with other schools, and with Omaha itself.


In 2022, Marcus Blossom got to experience his first College World Series as Creighton’s new McCormick Endowed Athletic Director. He sees Creighton’s role as host of the CWS as a terrific way to support the University’s host city. “We want to do everything we can to contribute to Omaha,” says Blossom, who serves on the executive committee of the CWS, Inc. board. “We’re proud to be members of a community that comes together each year to put on a world-class event for eight teams and thousands of fans.”

Looking back, Ed Servais appreciates the irony that his road to Omaha was paved by the Road to Omaha. How funny that the first College World Series game he ever saw was won by the team he would one day coach. “If you don’t believe in destiny, I’ve got a few stories that might make you think again,” Servais says.

He says he’ll remember that 1991 Creighton vs. Clemson game for the rest of his life. He remembers the seat he sat in. He remembers the heat of the afternoon and the tornado watch and thunderstorms that followed. “I remember falling in love with the city at that series,” Servais says. “Here was a town that truly embraced college baseball. Looking back … maybe this was right where I was meant to be all along.”

Like the College World Series itself, Servais found a home in Omaha.

Please note: This is an updated version of a story originally published in June 2023 and is re-published in Connections with permission from Creighton University. Click here to view the original version online.

By Micah Mertes, Writer, Creighton University


Joe Giles was used to the stress of not having a home. Living on the streets meant that he couldn’t walk around without packing up everything he owned and carrying it around with him everywhere he went. Ever since people stole his dog’s food out of his shopping cart, he worried that his belongings would get stolen. People would blow smoke in his dog Lucy’s face. He didn’t have regular access to his medications. His life felt chaotic.

So, he was relieved when he found a temporary home in the Regis University Safe Outdoor Space (SOS), managed by the Denver nonprofits, Colorado Village Collaborative (CVC) and the St. Francis Center. One day in early March 2022, he was happy that he had access to electricity in his tent, set up in a row of others that looked nearly identical to it. It had snowed the day before, but Giles didn’t mind. Colorado’s climate meant he could wear a T-shirt the next day.

“I feel safe here,” he said. “It’s cool to see people here hang out with each other and be friendly with each other.”

His story was similar to those of many other residents: He learned about the housing alternative after volunteers from the St. Francis Center mentioned it. The center provides shelter for men and women experiencing homelessness in the Denver area. “I’ve loved it ever since,” he said. At the site, he had access to counseling and medical care, to name just a few resources provided in the SOS, and his dog had a safe place to rest.

The Regis SOS, which was located in a parking lot on the far east side of the University’s Northwest Denver Campus, operated between June 2021 and July 2022. The 19,000-square-foot site, which was staffed 24/7 by the center and had space to host up to 60 people, was equipped with portable toilets, showers, an office trailer and areas where residents could access services. The site had a perimeter fence and entry points that were operated at all times. To live in the site, residents were selected through a screening process intended to make sure they were well-suited to it. Residents of SOS sites, which continue to operate throughout Denver, are not allowed to use drugs or alcohol.

The site was a key part of a series of innovative strategies intended to address a crisis of homelessness in Denver. The first SOS site opened in downtown Denver in December 2020, five months after Denver Mayor Michael Hancock announced a partnership with CVC to open secure, fully staffed sites for people experiencing homelessness. The CVC partners with the St. Francis Center and several community organizations that provide services to residents, including medical and dental appointments and Denver Public Library Peer Navigators, among others. During a typical day, residents of SOS sites work, meet with case managers and access services. One of the main goals for residents is to get into permanent, stable housing.


Last year, 6,884 people were experiencing homelessness in the Denver Metro Area, according to a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development point-in-time count for 2022. The CVC attributed the deepening crisis to the COVID-19 pandemic, a lack of affordable housing, systemic racism, and the gap between wages and the cost of living. Former CVC Executive Director Cole Chandler said that “upon the onset of the pandemic, there was simply the need to create more spaces for more people faster, and safe outdoor spaces emerged as an obvious opportunity for that.”

