By Deanna Howes Spiro, Director of Communications, AJCU

The past two months have been unexpectedly challenging for all of us at AJCU. In January, our former president, Rev. Charles L. Currie, S.J., passed away and just four weeks later, our vice president for federal relations, Cyndy Littlefield, died. Fr. Currie and Cyndy were among the AJCU network’s greatest champions for Jesuit higher education and are sorely missed (tributes are available on our website for both Fr. Currie and Cyndy; we will celebrate Cyndy’s life with a memorial service at Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Washington, D.C. on Saturday, April 6 at 10:30 AM).

It was, admittedly, a little strange to edit this issue of Connections, knowing that we wouldn’t have a Federal Relations report from Cyndy. But thankfully, our new interim vice president for federal relations, Scott Fleming, agreed to take on this task and has produced a comprehensive update on what to expect in the upcoming reauthorization process of the Higher Education Act (HEA). Scott will be with us through the end of May, and will provide updates again in March and May (we will not be publishing in April).

In addition to our Federal Relations report, this issue of Connections features five articles on interdisciplinary programs and collaborations being conducted at Georgetown University, Marquette University, Gonzaga University and Creighton University. The fifth article offers an international take on interdisciplinary scholarship: it features the work of the Bollandist Society, a Jesuit institution based in Brussels whose members specialize in objective hagiography, the study of saints based on established facts. The Bollandists are few in number and use their niche expertise to conduct research for the Acta Sanctorum, a comprehensive anthology on the lives of the saints. As part of a new plan for modernization, the Bollandists are seeking to increase their exposure in the United States through an interactive Facebook page, coverage in America, and presentations at Jesuit colleges, universities and high schools.

After a tumultuous winter, we are looking forward to what we hope will be a happier spring. All of us at AJCU are grateful for your prayers over the past two months, and thank you for your unending support.

By Dr. Paul Almeida, Dean and William R. Berkley Chair, Professor of Strategy, Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business

Dr. Paul Almeida, Dean and William R. Berkley Chair, Professor of Strategy, Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business (photo by Georgetown University)
Dr. Paul Almeida, Dean and William R. Berkley Chair, Professor of Strategy, Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business (photo by Georgetown University)

As the world becomes more interconnected and complex, so do the major issues facing society today: healthcare, climate change, global migration, artificial intelligence, to name a few. Academia exists, in part, to create and disseminate the knowledge that can help us better understand and solve these global challenges. Yet higher education may not be ready to take on these issues, not for a lack of expertise but, rather, because academia is caught up in its centuries-old tradition of conducting research and teaching within narrow siloed areas of expertise. Higher education has an opportunity to move beyond these historical ways of thinking and acting by collaborating across schools, departments and functional areas to reach our potential and better fulfill our mission.

Working within disciplines has many advantages. Functionally organized schools and departments allow for efficient organization, enhanced specialization, and the sharing of expertise among scholars and students with common interests. But no single organization or individual has all of the knowledge or insights to be able to identify all of the challenges, let alone come up with all of the solutions.

Now, imagine what our faculty, students and alumni with expertise in business, the sciences, government, law and communications could accomplish together to solve these problems. Even better, imagine what our communities could accomplish if we begin teaching, researching, and building programs across disciplines, allowing students to begin thinking in new ways before they are faced with these challenges in the real world.

At Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business, we have spent the last two years formally exploring collaborations across the University. We recently launched the Pivot Program with the Georgetown Prisons and Justice Initiative to teach entrepreneurship and the liberal arts to formerly incarcerated citizens from the District of Columbia. In addition, we are in the process of developing Georgetown’s first joint undergraduate degree in Business and Global Affairs with our School of Foreign Service. This program is being designed from scratch to integrate concepts across both disciplines rather than asking students to take courses in both schools independently of each other.

While these initiatives are important, they are just the first step. The greater challenge is to create a rich culture of collaboration within our institutions so that we make a habit of continuous dialogue and exploration, rich interactions, and “back-and-forthing.” If successful, we will keep discovering both challenges to which we can offer insights and advice as well as actual solutions. Most important, we will develop the relationships, trust and understanding that allow us to work with complexity. Collaboration is not quick or easy, but starting early can yield much success in the future by creating an atmosphere that will endure long after we are gone.