A report by the Metro Denver Homelessness Initiative illustrated the pandemic’s impact on homelessness in the area: Between 2020 and 2021, the metro Denver area saw a 40 percent increase in the number of people accessing emergency shelter and a 99 percent increase in those seeking shelter who were newly homeless.

Regis Professor Emeritus Byron Plumley has been keenly aware of the homelessness problem for decades. A lifelong volunteer and Catholic worker, much of Plumley’s life has been dedicated to service. For Plumley, the concept of a safe outdoor space wasn’t new. He shared that his wife, lifelong volunteer Shirley Whiteside, found notes from a meeting of community organizations twenty years ago that mentioned a concept similar to an SOS. But it took the pandemic to put the idea into action. When he learned that Denver was introducing SOS sites as a way to address the crisis, Plumley didn’t hesitate.

“I thought, ‘Oh, I definitely want to help with that,’” Plumley said. “I knew I wanted to be involved. So, I signed up right away to be involved with the first one that opened up on Pearl Street.”


As he became more involved with SOS sites, Plumley became motivated to engage Regis. He brought the idea to Regis leaders, who agreed to meet with CVC and St. Francis Center leaders. When Regis leaders visited a downtown Denver SOS site in early 2021, it was no surprise that Plumley happened to be volunteering there that day.

“Byron is that type of person, and he is somebody that many of us should aspire to be like. He has utilized his voice and relationships and vision to make the world better for people who are on the margins,” Chandler said.

Chandler also recognized the efforts of Regis Community Relations Director Jenna Farley, who played an integral part in collaborating with the community and the organizations associated with the SOS, and helped alleviate many of the surrounding community’s fears. “Jenna is just an all-star,” Chandler said. “She feels very grounded and rooted in her belief in justice and [it has] been a joy to work with her fire and energy and passion.”

For his part, Plumley was gratified that Regis is putting its Jesuit values into practice. “I’m really proud of Regis to be part of this and, in the metropolitan area, to be known as an institution that really walks its talk,” Plumley said. “We say we are about justice and service. Well, you can witness that here at Regis.”

By Sara Knuth, Writer and Editor, Regis University


More than a year ago, Rockhurst University received a grant from the Hall Family Foundation, to support, in part, an educational experiment. The premise — create a cohort of five students, faculty, staff and community members, each of whom would be asked to take part in a series of monthly seminars throughout the academic year based on diversity, equity and inclusion taught by community leaders as well as Rockhurst faculty and staff.

Called the ‘Home for All’ seminar series, this program was part traditional college course, part reading group, and part support group, as these participants from all walks of life engaged in open, frank discussions about DEI topics and concepts.

Along the way, the members of the cohort became more than students sharing a classroom — they became a tight-knit community of their own. The Hall Foundation grant that funded the series allowed the University to develop its undergraduate and graduate DEI certificate programs and a future DEI toolkit for Rockhurst students. The seminars served as something of a proof of concept for those programs, and responses from the participants each month will also serve as the basis for an ongoing academic research project on the impact of such an experience on their work.

Participants like Jessica Samuel, facilities purchasing manager at Rockhurst, said that the wide range of topics and activities helped underscore the big lessons while allowing for personal experiences of everyone to come through. “I’ve learned you just never know what someone’s story is, and I honestly feel that [through] learning a bit of everyone’s story with the background exercises,” she said. “For example, the personal poems we all made to describe our family dynamics. Some traditions were so much like my own or even similar to my family’s, and others were uniquely different.”

It’s a tough dynamic to pull off given a room of strangers, Samuel added — especially when talking about heavy topics like prejudice and discrimination. “What most stood out to me was how honest and humble the participants were in this series. It’s normal for people to not be as honest as they truly would be in front of a group of strangers,” she said. “I even held back and kind of read the room first. But I was pleasantly surprised and appreciative of how open and honest everyone was about their bias, how they’ve been affected by bias, and what they want to do to change what’s wrong with bias.”

That process of finding common ground while learning to appreciate unique perspectives and cultural differences brought the cohort closer together, which in turn allowed for more honest conversations. “I appreciated the conversation and time for fellowship with one another,” said Gina Speese, associate director of annual giving and data analytics at Rockhurst. “This series allowed time to listen to one another’s stories, and to learn and see the world and their experiences from a different lens. This was invaluable time and I love how the group bonded together.”


Instructors for the seminar included a former Obama Administration official on aging and a Saint Louis University faculty member, Mark Pousson, Ph.D., who talked about inclusion as it relates to disability. Wanda Taylor, a former member of the University’s neighborhood committee who lives near Rockhurst’s campus, has spent part of her career in corporate diversity training and presented two seminars on microaggressions and unconscious bias, and a third seminar on gender identity. She said that she enjoyed the chance to step into the classroom and share some of that knowledge.

“When addressing DEI topics, it helps to have a diverse group to enhance the learning. Having a mixture of students, staff, faculty and community representatives helped to bring diverse perspectives,” she said.

More voices is always better, she said, while commending the courage and commitment of the participants. “The participants’ eagerness to learn is what stood out to me. All the participants were currently in school or working full-time jobs, so they had to have a strong commitment to participate,” she said. “That was encouraging to me. No one had to be there: they chose to be there and to participate. I felt each person left ready to make changes in their own lives and the lives of those around them.”

That was part of the stated goal of the Home for All series from the beginning — not just to give the participants a new vocabulary or food for thought, but to give them tools for their everyday interactions, whether those be at work or in their everyday lives. Candace Villanueva Greer, college and career manager at Prep-KC, said the work she did as part of the Home for All series will help in her work of expanding college access in the Kansas City region.

“I know that the information covered will be valuable because I now have more resources to share and more insight on critical topics that are not typically discussed or thought of,” she said.

Tyler Johnson, learning and assessment services librarian at Rockhurst’s Greenlease Library, said that he joined the cohort for personal reasons. “I appreciated the ability to share my story, about accepting myself as a member of the LGBTQ community within a larger group. I never had that opportunity before,” he said. “Since others had the courage to convey their own stories relating to the struggles they encountered in the realm of DEI, I felt more comfortable telling my story.”

But he added that he’s leaving with knowledge that will help him serve current and future students at Rockhurst. “Libraries pride themselves on being a ‘Home for All,’ and this seminar series gave me the skills to make that saying a reality,” he said.

By Tim Linn, Director of Communications, Rockhurst University


The concept of “town-gown” relations often evokes an “us vs. them” mentality. And yet, our Ignatian heritage calls us to something different, rooted in the maxim that “St. Ignatius loved the cities,” where human communities intersect, transformational learning happens, and space and power are shared.

To meet today’s challenges – from political deadlock to racial injustice and economic inequality – universities and cities need to work together to make positive change. At The University of Scranton, we have undertaken two significant projects in recent years that have drawn on our strengths as a Jesuit and Catholic liberal arts institution together with the assets and insights of our local community. “Scranton’s Story, Our Nation’s Story,” supported by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, explores a multi-faceted narrative of Scranton in ways aimed at building a stronger community and fostering a more just democracy. And the “Living Wage Report,” rooted in Catholic Social Teaching, advocates for economic justice in Northeastern Pennsylvania through research data, community agency insights, and residents’ voices.

Scranton’s Story, Our Nation’s Story
Who belongs in Scranton? The nation? Who has been systematically excluded? Whose story has not been heard? These questions cannot be fully answered by any one entity. This project has sought to broaden our understanding of who a Scrantonian is and, by extension, who an “American” is, reflecting on what is needed to achieve a “more perfect union” in the run-up to the 250th anniversary of the United States in 2026.


Since August 2021, faculty, staff and students from across different departments at the University have helped co-curate lectures, dialogues, story gathering, experiential walking tours, and film screenings across the city with multiple community partners including local historians, community activists and faith leaders. We have offered important new angles on well-told Scranton stories, such as highlighting the role of women in the garment industry following the decline of coal, and explored underrepresented narratives of Indigenous, Black and recent immigrant and refugee communities.