As higher education continues to face disruption and change, collaboration allows us to take advantage of open space at the crossroads of disciplines by allowing that overlap to be realized and understood. We can create so many more opportunities to fulfill higher education’s purpose by learning and teaching about new areas that exist at the intersections that we ignore. If you think about it, the problems we are solving at Georgetown, like integrating former prisoners into society, are not new. We are just discovering new ways of thinking about them by reaching out across schools and programs.

I encourage you to start small and explore ways to collaborate across your colleges and universities. Leverage your unique strengths to differentiate what it means to be a part of your community, just as Georgetown continues to build upon our location in Washington, D.C., our community of expertise in key disciplines, and our Jesuit identity.

As members of a global community of Jesuit institutions with a common mindset, we also have an opportunity to collaborate with one another. Over the years, Georgetown has developed partnerships with several Jesuit institutions, most notably ESADE in Spain, where we work together to offer programs, certificates and study abroad exchanges, and share research.

I often ask our community to imagine a world led by our alumni who not only understand the big issues facing mankind, but who have the tools, expertise and relationships needed to solve them, and who are inspired by the Jesuit mission to continuously serve humanity. This vision holds true for all of us in the Jesuit network. I want us to live in that world, which we can create together.

By Lynn C. Sheka, Senior Director of University Communication, Marquette University

Marquette University faculty and representatives from Milwaukee community organizations pose with Marquette President Dr. Michael R. Lovell after being named winners of the President’s Challenge grant (photo by Marquette University)
Marquette University faculty and representatives from Milwaukee community organizations pose with Marquette President Dr. Michael R. Lovell after being named winners of the President’s Challenge grant (photo by Marquette University)

Milwaukee, Wisconsin, home to Marquette University, is one of the most segregated cities in the nation. High poverty rates and stark inequities in access to health care, education and fresh food only contribute toward its historical segregation.

But recently, experts have started to understand how many of the city’s challenges are related to trauma.

“Trauma experienced as a child or adolescent affects children as adults,” said Dr. Stephen Saunders, chair and professor of psychology at Marquette. “Now you have adults who were traumatized as children, who are still affected by their trauma, who are having difficulty adjusting to raising their own kids. It’s [a] sort of vicious cycle.”

Having experienced alcoholism, violence and suicide attempts in his immediate family while growing up, Marquette President, Dr. Michael R. Lovell, knows first-hand how trauma can affect individuals and their surrounding communities. So last year, he and his wife, Amy — the CEO of REDGen, a Milwaukee non-profit focused on building resiliency — founded a region-wide effort to heal trauma. They call it Scaling Wellness in Milwaukee: SWIM, for short.

The effort is gaining nationwide attention from the likes of America and Oprah Winfrey. SWIM now includes representatives from dozens of nonprofits, corporations and community organizations committed to improving mental health resources and ensuring that Milwaukee is one of the most trauma-informed cities in the nation.

In an effort to involve faculty from Marquette, Lovell announced, in January 2018, the President’s Challenge. Developed in partnership with the Johnson Controls Foundation, the President’s Challenge would provide a $250,000, two-year grant for one interdisciplinary, collaborative proposal between Marquette faculty members and community organizations that would address inequities in Milwaukee neighborhoods.

In order to be eligible to obtain the grant, teams had to be made up of at least five people, including at least one Marquette faculty member from each of the following areas: humanities, social sciences and STEM-related disciplines. Teams also had to involve a substantial partnership with a Milwaukee community organization. Proposals needed to focus on an under-served neighborhood and had to address one or more of the critical areas in which neighborhood inequities exist, such as health, education, safety, housing, transportation and economic prosperity.

Teams had until April 2018 to submit their proposals. Lovell said, “More than 37 Marquette faculty members and 40 community organizations worked together throughout the process, which included two community information sessions and two team formation events. All told, eight faculty-community teams submitted final proposals to the judging committee.”

Lovell announced the winning proposal in January 2019 during his annual Presidential Address. The winning program, “Next Step Clinic: A Partnership Targeting Mental and Developmental Health for Milwaukee’s Underserved Children and Families,” will be led by Dr. Amy Van Hecke, associate professor of psychology, along with Marquette colleagues in nursing, education, counseling psychology, computer science, communication, psychology, speech pathology and audiology (click on the video icon at left to learn more).

Van Hecke said, “The Next Step Clinic will seek out and serve Milwaukee families adversely impacted by racial and socioeconomic health disparities, with an additional focus on families who have been affected by Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), trauma or chronic toxic stress and developmental delays.”

The collaboration will also include the Milwaukee Coalition for Children’s Mental Health; Mental Health America of Wisconsin; Milwaukee Area Technical College; MIRACLE Network; Next Door Foundation; True Love Baptist Ministries; and Milwaukee Succeeds Kindergarten Readiness Partnership/United Way of Greater Milwaukee & Waukesha Counties.

The Next Door Foundation, located in Milwaukee’s Metcalfe Park neighborhood, will provide available space for the Next Step Clinic to serve Milwaukee children and families struggling with mental health and developmental issues. The clinic will also serve as a training site for graduate students, increasing the number of professionals trained in these areas, and serving children and families for generations to come.

“Where Marquette can bring a unique aspect to this project is [through] students who will be doing this work under the supervision of Marquette faculty. By involving students in this clinic, and having it be a training site, we are training more mental health professionals,” said Van Hecke. “The more mental health professionals we have who are trained and know how to work with these children and families, the easier it will be for people to get the resources they need. The short-term solution is to open the bricks and mortar clinic, and long-term, we will work to address the larger problem that there are not enough professionals trained to provide this type of care.”

Lovell added, “The Next Step Clinic is a truly inter-disciplinary, collaborative idea that will provide a centrally located site for comprehensive, trauma-informed evaluation, assessment and treatment of mental and developmental health conditions of Milwaukee children and their caregivers. Thanks to the generosity of the Johnson Controls Foundation, the Next Step Clinic will help bridge the gap between families and service providers, providing a unique response to the pressing issue of health disparities in our city.”

To learn more about Scaling Wellness in Milwaukee (SWIM), visit

By Dr. Elisabeth Mermann-Jozwiak, Dean, College of Arts & Sciences, Gonzaga University

Dr. Brook O. Swanson, Biology, appears with students from Gonzaga University’s dance program during a performance of “Beautiful Weapons,” a scientific presentation using the language of dance (photo by Gonzaga University)
Dr. Brook O. Swanson, Biology, appears with students from Gonzaga University’s dance program during a performance of “Beautiful Weapons,” a scientific presentation using the language of dance (photo by Gonzaga University)

In today’s world, interdisciplinary collaborations are the sine qua non of professional life. Employers and our own alumni tell us that team work is essential, and that college graduates must be able to work as part of a group.

In an interdisciplinary team, each member brings different strengths, insights and perspectives to the discussion. As well, there is rising awareness that no one discipline by itself can solve the challenges that we face today—food safety, climate change or energy dependency, to name just a few. This is why, for example, more and more medical and nursing schools emphasize interprofessional education: looking at the whole person and examining the interlocking factors—medical, social, economic—that impact the patient’s overall health.

Dr. Elisabeth Mermann-Jozwiak, Dean, College of Arts & Sciences (photo by Gonzaga University)
Dr. Elisabeth Mermann-Jozwiak, Dean, College of Arts & Sciences (photo by Gonzaga University)

Gonzaga University, and the College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) in particular, is uniquely positioned to prepare students for the future by modeling interdisciplinarity through creative research and teaching collaborations, and by engaging them in such work. By working with cross-disciplinary faculty teams, students are able to discover that relevance for themselves, and to see how interdisciplinarity is crucial to solving problems.

Two courses in Gonzaga’s core curriculum are devised for the explicit purpose of exposing students to interdisciplinary work: the first-year seminar and the core integration seminar. With funding from the Center for Undergraduate Research and Creative Inquiry, a group of faculty have developed interdisciplinary research teams so that students even in their first year will do research that transcends the boundaries of disciplines. Other teaching collaborations include courses on Dance and Biology (focusing on the physiology of movement), Art and Chemistry (focusing on the role of chemistry in art materials) and Political Science and Biology (focusing on policy and climate change). In these team-taught courses, students see faculty members as experts in one field and students in another, modeling what life-long learning looks like.