While Scranton is often described as a “white working-class city,” it also has longstanding and more recent diversity that is made invisible in that rendering. Local communities and national democracies struggle to knit together a more complex and full story lest it lead to a lack of cohesion. Canadian, Catholic philosopher Charles Taylor describes a “temptation to exclude those who can’t or won’t fit easily into the identity which the majority feels comfortable with, or believes alone can hold them together.”

But authentic together-ness cannot be achieved without confronting legacies of colonization and racism. As On Juneteenth author Annette Gordon-Reed wrote, “We can’t be of real service to the hopes we have for places—and people, ourselves included—without a clear-eyed assessment of their (and our) strengths and weaknesses.”

Indigenous experience is an especially absent Scranton story due to the realities of forced removal. In November 2022, as part of a 3-day university-community convening, Curtis Zunigha, an enrolled member of the Delaware Tribe of Indians and Lenape Center co-director/founder, discussed this history of “being pushed westward…in this horrible atmosphere of war and dom¬ination,” to open a dialogue about a way forward based on “shared occupancy” and planting seeds for ongoing relationship-building.

Through a program on “Black History and Housing in Scranton,” Glynis Johns, CEO/Founder of the Black Scranton Project, shared the not well-known history of a predominantly African American neighborhood that was demolished in the 1960s-70s to make way for redevelopment. Johns cited Black resident Louis Fisher’s opposition: “We do not need a plan for colored people. Open the houses next door,” he said, alluding to how Black Scrantonians were routinely denied access to properties outside of that neighborhood.

Amidst such underrepresented stories, commonalities have also emerged. Scranton grew due to coal mining jobs that drew immigrants from across Europe. Today, Scranton remains a migration destination with individuals and families coming from across Latin America, as well as global refugees continuing to seek a better life.

The project will culminate in Fall 2023 with a “Scranton Stories” collection archived by The University of Scranton as a lasting community resource.

Living Wage Study
Beginning in 2016, The University of Scranton and local public policy research group, The Institute, set out to better understand what constitutes a living wage in Northeastern Pennsylvania: the threshold where a household can meet their essential basic needs and live a modest but dignified life. Using the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s living wage calculator and modeled initially after a similar study undertaken by fellow Jesuit institution Loyola University New Orleans, Scranton has now replicated this report three times, adding new elements each time.

The 2022 report lays out the inadequacy of the minimum wage still being $7.25 in PA; details significant challenges facing those who fall below the living wage; and discusses other mitigating factors including racial disparities in homeownership rates, the need for affordable housing, and the impact of inflation and the COVID-19 pandemic.

The report draws on Catholic Social Teaching in support of economic justice, solidarity, and the dignity of work. It also includes the insights of multiple community agency leaders sharing their own expertise, and interviews with local residents providing firsthand perspective on economic hardship. One interviewee, Ronnie, talked about the difficulty of functioning on low wages and the need for empathy: “People need to learn to live in other people’s environments…so you can understand what people go through,” Ronnie said.

The report provides a socio-economic gauge for the region and a platform for ongoing advocacy and community action.


Collaboration Bears Fruit for All
The projects we have undertaken in Scranton, as a university and with our community partners, are ongoing. We have more work to yet arrive at a new and shared local and national narrative; more still to do to achieve economic security for all of our neighbors.

At Jesuit institutions, the call to educate students “for and with others” involves important cautions. Doing something primarily “for” others can cause harm when not undertaken in collaboration with the group seeking assistance and justice. To be truly “with” – where belonging and human flourishing can happen – communities and countries need to wrestle with uncomfortable realities and histories.

Paying attention to subsidiarity – valuing those closest to a problem as experts – can help avoid paternalistic patterns. In his 2021 World Day of the Poor message, Pope Francis said: “Acts of charity presuppose a giver and a receiver, whereas mutual sharing generates fraternity. Almsgiving is occasional; mutual sharing, on the other hand, is enduring.”

University-community partnerships call for listening and humility, a willingness to forgo control in favor of collaboration. This process of re-orienting our ways of working together has the potential to break down “town” and “gown” silos and bear much fruit for all.

By Julie Schumacher Cohen, Assistant Vice President for Community Engagement and Government Affairs, The University of Scranton


When a corporate partner joins forces with a higher education institution like Saint Peter’s University, the potential positive outcomes are limitless. Students of the University’s Frank J. Guarini School of Business had the opportunity to experience some of these benefits firsthand when the School joined forces with Goya Foods, the largest Hispanic-owned food company in the United States, to develop an experiential learning collaboration.

Latinos are currently the largest minority group in the U.S., with a population of roughly 62 million and purchasing power close to $2 trillion. These statistics would make the U.S. Latino market segment equivalent to the third largest Spanish-speaking country in the world behind Mexico and Spain, and second only to Mexico in population. About 5.5 million Latinos live in New York and New Jersey alone. It follows that there is an increased demand for professional communicators who understand how to reach this market-segment using integrated marketing communications strategies and tactics.

Saint Peter’s consistently seeks to provide students with real-world experiences, but as a Hispanic-Serving Institution (HSI) with an incredibly diverse student population, what better way to educate students on reaching this significant market than to partner with a global brand like Goya? Goya Foods, which is headquartered in Saint Peter’s backyard in Jersey City, NJ, was also interested in incorporating a younger voice into its marketing to reach the newest generation. Thus a partnership was born.

The Saint Peter’s and Goya Foods experiential learning collaboration featured a course for the Fall 2022 semester that was co-taught by sociology faculty member Alex Trillo, Ph.D., and business faculty member Joseph Charleman, D.B.A. The course was titled, “Latino/a Marketing, Communication & Culture,” and in contrast to most marketing courses, it began with developing an understanding of Latino consumers. The course covered the impact of culture, socio-economic differences, trends within Latino communities, and more.


The second unique aspect of the course is a project-based collaboration with Goya Foods. Following five weeks of classwork on the principles of marketing and Latino consumers, the course transitioned to team projects focused on selecting Goya products and segments of the Latino population. The teams, which included four to five students, used their knowledge from their coursework to develop marketing plans. The marketing plans were ultimately presented to Goya Foods marketing professionals in a case competition and prizes were awarded to the top achievers.

“To me, the best part was getting students engaged in the research process,” explained Dr. Trillo. “In this experience, they learned how to create surveys, collect and analyze different kinds of data and make decisions that were both empirically and theoretically informed. That’s good for their resumes, but also for developing critical thinking skills that apply to other areas of their lives.”

Noelle Sprenkle ’23, a marketing major at Saint Peter’s, was one of the participants in the program and was selected following an interview and application process. “This program presented such a unique opportunity for the students involved because we had the ability to work one-on-one with the managers from Goya Foods with real products that are currently in the market,” she explained. “It was so interesting to learn about how Goya’s products vary based on the countries in which they originate and the different cultures that the products are designed for.”

This was not Sprenkle’s first unique experience during her time as a student in the Frank J. Guarini School of Business. In her years at Saint Peter’s, she served as a marketing intern for Aramark, had a summer internship with PSE&G, and participated in the Goldman Sachs Local College Collaborative.

Regardless, she had a number of positive takeaways from her participation in the Goya experiential learning collaboration. She enjoyed the time she and her fellow students spent touring the massive Goya Foods facilities and trying the company’s wide-range of products. She also learned about the distribution process from the product managers, and how the company maintains consistency for products that are manufactured overseas.

The representatives from Goya Foods who were involved in the program also found the Saint Peter’s partnership to be incredibly valuable. “The student teams were very enthusiastic and provided us with unique and creative ideas on how the Goya brand can better resonate with a younger consumer base,” said Aleks Nestorovic, marketing manager for Goya Foods. “We look forward to keep evolving our partnership with Saint Peter’s and are confident it will continue to be successful moving forward.”

The Frank J. Guarini School of Business plans to continue to develop and offer opportunities like the Goya program partnership. The program is a prime example of the mission statement of the School, which seeks to offer “impactful and transformative learning experiences that provide opportunities for service, experiential learning, and community engagement, with an emphasis on professional skills development, career pathways and establishing the foundation for lifelong learning.”