Dr. Juliane Mora, Assistant Professor, Communication Studies (photo by Gonzaga University)
Dr. Juliane Mora, Assistant Professor, Communication Studies (photo by Gonzaga University)

Teaching collaborations also happen across colleges. Communication Studies professor Juliane Mora works with engineering faculty to build communication components into their classes. For a Geomatics course, where the primary goal is for students to learn a mapping software, the professors designed an assignment that asked students to make an argument for what new structure should be built on an area of vacant land in Spokane County in Washington. They then had to articulate their reasons to an audience of non-engineers, in order to help them understand the broader implications of their recommendations.

The benefits of thinking about audience, purpose, communication style and message structure is relevant to any workplace scenario because so much of our work is communication-centered. The more they practice speaking to others and engaging with different methods for sharing their knowledge or insight, the more capable students will be in other environments. Mora notes, “One of the best parts about interdisciplinary collaboration is the ability to learn new material and become a well-rounded thinker.”

To encourage this kind of work, the CAS offers a grant program that supports interdisciplinary faculty and student research. The recipients of last year’s grant were Charlie Lassiter, a philosopher who specializes in philosophy of the mind, and Vinai Norasakkunkit, a cultural psychologist who studies the impact of culture on individuals. Both professors worked together to find out which societal forces afford greater degrees of marginalization in a particular population.

For this project, Lassiter devised a computer simulation model to apply Norasakkunkit’s theory on the psychology of marginalization. The computer model allows for micro-level manipulations (at the level of individual interactions) to examine the consequences at the macro-level (i.e. cultural change) over time and over generations. How do science and the philosophy of mind interact? Minds don’t work in a vacuum; we’re not just computers plugging away at inputs. Rather, the cultures and societies in which we’re reared profoundly shape our cognitive dispositions.

These discoveries entail all manner of interesting philosophical questions: How are we to think of minds, if not in terms of computers? Does what count as “good reasoning” change with culture, and is it at all possible to evaluate the reasoning of a foreign people? Norasakkunkit says, “Both Charlie and I are pushing the boundaries of our field by challenging conventional wisdom for how to think about the nature of the mind…Overall, working on this project made me realize that there is a limit to staying only within one’s own discipline and that by crossing disciplines, we are able to expand the directions that our ideas and previous work can go.”

The two professors have been energized by their findings, and are now developing a course based on this collaboration. Lassiter notes that such collaborations are most interesting when the boundaries of their fields bump into one another, often leading researchers into unchartered territory.

Gonzaga students studying biology, chemistry, environmental science and other disciplines collaborate on water research on the banks of Lake Arthur in Spokane, WA (photo by Gonzaga University)
Gonzaga students studying biology, chemistry, environmental science and other disciplines collaborate on water research on the banks of Lake Arthur in Spokane, WA (photo by Gonzaga University)

It is precisely that unchartered territory where innovation takes place and problems are solved. Take, for example, a focus on water. In a chemistry laboratory last fall, Chemistry and Civil Environmental Engineering students worked with faculty to assess water quality in samples collected from the nearby Spokane River and Lake Arthur earlier that afternoon. In the lab next door, students from Biology and Environmental Studies collaborated with faculty and each other on an analysis of bacterial populations within the lake and river on samples collected in collaboration with students from Biology and Engineering.

Results from prior field analyses, as well as live images of the activities in the laboratories, were shown on displays in the main foyer of Gonzaga’s Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering (ISE) building, where visitors to campus stopped to consider the meaning of the students’ work and whether these types of STEM studies might represent an exceptional opportunity for future learners. These visitors also watched as the monitors displayed intricate patterns revealed through the analyses conducted by Computer Science and Math students on terabyte-sized data sets collected on river level, chemistry and temperature using sensors designed and built in the ISE electronics lab by Electrical Engineering and Physics students. As these visitors turned from the monitors, they watched as Mechanical and Civil Engineering students worked in the student project spaces to build more stable sampling platforms, as well as submersible sampling vehicles, to be deployed in future assessment of flows and water quality in the river.