By Angeline Boyer, Director of University Communications, Saint Peter’s University

By Maggie Rotermund, Senior Media Relations Specialist, Saint Louis University


Putting entrepreneurs in the room where it happens. Without Saint Louis University’s (SLU) Habitat for Neighborhood Business program (HNB), Travious Brooks, the owner of Brooks Family Entertainment in St. Louis, MO, would not be where he is today.

HNB was founded in 2006 by SLU alum Douglas Brown (CSB ’66), who saw a lack of businesses in economically challenged neighborhoods when visiting cities throughout the U.S. while working for Enterprise Rent-a-Car. With assistance and collaboration from SLU, Brown spent two years meeting with people in local neighborhoods in need of renewal. Armed with this information and support from the Richard A. Chaifetz School of Business, Brown launched HNB with several fellow SLU alumni.

HNB helps entrepreneurs and small business owners return retail and service businesses to struggling urban neighborhoods. The businesses must be located within HNB’s service area in the city of St. Louis. “The thing that I think is most important is that we’re not really in the job creation business: we are in the career creation business,” Brown said.


Gladys Smith, Ph.D., is the program director of HNB. She started at SLU in 2018 when the program, which already had strong ties to the University, became staffed by the University after being run by volunteers. “The goal is to provide services to minority business owners in the underserved areas of St. Louis and to provide them access to the resources to help them become a success,” Smith said. “Doug Brown had a passion to make a difference. He saw a need and he went about finding a solution.”

Participants in the program have access to an advisory board of established businesspeople from the community; access to an industry-specific mentor when available; discounted or pro bono accounting and legal services; help with web design and hosting; and access to reconditioned and discounted equipment and software.

“Participants have done the work to start – our main focus is to mentor and help them grow their business,” Smith said.

HNB participants range from new entrepreneurs to those with years of experience looking to grow their ventures. Travious Brooks owned a costume jewelry store before looking for something he could do with his children. He started Brooks Bounce Houses five years ago by renting bounce houses and running them at events. Brooks Family Entertainment is now a full-fledged event services company, with a game bus, 360 photo booth rental, and table and chair rentals.

He credits a meeting with Smith at an Urban League event with changing the trajectory of his business. “Habitat for Neighborhood Business has gotten me in front of people I never would have met otherwise,” Brooks said. “Gladys got me mentors from big companies that I could call on a whim, reporters from newspapers to cover my business, [and a connection with] Enterprise Bank to get a credit line to help my business grow.”

Smith said that the key to HNB is mentoring and collaboration. “It is our intention to build relationships,” she said. “We want participants to build relationships among themselves and with the seasoned business owners who serve as mentors. We want to help them network and promote their business.”

Brooks said HNB reinforced the fundamentals of what he knew about operating his business while bolstering his confidence. “It’s a big deal to start a business,” he said. “It’s always hard and you never get to the end. There are always hurdles, but being a part of this group makes me want to say, ‘let me see what I can do.’”

Undergraduate business students at SLU, through one of their first courses in the Chaifetz School of Business, get the opportunity to engage in service learning by helping HNB program participants with business and marketing plans. “I’ve gotten to work with so many SLU students and they always bring a lot of ideas,” Brooks said. “Being from a younger generation, they’ve helped me with some fun ideas, as well as practical items.”

Emma Gude has been involved in HNB since her sophomore year. The SLU senior served as a marketing intern for the program, sending out a monthly newsletter and sitting in on mentoring sessions. The finance major said she appreciated getting to work with the entrepreneurs. “It was so rewarding to see how the work I did to inform people with the newsletter was appreciated,” she said. “I’m not an expert – I’m just a student, but my input was valued. I learned as much from them as they have from me.”


Participants in the program who want a deeper dive into the long-term feasibility of their business plans are paired with a student enrolled in Strategy and Practice, a capstone course within the school’s Professional MBA program. Students are put into teams and spend the semester working with their partners to strengthen their businesses. HNB participants who complete the consultant study receive $2,500 toward implementing their plan at the end of the review.

“It’s a great collaboration between the School of Business and HNB,” Smith said. “The students get to establish relationships with the business owners and see their passion and commitment to making it work.”

Smith said that the University recently received a grant from a SLU alum, who donated $100,000 to support the service leadership connection. “This funding will keep us going for a while – it’s a real commitment to the students and their work,” she said.

Finding the Right Fit
Habitat for Neighborhood Business works with a variety of businesses in St. Louis. “The entrepreneurs run the gamut – we have auto tire shops, construction, hair salons, hair products, an entertainment company, and food that goes from fast food to gourmet,” Smith said.

Smith explained that each application is reviewed to ensure that it is a business that will enhance its surroundings. “We want the businesses to add value to their neighborhoods,” she said.

Smith said that the participants sell HNB better than any marketing campaign could. “They refer their friends and family because of their experience in the program,” she said. “It is a privilege to be a part of this work sharing the resources and helping underserved communities.”

This article was originally published on and is republished in Connections with permission from Saint Louis University.


The College of the Holy Cross is an institution where students can immerse themselves in a liberal arts, Christian humanistic education that promotes justice and faith, which allows them to be guided by their faith, talents, and commitment to others. As a student who grew up fighting for social justice issues and giving back to my community, I was excited to immerse myself in diverse experiences when I came to Holy Cross.

In my sophomore year of college, I learned that Holy Cross has several partnerships with different organizations throughout the city of Worcester, MA. I came across an internship opportunity at the Nativity School of Worcester, and was drawn to apply because of the school’s history and mission:

“Nativity School of Worcester is an accredited, independent, Jesuit middle school that provides a quality, all-scholarship education to underserved boys of all faiths. Drawing upon four pillars – strength, scholarship, character, and service – a Nativity education inspires self-discovery, responsibility, spiritual growth, and a lifelong dedication to learning.”

On the first day of my internship, I was greeted with a warm welcome by Nativity’s Senior Vice President of Advancement and Graduate Support, Elizabeth Deliberto, and two fifth-grade students, who were excited to give me a tour of their school. On the tour, I was amazed by the inspirational quotes and students’ accomplishments that covered every wall. As I listened to the students describe their school, I noticed how much they liked attending Nativity. Their eagerness and excitement to talk about what they were learning in class and explain their future career goals depicted how Nativity cultivates a love for learning in students.

After the tour, I was greeted by Rev. Thomas McMurray, S.J., the school’s Chaplain and Director of Jesuit Mission and Identity. As the admissions intern, I assisted Fr. McMurray and the Admissions Team with various tasks, such as updating the admissions database on Salesforce; tracking and filing incoming admission application materials; and assembling admission application packets for student and parent interviews. Before this internship, I was not aware of how to use programs like Salesforce or how to handle databases. However, I had excellent guidance from Fr. McMurray and the admissions team on how to use them. In my second year interning at Nativity, I continued assisting Fr. McMurray, as well as the Assistant Principal, Nerelly Checo. As a second-year intern, I continued creating and updating databases, but also assisted teachers and staff with tasks like creating bulletin boards and assembling materials for the school’s Religious Education curriculum.

During my two years interning at Nativity, I noticed that the school prepares its students to be leaders and changemakers. Through the academic program, after-school program, summer program, and graduate support, Nativity fully equips its students to be on track for pursuing a higher education. It is empowering that students receive support and guidance from the teachers, staff, and volunteers throughout their time there. As a student who grew up in a low-income neighborhood and attended Title I schools, I did not have many opportunities or mentors who encouraged me to go to college. I also did not have a teacher or a mentor who could help me with understanding the way the college application process works and how to apply for summer programs. Despite the setbacks, I always had my sisters as role models. They helped me understand that education is important and the key to surpassing barriers. That is why, since high school, I have valued giving back to my community and being an advocate for education equity.

As a first-generation Latina student from a low-income background, interning at Nativity opened doors for me and provided me with professional development and leadership skills that will help me in the future when I graduate from Holy Cross. I am grateful to have been able to work with the amazing staff at Nativity and enjoyed learning about the school’s development so much that in my sophomore year of college, I combined my economics major with an education minor. Likewise, I have enjoyed the courses offered in Holy Cross’ education department, especially “The Catholic Mission in Education” because I have seen how Nativity embodies the Catholic mission in education.

Guided by its Jesuit principle of “men and women for and with others,” I have found Holy Cross and my internship at the Nativity School of Worcester to be life-changing and rewarding. After graduating from college, I intend to pursue a career in education policy and continue advocating for social justice issues.

By Diana Chavez Cruz, College of the Holy Cross ‘24

Diana Chavez Cruz is a rising senior at the College of the Holy Cross. She served as an intern for AJCU in Summer 2022.

Last month, the U.S. Department of Education issued a 200+-page package of proposed regulations intend to increase transparency and accountability of post-secondary education programs at institutions of higher education. These regulations cover such issues as financial value transparency and gainful employment, financial responsibility, administrative capability, certification procedures, and “ability to benefit.”

These complex issues are layered into the federal law that guides postsecondary education policy: the Higher Education Act (HEA) of 1965. This law was last reauthorized in 2008 and is up for reconsideration in the 118th U.S. Congress. Long overdue for an overhaul, much in education has changed since Congress last reviewed this law.

In his opening statement during a hearing on the issue last week, Rep. Burgess Owens (R-UT), Chair of the Higher Education and Workforce Development Subcommittee, said, “In order to promote access and completion for the modern student, the HEA needs to be revisited.”

In response, Rep. Owens’ counterpart, Ranking Member Rep. Fredricka Wilson (D-FL), acknowledged that “the evidence is clear: a college degree holds the key to the American Dream.” But she also emphasized the importance of re-examining the law to ensure it is meeting the needs of all students, especially students of color.

The U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee also has jurisdiction over this law. Within the past week, both the Committee’s Chair, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), and Ranking Member, Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA), have introduced bills focused on post-secondary education. Sen. Sanders’ seeks to make college both tuition- and debt-free, while Sen. Cassidy is a chief author of a legislative package called the “Lowering Education Costs and Debts Act” (Sen. Cassidy has also introduced a resolution to block the Biden Administration’s loan forgiveness plan).

The House Education and the Workforce Committee, led by Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC), is said to be working on a reauthorization proposal, yet there is no word on what the Senate Committee is drafting. While there is some consensus on the challenges that students face in pursuing higher education, there is little common ground on solutions.

Is there a bipartisan path toward crafting a HEA reauthorization? Bipartisan consensus on a comprehensive reauthorization is key to the success of the process, but it may remain elusive for the 118th Congress. And what happens when Congress doesn’t act? Often the Administration will take on updates to laws by creating new regulations.

That brings us back to where we started: hundreds of dense pages of regulations and thirty days to unpack them and provide comments on a significant number of very technical policies. In response to these proposed regulations, AJCU joined the American Council on Education and 46 other organizations in a comprehensive response to the U.S. Secretary of Education. This letter offers support for some elements in the proposed rule, while highlighting those areas where the higher education community agrees there is a need for improvement. AJCU, along with the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities (ACCU), also provided comments on the topic of identifying low-performing programs using only earnings data. Our associations urged caution on using earnings alone to determine program value, as this elevates salary over service.

What do prospective students and families need to know when considering post-secondary education? Is there data to help them make sound choices on choosing a college? What does the data tell us about how students decide to attend college? Is there value in learning beyond high school? Does college matter? Can we measure the benefits of a post-secondary degree? How do we do so in a holistic way?

These are critical questions, ones that legislators, Administration officials, college presidents, associations, think tanks, and researchers are trying to answer while always keeping the best interests of students in mind. And for students and their families (including adult learners), having these answers is critical.

Working together, we all must do all that we can to commit to principles of accessibility, affordability, inclusion, value, and success. Whether you choose a vocation in ministry, the profession of teaching, or a career in finance, our Jesuit colleges and universities hope that you heed the call of service for and with others, and that your education and formation have prepared you well for any and all of these paths toward advancing the greater good.

By Jenny Smulson, Vice President for Government Relations, AJCU