These case studies at Gonzaga University are just a few examples of what the future of higher education holds: retreating from silos, integrating disciplines, and offering new and exciting pathways to teaching and learning that are clearly connected to real-life issues.

By Cindy Murphy McMahon, Associate Director of Communications at Creighton University

At CHI Health Creighton University Medical Center, clinicians, residents and students gather in the “huddle” as part of an innovative team-based approach. Team members from different health sciences backgrounds use their expertise for holistic healt…
At CHI Health Creighton University Medical Center, clinicians, residents and students gather in the “huddle” as part of an innovative team-based approach. Team members from different health sciences backgrounds use their expertise for holistic health care (photo by Creighton University)

With nine colleges and schools — four in the health sciences and others encompassing business, law and the arts — all on one walkable campus in Omaha, NE, Creighton University is well-configured to foster interdisciplinary research and education.

Interdisciplinary research and scholarship projects provide especially enriching opportunities for Creighton students — undergraduate, graduate and professional alike. Otherwise, students may find their awareness and knowledge are limited to the perspective of only their chosen discipline or major.

In fact, the University is making such pursuits (especially over the next ten years, prior to its 150th anniversary) a priority, specifically calling out inter-professional education in The Creighton 150 Strategic Plan: Lighting the Way.

The strategic plan, the result of more than two years of in-depth, comprehensive planning, is now in its implementation phase. One of the plan’s academic goals is to foster greater interdisciplinary and interprofessional learning, research activities and service experiences.

One initiative designed to meet that goal is the new Kingfisher Institute for Liberal Arts and Professions. The Institute, formally inaugurated in January 2019, provides synergies for liberal arts and professional education to mutually reinforce and strengthen each other. This year’s programming will focus on two themes: ‘Narratives of Health and Illness’ and ‘Race in America: 1919-2019.’

Tracy Leavelle, Ph.D., associate professor of history and the Institute’s first director, said that the Institute will encourage “creative new initiatives that will unite, in the best Jesuit tradition, the contemplative features of the liberal arts with the emphasis on practice in the professions. We’re preparing students for 21st century careers and professions, careers that might be multiple in scope. Careers that, more than likely, we don’t even know about yet.”

In that vein, Creighton is also home to the Center for Interprofessional Practice, Education and Research (CIPER). This innovative enterprise, one of the first in the nation, ensures that students in Creighton’s health sciences programs receive an education that prepares them to collaborate and share knowledge with other health care professionals in their future careers.

“Building a better world starts with individuals committed to the challenging art of finding ways to work together to create better systems for collaboration,” said Joy Doll, O.T.D., executive director of CIPER.

Gregrey Berry, a second-year medical student, is one of the many Creighton students whose education is being shaped by CIPER. “Fundamentally, interprofessional care is about treating a patient as a whole person. Each profession involved in a patient’s care looks at an important but relatively narrow slice of the patient’s health and well-being,” Berry said. “The goal of interprofessional care is to allow these slices to integrate into a picture that shows the full spectrum of a patient’s health situation.”

Terry Clark, Ph.D., professor of political science, and Crysta Price, director of Creighton’s data science lab, collaborate as co-directors of The Human Trafficking Initiative (photo by Creighton University)
Terry Clark, Ph.D., professor of political science, and Crysta Price, director of Creighton’s data science lab, collaborate as co-directors of The Human Trafficking Initiative (photo by Creighton University)

Another Creighton interdisciplinary initiative is the Doctorate of Education in Interdisciplinary Leadership (Ed.D.) program. Typical graduates of the Ed.D. program come from all walks of life and go on to follow career paths as leaders in fields including business, the military, education and health care.

The number of interdisciplinary efforts underway on Creighton’s campus makes them too numerous to list. But a few more examples include:

Creighton’s schools and colleges also offer a number of interdisciplinary or joint degree programs:

Often, interdisciplinary research at Creighton leads to collaboration with other universities and community partners. For example, the Creighton University Health Sciences Continuing Education Consortium (composed of the Schools of Medicine, Dentistry, Pharmacy and Health Professions, the College of Nursing and clinical partner, CHI Health) hosts an annual pain management conference. Last year’s conference for regional health care providers addressed issues related to opioid prescriptions and abuse.

Creighton’s RaD Lab (short for research and development laboratory) grew from its original goal to build a supercomputer and soon attracted student interns from all walks of academe — biology, mathematics, psychology, history, business and music. Today, the RaD Lab counts more than 30 interns from all disciplines (including those from local high schools and universities), working on upwards of two to three dozen projects at any given time.

And the upcoming Heartland Inter-professional Education Conference, “Come Together to Work Together” (scheduled for August 2019), is a collaborative effort between Creighton and the University of Nebraska Medical Center that will feature presentations describing inter-professional research and developments in curriculum, assessment, policy and practice.

“We are building bridges across institutions both locally and regionally,” said Gail Jensen, Ph.D., Creighton’s Vice Provost for Learning and Assessment, and a nationally recognized leader in inter-professional education. “Together, they will support the movement toward inter-professional education and collaborative practice.”

By Rory Watson for the Bollandist Society

The Bollandist Society Library in Brussels, Belgium (photo courtesy of Irini de Saint Sernin)
The Bollandist Society Library in Brussels, Belgium (photo courtesy of Irini de Saint Sernin)

In spite of its pedigree of hagiographic scholarship stretching back four centuries, the Bollandist Society, based in Belgium, is largely unknown, even in learned religious circles. It is now remedying that by reaching out to a wider audience, particularly the Jesuit family and those educated in its traditions.

The reasons are twofold. First, to increase awareness and appreciation of the contributions that its independent research and unique historical resources bring to the development of human understanding and knowledge. Second, to explore possibilities for collaboration on hagiographic scholarship.

The Society’s genesis dates back to 1607, when Rev. Heribert Rosweyde, S.J., a Jesuit in Antwerp, Belgium, decided to publish early texts on the lives of saints. Several decades later, his fellow Jesuit, Rev. Jean Bolland, S.J., continued the project. This eventually led to the publication of the most authoritative collection of works on saints: the Acta Sanctorum. Compiled between 1643 and 1940, this includes 67 volumes of detailed studies and sources on all saints in Eastern and Western Christianity.

Today’s Bollandists (named for Fr. Bolland) continue the work of their forbears, critically analyzing the extensive literature on thousands of saints. Their scholarship encompasses various academic disciplines, such as theology, hagiography, linguistics and history. In addition, their texts frequently produce revealing insights into aspects of bygone life that are of particular interest to anthropologists and political scientists.

Rev. Arturo Sosa, S.J., Superior General of the Society of Jesus, recently highlighted the importance and breadth of this multidisciplinary approach. In a letter to potential benefactors last October, he paid tribute to the Bollandists’ “highly specialized work, and … vast field of study, covering all continents, centuries, languages and Christian churches.”

The Bollandists’ research is based out of their library in Brussels. This houses half a million books, over one-thousand periodicals and a similar number of manuscripts in a wide range of languages. As part of a broader modernization strategy, the Society is digitally cataloging some 22,000 books published before 1800. This ambitious three-year project has been made possible through the support of a €538,000 ($611,943 USD) gift from the Belgian non-profit organization, Le Fonds Baillet Latour.

With just under a year to go, the project is on track toward completion. The electronic catalog can be accessed on the platform of the Université Catholique de Louvain. Its existence is giving scholars, wherever they are based, a clearer picture of the range of literary resources in the Bollandists’ safekeeping.

The Society willingly shares access to the library’s contacts with hagiography researchers from around the world. Interest has traditionally focused on post-1800 publications, but as the digital catalog develops and becomes better known, demand for earlier works is increasing. Subject to certain conditions, academic researchers may also consult the hagiographic material in the private library itself. “Rarely a week goes by without receiving several requests for scans of pages in our collections,” explains Rev. Robert Godding, S.J., who has served as director of the Society since 1998.

As part of the modernization strategy, the Bollandists are also increasing their outreach. In 2017, they appointed Irini de Saint Sernin, a multilingual Greek Orthodox, to the new post of external relations and development manager. For Saint Sernin, the role is one of ‘advancement,’ in which she answers the question, “How do I advance the Bollandists’ mission and cause?”

It is a mission that takes her increasingly to North America. In June 2017, Saint Sernin addressed the World Union of Jesuit Alumni (WUJA) in Cleveland; it was the first time that the event featured a presentation on the Bollandists. To her surprise, many attendees were unaware of their existence as an independent center of critical research. She received a warm welcome and emphasized the importance of the Bollandists as custodians and promoters of an important part of our shared Jesuit heritage: an institution of which Jesuit alumni can feel justifiably proud.

In 2018, Saint Sernin explained the Society’s work to a number of North American audiences at Saint Louis University, Georgetown University, Boston College, Fordham University and Saint Ignatius College Prep in Chicago. She is scheduling more visits to the United States in the coming months.

The last two years have ushered in other innovations for the Bollandists. A Facebook page has over 5,000 followers, helping to popularize the Bollandists’ specialized knowledge to a wider audience. This page regularly offers a historical insight and critical commentary on a saint, linking when possible to a topical event. The Bollandists’ website ( is currently being reshaped to provide visitors with more comprehensive and accessible information. And additional exposure came last month through an article published in America.

The Bollandists’ embrace of change includes a recent new member, Rev. Marc Lindeijer, S.J., whose specialty is hagiography from the 16th century onward. His arrival underscores how few in number the Bollandists are: he is only the 69th Bollandist over the past 412 years. Even now, there are only three Jesuits and two lay members.

But far more remains to be done. Only 25% of the library’s books are cataloged online. All those acquired before 2003 are still on card indices written over the past 150 years. Funding would make it possible to recruit more lay staff and expand research facilities. Both will be required if, as is likely, requests continue to increase, either online or in person, to access the library’s resources.

As Fr. Godding, the Society’s director, explains, “Bollandists have always cultivated discretion, confident that the quality of their work was the best guarantee for the institution’s reputation. Our creed has not changed, but we have to acknowledge that today’s many challenges require us to be more proactive in promoting the Society. Our hope is that more people can be convinced that this great institution, which does not receive any public funding, deserves to be generously supported in its service to the Church and more broadly to Christian culture.”

The Bollandists’ proactive strategy has Fr. Sosa’s full support. “The Society,” he wrote in his letter, “both deserves and needs more general support, especially now that Jesuit resources in Western Europe are in shorter supply.”

Over the centuries, the Bollandists have weathered excommunication by the Spanish Inquisition, total suppression for 40 years, censorship and turmoil from revolutions and wars. To keep their scholarship alive, they have had to adapt to the times. They are doing so again as they address the financial, technological and communication demands of today’s world.

Rory Watson is a journalist based in Brussels, Belgium.

All donations to the Bollandist Society are channelled through the King Baudouin Foundation, a U.S.-based 501(c)3 organization. For more information, please contact Irini de Saint Sernin:

By Scott Fleming, Interim Vice President for Federal Relations, AJCU


After many years of working on federal relations with my dear friend, Cyndy Littlefield (through my role as assistant vice president for federal relations at Georgetown University), AJCU’s president, Rev. Michael J. Sheeran, S.J., asked if I would step in on an interim basis to take on her work after her untimely death on February 5. Hers are huge shoes to fill. She was widely respected and loved both here in Washington and by her many colleagues at our 28 AJCU institutions across the country. I will do all that I can to measure up, but I could never be another Cyndy Littlefield.

But I know that Cyndy is wanting for all of us to keep up her work. With the longest government shutdown in history now behind us and government funding settled for FY19, Congress is back in session after the President’s Day state / district work period. During the weeks and months ahead, there is a lot at stake for Jesuit institutions and higher education in general. There is considerable movement on the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act (HEA), which was last reauthorized in 2007. Beyond that, the federal budget situation this year has added complexity.

In the Senate, there are serious ongoing discussions on HEA reauthorization legislation among bipartisan leaders of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee. Their goal is to develop a piece of legislation that could serve as the basis from which the Committee’s members and then the full Senate could work. Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN), has made clear his desire to see a new HEA enacted this year. The Ranking Member of the Committee, Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), who represents both Gonzaga University and Seattle University, and her staff are actively engaged in those deliberations.

In the House of Representatives, House Education and Labor Committee Chairman Bobby Scott (D-VA) (who holds a J.D. from Boston College) and Ranking Member Virginia Foxx (R-NC) have outlined five topics for hearings they are planning in the months ahead:

  • The Cost of College: Student Centered Reforms to Bring Higher Education Within Reach

  • Strengthening Accountability in Higher Education to Better Serve Students and Taxpayers

  • The Cost of Non-Completion: Improving Student Outcomes in Higher Education

  • Engines of Economic Mobility: The Critical Role of Community Colleges, Historically Black Colleges and Universities, and Minority-Serving Institutions in Preparing Students for Success

  • Innovation to Improve Equity: Exploring High-Quality Pathways to a College Degree

Dates have not yet been set for these hearings. Last year, however, during debate on the House Republicans’ PROSPER Act (a bill to rewrite and reauthorize the HEA), Democrats introduced their own comprehensive reauthorization proposal known as the AIM HIGH Act. Many of the ideas in that bill are likely to be central to reauthorization efforts in the House.

In both the House and the Senate, the reauthorization debate covers the waterfront when it comes to federal higher education policy. The Title IV federal financial aid programs – Pell Grants, campus-based aid including Perkins Loans, Supplemental Education Opportunity Grants (SEOG), Federal Work Study (FWS) and Stafford Loans – tend to be front and center in reauthorizations. Proposals have been put forward to “simplify” student aid by eliminating the Perkins Loan and SEOG programs. AJCU institutions utilize these campus-based aid programs to assist our students, along with generous institutional dollars that are used to match federal contributions.

While the Perkins Loan program authorization lapsed last year, there will continue to be a major effort to reauthorize the program. We will also be fighting to preserve SEOG. What advocates call “simplification” would only mean less aid for students with significant financial need. In recent budgets, the Administration has proposed ending the in-school interest subsidy that has historically been provided under the Stafford Loan program. This is no time to take an action like that, which would add to the overall cost of attendance for our students.

With regard to loan programs, proposals to reduce and simplify loan repayment options will require significant debate. Likewise, the Administration has sought to eliminate the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, which allows forgiveness of loan payments after ten years of on-time monthly repayments for individuals who go into low or moderately paid positions in public service – including teachers, fire and police personnel, as well as staff in local, state and federal governments – or work with qualified non-profit organizations (including AJCU institutions). As a means of improving repayment, Chairman Alexander recently proposed wage withholding for federal loan payments.

Beyond the Title IV federal financial aid programs, these reauthorization bills, no doubt, will touch on many other aspects of higher education policy. Proposals have been raised that could alter long-standing approaches to accreditation; modify Title VI international higher education programs and programs serving minority serving institutions; impose new institutional risk sharing requirements; address campus sexual assault; and impact campus speech and expression policies, and student privacy issues.

As this moves forward, Congress will soon need to address the debt ceiling, spending caps that are well below those that were in place to formulate FY19 appropriations levels, and a litany of other issues. This week, the Acting Director of the Office of Management and Budget indicated that the Administration’s FY20 budget proposal will call for a 5% cut in domestic discretionary spending while using billions in so-called Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) funding to provide for a dramatic increase in defense spending over current levels. The Administration’s budget details will be released during the first weeks in March, but loud push-back to this plan is already being heard from Democrats on Capitol Hill.

You can be sure that we will continue to advocate for policies that protect and enhance Jesuit higher education and support all of our students.

The Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities (AJCU) sponsors over 30 conferences, or affinity groups, within the AJCU network. The conferences provide a forum for the exchange of ideas, information and best practices; support the professional development of their members; and present opportunities for AJCU representatives to engage in cross-institutional collaboration. Most of the AJCU conferences host meetings at least once a year, and many of them facilitate regular communication among members through AJCU listservs. Find out which AJCU conferences will be taking place this spring by viewing the following calendar:

This spring, a number of events for Jesuit-educated alumni and friends are taking place across the country. From service events for the National Jesuit Alumni Service Days program to Loyola Club lunches, we have you covered! The following calendar is updated regularly: