By Deanna Howes Spiro, Vice President of Communications, AJCU

We are in the midst of an exciting time of year, when we celebrate our Jesuit-educated graduates, who are preparing to depart our campuses and begin the next chapter of their lives. This year, commencement season also coincides with the Ignatian Year, which will officially begin tomorrow (Thursday, May 20).

What is the Ignatian Year? It is a fourteen-month commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the conversion of Saint Ignatius of Loyola at the Battle of Pamplona. After being wounded by a cannonball, Ignatius experienced a spiritual renewal in recovery, realizing a new purpose in life dedicated to teaching and missionary work. Five hundred years later, his Society of Jesus continues to influence lives across the world through colleges, universities, high schools, parishes, retreat centers, and mission-focused organizations.

A predominant theme being explored during this Ignatian Year is “Profession to Purpose.” How can we (particularly new graduates) look to Ignatius as a model for experiencing a greater sense of purpose in our lives? In this month’s issue of Connections, we feature many examples of students, graduates and administrators, who have found their calling through Jesuit colleges and universities. What do they all have in common? A commitment to justice, seeking the greater good, and being people for and with others.

At the end of another challenging academic year, we remain hopeful and optimistic for the months to come. We are particularly grateful for the 500-year legacy of St. Ignatius, and we congratulate this year’s graduates for their many accomplishments over such a trying period. We look forward to welcoming the next incoming class of Jesuit-educated students this fall.

We wish you a happy, healthy summer and will return with a new issue of Connections in September!

By Jeff Gingerich, Ph.D., Acting President & Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs, The University of Scranton

Jeff Gingerich, Ph.D. (photo courtesy of The University of Scranton)
Jeff Gingerich, Ph.D. (photo courtesy of The University of Scranton)

When I think of the value of a Jesuit education, I am reminded of the famous line in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet: “That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”

Beyond competence in one’s field, organizations most value those who can think critically, communicate effectively, and lead ethically. In other words, those with a Jesuit education.

Employer surveys confirm this. According to a 2015 study by Hart Research Associates, 91% of employers agree that for career success, “a candidate’s demonstrated capacity to think critically, communicate clearly, and solve complex problems is more important than his or her undergraduate major.”

The very essence of the education we provide to our students at Jesuit colleges and universities is exactly what employers want, only they don’t necessarily use the same terms. They might not say a “liberal arts education,” or “an education grounded in the humanities,” or “Jesuit-educated,” but that is what they mean.

The University of Scranton has centralized humanities into the core of its institution and has included it in the first goal of its five-year Strategic Plan: “Ensure that the Scranton student experience is transformational, integrated and grounded in the humanities as a pathway to understanding the human experience in its many dimensions” (photo, taken pre-pandemic, courtesy of The University of Scranton)

The University of Scranton has centralized humanities into the core of its institution and has included it in the first goal of its five-year Strategic Plan: “Ensure that the Scranton student experience is transformational, integrated and grounded in the humanities as a pathway to understanding the human experience in its many dimensions” (photo, taken pre-pandemic, courtesy of The University of Scranton)

Helping Students Find Their Calling Through the Humanities
At The University of Scranton and Jesuit schools across the world, we have transformed students to become “people for and with others” by using a rigorous curriculum grounded in the humanities that challenges our students to integrate their faith journey into their worldview, and to use their education to help create a more just and equitable world. The humanities provide insights to the soul and encourage students to reflect on fundamental questions of ethics and faith in their personal and professional development.

Rather than situating the humanities only as required courses that students have to “get out of the way” during their general education curriculum, we have centralized them into the first goal of our Strategic Plan, ensuring its foundation for transformation: “Ensure that the Scranton student experience is transformational, integrated and grounded in the humanities as a pathway to understanding the human experience in its many dimensions.”

We put this ambitious strategic goal into practice in a number of ways:

Scranton alumni often say how the education that they received, grounded in Ignatian humanities, has not only helped their careers, but also provided more fulfilment to their personal lives (photo, taken pre-pandemic, courtesy of The University of S…

Scranton alumni often say how the education that they received, grounded in Ignatian humanities, has not only helped their careers, but also provided more fulfilment to their personal lives (photo, taken pre-pandemic, courtesy of The University of Scranton)

Employers Respond to the Value We Provide
Scranton graduates have recorded successful outcomes throughout their fields of study. Based on Scranton’s six-month survey of graduates, 99% of the members of our Class of 2019, at both the undergraduate and graduate level, reported being successful in their choice of career path of either employment or pursuing additional education within six months of graduation.

Professional and graduate schools also value the abilities of our graduates. Of Scranton’s 1,207 applicants to doctoral health professions schools over the past 21 years, an average of 80% were accepted to schools of medicine, dentistry, veterinary medicine, pharmacy, podiatry and optometry. Over the last six years, 93% of our graduating seniors have gained acceptance to one or more law schools.

Employers have confirmed time and again that the skills honed by our students are the skills they value. Alumni tell us how the education that they received, grounded in Ignatian humanities, has not only helped their careers, but also provided more fulfillment to their personal lives.

Recognized Excellence in Fields of Study
The core competencies developed in communication, critical thinking and ethics are further developed in programming and curriculum offered through disciplines taught at Jesuit schools.

For example, the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) has recognized Scranton’s Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) program for “Innovations and Best Practices in Canada, Latin America and the United States.” Scranton was recognized for providing a non-traditional research DBA in accounting that “promotes diversity and practice relevance by providing a flexible path for experienced practitioners to gain the knowledge and credentials required to succeed in tenure-track positions at AACSB-accredited institutions.”

Scranton’s Department of Nursing was among two programs in the country presented with a 2020 Assessment and Impact Award for Nursing Education. The award recognizes colleges that have successfully used data to analyze and make changes to better their undergraduate nursing programs.

Scranton’s undergraduate students studying in science disciplines often participate in research projects with faculty mentors, which include the presentation and even publication of research studies. In 2018-19, for instance, 41 of Scranton’s psychology and neuroscience undergraduates presented at research conferences.

The core competencies developed in communication, critical thinking and ethics are further developed in programming and curriculum offered throughout disciplines taught at The University of Scranton (photo, taken pre-pandemic, courtesy of The University of Scranton)

The core competencies developed in communication, critical thinking and ethics are further developed in programming and curriculum offered throughout disciplines taught at The University of Scranton (photo, taken pre-pandemic, courtesy of The University of Scranton)

A Hallowed Tradition of Education
Those of us who teach and serve at Jesuit colleges and universities feel it to be a profound honor to be a part of such a hallowed tradition of education. Despite the challenges of this past year, I am most proud of the fact that Jesuit schools not only survived the pandemic, but continued to thrive and innovate with relevant strategies for a 21st century education that matters and that takes on important crises.

As white America continues to wake up to the historical legacy of systematic racial exclusion and violence, Scranton and our sister AJCU institutions continue to build new frameworks that seek anti-racist strategies to create campuses that are more welcoming and equitable. Our commitment to the Magis is the foundation for us to strive always toward excellence, even when we encounter worldly barriers and challenges. And throughout every discipline and career, graduates of The University of Scranton and other Jesuit colleges and universities, are valued greatly for the skills gained through their uniquely Jesuit education and experience, even if “Jesuit” is never mentioned.

By Dr. Christopher Puto, President Emeritus and Director of the John J. Burke, Jr. Center for the Study and Advancement of Free Enterprise at Spring Hill College

Dr. Christopher Puto (photo courtesy of Spring Hill College)
Dr. Christopher Puto (photo courtesy of Spring Hill College)

One of the goals we espouse and value deeply in Jesuit education is the emphasis on acquiring knowledge not merely for the sake of knowing something, but rather to use that knowledge to make a positive difference in our world. As “contemplatives in action,” we must know well what it is we are doing and how to do it in order to achieve the well-being of humankind.

John Burke, a Spring Hill College alumnus from the class of 1963, drew from his knowledge and experience in Jesuit education to build an extensive real estate enterprise in his hometown of Milwaukee. He never forgot the source and foundation of that knowledge, or the economic system that enabled his commercial achievements.

In 2017, John approached his alma mater with the idea of creating opportunities for every student, regardless of their academic major, to better understand what it means to identify a meaningful need in society and then develop and implement a superior solution—all consistent with the Jesuit imperative to build a better world: “Ad majorem Dei gloriam inque hominem salute (For the Greater Glory of God and the Well-Being of Humankind).”

The result is the John J. Burke, Jr. Center for the Study and Advancement of Free Enterprise. This academic center (established at Spring Hill in 2018) offers a Certificate Program in Free Enterprise Studies: a four-course sequence open to undergraduate students from any academic major, who earn the certificate in conjunction with their diploma.

The course sequence begins with “Markets and Morality,” which gives students the philosophical background to morally evaluate competing worldviews and political and economic systems; to understand and be able to apply competing theories of social justice; to know what the Catholic philosophical tradition says about capitalism and socialism; and to apply moral principles to their own pursuit of innovation and enterprise creation.

The second course, “Foundations of Free Societies,” begins with the Scottish Enlightenment of the 18th century and tracks the most important ideas in political economy over the subsequent 250 years. Students explore the philosophical arguments for and against government regulation of markets, the evolution of key constitutional and legal institutions related to private property and contracts, and the social effects of trade, consumption and competition.

The third course, “Understanding, Defining, and Validating Market Needs,” presents an overview of the process by which enterprise opportunities are defined and measured; introduces students to the methods of collecting and analyzing various forms of market data relevant to identifying and measuring perceived market opportunities; and instructs students in the overall process of building an appropriate situation analysis for the basis of making informed and effective decisions regarding possible enterprise creation.

The final course, “Enterprise Development,” gives students an understanding of the process needed to bring an enterprise from a viable concept to an operating reality; to produce and explain a professional plan for creating and launching a new enterprise; and to utilize problem-solving methods for identifying decision impediments and reaching effective solutions.

The philosophy and political science courses fulfill undergraduate core curriculum requirements, and the two free enterprise courses are free electives allowed for any major. They also fulfill Spring Hill’s objectives for teaching critical thinking and problem-solving skills, and manifesting Jesuit educational values to apply knowledge to make a meaningful difference for others. Our students are testament to the impact of the program; here are three of their stories.

Isabella Albert (SHC’21), Robert Baricev (SHC’21) & Lucia Reyes (SHC’21) (photo courtesy of Spring Hill College)
Isabella Albert (SHC’21), Robert Baricev (SHC’21) & Lucia Reyes (SHC’21) (photo courtesy of Spring Hill College)

Lucia Reyes (SHC 2021), a marketing and management major, has conceived and formulated a consultancy that would help small and mid-sized local businesses understand and utilize their younger employees’ desires for community engagement by connecting them with local non-profits that need volunteers to fulfill their missions. The businesses would benefit from the increased positive visibility that comes from serving their constituent communities, and by increasing the morale of their Millennial and Generation Z employees through opportunities for sponsored community service. The increased visibility from responsible community engagement has the potential to increase the businesses’ bottom lines, and the non-profits would be served through the ready availability of motivated volunteers to better fulfill their missions.

Isabella Albert (SHC 2021), an international studies major, has connected with Eye Heart World, a local non-profit focused on serving young women victimized by human trafficking, to create a pilot program with the potential to intervene and prevent them from falling victim to this scourge. By identifying the environmental characteristics and the behavioral and emotional tendencies affecting adolescent women in the community, Albert has worked with professionals to develop a multi-week program to instruct and provide these potential victims with the emotional defenses to withstand, and the insight to seek appropriate help to preclude, entrapment. Eye Heart World works with church groups, schools, and local government social work entities to identify potential victims and engage them in the preventive program.

For-profit enterprises are not excluded from the plans developed by our students. Robert Baricev (SHC 2021), a marketing and management major, has identified an unserved need in the pandemic: creating face masks for special occasions. With the very real possibility that mask-wearing may extend into the future, Baricev has formulated a plan to produce breathable and comfortable masks that can be readily and inexpensively customized for groups seeking individualized masks for special events, where the mask can also become a remembrance or souvenir. This is a for-profit venture that seeks to convert a perceived inconvenience into a potentially positive outcome.

What makes Spring Hill’s Certificate Program in Free Enterprise Studies unique is its ability to serve all interested students regardless of major, and its embodiment of every kind of enterprise: for-profit, non-profit, even social movements. It embraces the liberal arts skills of critical thinking, problem-solving, and articulate communication, and produces results that positively connect with and relate to the 450+ year model of Jesuit education: to use knowledge to improve the well-being of others. It embodies responsible capitalism and traditional Jesuit values to produce “Free Enterprise—Jesuit Style.”

By Peter Tormey, Ph.D., Associate Director of Public Relations, Gonzaga University


Deena J. González, Ph.D., Gonzaga University’s provost and senior vice president, says a Jesuit, Catholic and humanistic education is “exactly what the world needs now,” as humanity slowly begins to recover from the devastating pandemic.

“To understand what St. Ignatius of Loyola meant when he asked that his fellow Jesuits be ‘warriors for social change,’ means that our students leave Gonzaga with a moral compass, steeped in ethical considerations intended to help them solve real-world problems,” said González. “In a post-Covid environment, it means that our students do not shy away from difficult questions because they have participated, while here, in ‘productive discomfort’ dialogue, and have been asked — through the Spiritual Exercises and in consideration of economic, racial, and social injustice — to view the world through the eyes of others.”

Gonzaga’s core curriculum aims to help students imagine a world where beauty and justice can reside simultaneously, she adds. “Covid has taught us that we can work through a crisis with resilience and emerge cognizant of our mission and values as an AJCU institution. We encourage students to think of the lasting value of their Gonzaga education, and to pass it on,” González said.

While educating students to address the world’s problems, Gonzaga is also committed to helping students reach their career goals, says Ray Angle, assistant vice president of Gonzaga’s Office of Career & Professional Development (CPD).

CPD has long provided programs, services, coaching and advising to guide graduating students. In light of the pandemic, Angle said, “We are particularly sensitive to the fact that securing a job or getting into a graduate program may take a little longer, so we have emphasized checking in with students, determining how they are managing in the pandemic, and encouraging them to stay motivated and focused.”

Last spring, CPD called all graduating students to check in with them and offer support, and is doing so again this spring. Gonzaga’s ZagsConnect mentoring platform has also offered alumni assistance to help students enhance their resumes. In November 2020, CPD and Alumni Engagement partnered again, to host a webinar on “Staying Positive and Moving Forward,” featuring tips on remaining positive in the job search from recent alumni who have successfully gotten jobs.

Here are some stories of success among recent Gonzaga graduates:

Rosemary Muriungi, Ph.D’20 (photo courtesy of Gonzaga University)
Rosemary Muriungi, Ph.D’20 (photo courtesy of Gonzaga University)

Rosemary Muriungi, Ph.D., the eldest of five children who were raised in a one-bedroom home with their parents in rural Kenya, dreamed of earning a college education and returning to her country, to impart the transformative power of learning to others.

That day will finally happen.

After earning a Doctorate in Leadership Studies from Gonzaga in 2020, Muriungi now plans to launch an institution of higher learning in her native village of Musalala, near Nairobi, this year. The technical education and vocational training institute will serve high school students facing academic challenges, and offer leadership development programs for all learners.

She credits Gonzaga with affirming her passion to inspire leadership in young people, especially women. “Studying at Gonzaga broadened my horizons on how higher education can be delivered in a way that honors the student and develops the whole person,” Muriungi said.

Justis Simmons ’20 (photo courtesy of Gonzaga University)
Justis Simmons ’20 (photo courtesy of Gonzaga University)

Justis Simmons (’20), who earned a Bachelor of Business Administration and a minor in the Hogan Entrepreneurial Leadership Program, is an associate at Slalom in Seattle. Simmons says that Gonzaga played a key role in his personal and professional development.

“Working for a business and technology consulting firm, I will encounter a high level of ambiguity, and I developed a portfolio of skills at Gonzaga — both technical and intangible — to tackle business problems of all shapes and sizes,” Simmons said.

He credits Gonzaga with teaching him the importance of “cultivating genuine relationships — an invaluable skill in business,” he said. “People skills are the most important skills for a student to develop, regardless of major. Learning how to lead, to follow, to listen, and to collaborate are the most critical skills for someone who is new to the workforce.”

Charles “C.J.” DeBiase ’20 (photo courtesy of Gonzaga University)
Charles “C.J.” DeBiase ’20 (photo courtesy of Gonzaga University)

Charles “C.J.” DeBiase (’20), who earned a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering from Gonzaga, is in medical school at the A.T. Still University of Health Sciences in Kirksville, Missouri.

“Gonzaga has helped me grow in my faith, developing the skills I will need to be a doctor who seeks to serve all my patients with deep love and compassion,” DeBiase said.

“In a class I took with Rev. Quan Tran, S.J., I saw the value in caring for a patient’s physical, emotional, and spiritual needs through his stories,” DeBiase explained. “My involvement in the Office of Mission and Ministry helped me realize the ways in which I can care for all of a person’s needs when I am put in a position of trust.”

DeBiase adds that his desire to serve others “grew immensely” at Gonzaga, where his purpose became clear. “As an aspiring physician, I believe that my purpose in life is to love and serve God through my interactions with others,” he said. “To do this, I believe I must approach each interaction with intentionality and attempt to emanate Jesus’ unconditional love.”

Pearl Griffiths ’20 (photo courtesy of Gonzaga University)
Pearl Griffiths ’20 (photo courtesy of Gonzaga University)

Pearl Griffiths (’20), who earned a Bachelor of Science in Biology at Gonzaga, is a certified nursing assistant at Whitman Health & Rehabilitation Center, in Colfax, Washington, where she also shadows a physician to prepare for medical school applications. Gonzaga, she says, prepared her for medical school and instilled a need to help others.

“My current job, as well as future aspirations of becoming a doctor, are deeply centered in my passion for helping people and my fascination with the human body and how it works,” Griffiths said. She aspires to “better the lives of my future patients while also working toward a world that is just and fair toward everyone in the realm of medicine.”

Trevor Buckley (’10, ’20), with one of his children (photo courtesy of Gonzaga University)
Trevor Buckley (’10, ’20), with one of his children (photo courtesy of Gonzaga University)

Trevor Buckley (’10, ’20) earned a Bachelor of Arts in Sports Management from Gonzaga and worked in athletic administration for eight years before returning to his alma mater to earn a Master’s in Initial Teaching. Buckley, who now teaches mathematics at Medical Lake High School in Spokane, says his transition to become an educator resulted from a calling to serve the community in a more impactful role.

“While high-level instruction is a key component to providing quality education, perhaps more critical is the embrace of the challenge of connecting with real kids, in real time, with real problems,” he explained. “This is where I now find my purpose, and I can engage in it confidently as a result of my experience in the MIT program that provided opportunities to learn from true professionals of this vocation daily.”

By Meredith Fidrocki, Writer, College of the Holy Cross

2019 commencement at Holy Cross (photo courtesy of College of the Holy Cross)
2019 commencement at Holy Cross (photo courtesy of College of the Holy Cross)

As graduation season approaches for colleges and universities across the country, students are focusing on the next step after commencement. But at the College of the Holy Cross, the “what next” and, more importantly, the “why” have been questions in progress for students since they enrolled four years ago.

“The outcome of a Jesuit, liberal arts education from Holy Cross is not just about what you will do in life, but about who you will become,” says Amy Murphy, director of the Center for Career Development.

That’s why the career development process at Holy Cross is steeped in Jesuit traditions like reflection, Murphy explains. “Reflection is a little trendy right now in higher education, but it is our foundation — it’s core to who we are,” she says. “Over the course of four years, students are thinking about what they want to do, where their passions and strengths reside, and how those connect with the needs of the world.”

The only AJCU member institution dedicated exclusively to a four-year, undergraduate liberal arts education, Holy Cross offers a unique learning environment. Murphy says, “It’s all about developing this set of competencies that are universal to the world of work: the ability to write and communicate, look at problems from multiple angles, synthesize data and draw conclusions, consider all voices in an issue, and advocate for the poor and powerless.”

Outcomes, By the Numbers
Even though they graduated into a pandemic and challenging job market, the Class of 2020 was ultimately highly successful. According to a recent Holy Cross survey, 94% of respondents from the Class of 2020 reported being employed in a job or internship, in graduate school, engaged in service work, or participating in a fellowship.

The breadth of the top five industries the graduates entered — health care, financial services, technology, government, politics and law, and education — doesn’t surprise Murphy and those familiar with liberal arts institutions. “You think: how are the philosophy majors going into tech? But they are, because they’re open to the possibility,” Murphy says. “At Holy Cross, students are invited to think flexibly about how they can apply their skills and talents to make a difference. That is the magic and the beauty of a Jesuit, liberal arts education.”

And, Murphy says, employers are increasingly seeking employees who have the ability to problem-solve, pivot and adapt: “That is who’s going to be successful.”

One of the top refrains Murphy hears from employers is that Holy Cross graduates are highly effective and compassionate team members and leaders. Alumni frequently connect their leadership strengths to the Jesuit concept of cura personalis, or ‘care for the whole person,’ fostered at Holy Cross. She says, “That care of self and others is how they lead and how they manage their teams and their organizations.”

An Education That Drives Alumni, Long After Graduation
For Murphy, alumnus Dr. Anthony Fauci ’62, Hon. ’87 represents “the North Star of ethical and principled leadership” forged at Holy Cross. Fauci, director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and chief medical adviser to President Biden, has spent decades fighting epidemics like HIV/AIDS and has been leading the nation’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

In an address to the Class of 2020 last spring, Fauci detailed the enduring impact of his Holy Cross education. “Permeating the entire experience was the Jesuit spirit of intellectual rigor,” said Fauci, who was a Classics major with a premedical concentration (now health professions advising). “Precision of thought and economy of expression are tenets that have remained my touchstones to this day — applied to how I think, how I write, and how I communicate with the public, especially during these currently unsettling times. Just as important, however, was the Jesuit emphasis on social justice and service to others.”

Harry K. Thomas Jr. ’78, Hon. ’16, former U.S. ambassador to Zimbabwe, the Philippines, and Bangladesh, has long championed the importance of mentorship, most recently advocating for improving diversity and inclusion at the U.S. Department of State through mentorship. In a 2007 conversation with Holy Cross Magazine, Thomas, who was a political science major, said, “The Jesuits teach you to do the right thing and, when you do it, stick with it. That’s important to me spiritually — to be decent and to give back. I’m very proud of Holy Cross and how it prepared me for the rest of my life.”

Speaking to graduating seniors last spring, Joanna Geraghty ’94, president and chief operating officer of JetBlue Airways and one of the highest-ranking women in the U.S. airline industry, shared the Holy Cross mindset she carries with her. “I am fortunate enough to have a job that, at its core, only amplifies what Holy Cross taught me: Be a person for others,” said Geraghty, who was a sociology major. “The world will never have enough men and women for others.”

Paying it Forward and Defining ‘Success’
The Holy Cross alumni community, fueled by its Jesuit values, is a standout when it comes to giving back. Ranked by a recent U.S. News & World Report list as one of the top 10 colleges in the country for alumni participation in giving, Holy Cross produces graduates who want to share their gifts.

Not surprisingly, Holy Cross alumni are also a powerhouse when it comes to supporting students and fellow graduates on their career journeys. Amy Murphy notes that the way they stepped up to assist the Class of 2020 was particularly “remarkable” — from offering industry-specific insights to posting full-time jobs and short-term projects when many opportunities were cancelled. “‘People for and with others’ is not a bumper sticker or T-shirt slogan,” she says. “It’s a very profound love and respect for all people that’s cultivated and developed over four years [at Holy Cross].”

Murphy emphasizes that how students and graduates define “success” is deeply personal and rooted in the Jesuit notion of desire: “What do you desire for yourself, as a whole and complete human being?”

Whether it’s through a profession, community or civic engagement, friendships or family relationships, there are so many ways to be of value and find personal fulfillment. “What you will do is important,” Murphy says, “but who you will become is really what’s driving what we do.”

By Darby Ratliff, Canisius University ‘16, ‘18, Saint Louis University ‘25


When I was finishing my Master’s degree at Canisius University, I worked as a graduate assistant in Campus Ministry where, periodically, I’d enter my office to find a treat or a book from then-Associate Director, Sarah Signorino. Sarah, herself a product of both my undergraduate and graduate programs at Canisius, understood what it was like to balance work and school. Knowing that I was often tired and juggling responsibilities in the office with my Master’s thesis and a part-time job, she was always thinking of me, and it showed in those little gifts.

The small tokens, always accompanied by a note of appreciation, reminded me of what Magis meant. Moving to a student affairs graduate program, after participating in student leadership programs as an undergraduate student, meant that I understood how hard it could be to capture the essence of how students are transformed outside of the classroom by those they encounter. But I think it comes in these little “cannonball moments”: instances of clarity that come into one’s life unexpectedly. Like the injury at the Battle of Pamplona that served as St. Ignatius of Loyola’s impetus for faithful exploration, these moments and little deeds have had a huge impact on me.

Similarly, it is hard for me to explain the depth of the effects that attending Jesuit educational institutions has had on me. I stumbled into them, first discovering what the “Jesuit” part of Walsh Jesuit High School’s name meant shortly before I started there. When it came to college, I more consciously understood what the Jesuit affiliation of schools might look like, by seeing terms like “Magis,” “Cura personalis,” and “people for and with others” printed on admissions materials from Marquette, Xavier, John Carroll, and Canisius, among others. Even just a year ago, my decision to apply to Saint Louis University was a conscious one. Now, I am a part of the only American Studies doctoral program in the Jesuit network, and I knew that I wanted to stay true to my roots in the quality of academic excellence and the qualities of the Ignatian tradition in what I believe will be my last formal educational experience (though who knows what the future will bring).

In my role as a co-director of the Be the Light Youth Theology Institute, a program for high school students administered by Canisius, I was fortunate enough to attend gatherings hosted by the Lilly Endowment and the Forum for Theological Exploration. Post-event surveys always asked what our next most faithful steps were for the Institute. Unknowingly, I feel as though I have been asked a similar question each time I’ve renewed my status as an alumna of a Jesuit institution. It is another way of asking how I am to “go forth and set the world on fire.”

This question has informed the way that I approached my work with students both in the Jesuit-affiliated Be the Light program and in my work at Villa Maria College as a staff member and adjunct professor. How can I bring the Magis to those I encounter? How am I working for justice in and out of the classroom? Even now, I am constantly thinking about how my academic research and encounters with faculty members, colleagues, and friends is informed by and allows me to live out the faith that does justice.

In the epigraph to my Master’s thesis, I quote the source of my great inspiration to study college students’ conceptions of social justice: the 1973 address to Jesuit alumni given by Rev. Pedro Arrupe, S.J. (former Superior General of the Society of Jesus), in which he coined the expression, “men [and women] for others.”* More recently, I discovered that this speech was not well-received by alumni, despite the great effect it had on Jesuit educational institutions. I myself had been immediately struck by it, amazed to hear so clearly that education without justice was no education at all. Taking this lens and looking back to answer whether I myself had been educated for justice, I thought of the voices of the marginalized that had been highlighted for me by the faculty of Canisius’ English department; the experiences of immersion that Sarah Signorino and the rest of Campus Ministry had encouraged; and the well-roundedness of the All-College Honors Program’s core curriculum.

The commitment to our values embodied in these experiences illuminated for me the unsung heroes often working with limited budgets and a changing landscape. My Jesuit education means nothing without those who encouraged the Magis in me by showing me the Magis in them: the embodiment of former Jesuit Superior General Rev. Peter-Hans Kolvenbach’s notion that all educators “help students learn their faith by faithfully expressing [their] own faith through the deeds of [their] lives.”**

When I used to give tours to prospective students at Canisius, I would frequently get asked about my favorite part of the College. I’d first smile and say, “the tunnels,” referring to the small underground loop protecting us to an extent from snowy Buffalo winters. But then I’d add that it was really the people: other students, faculty, and staff members who worked every day to illustrate for me the many ways to embody the Jesuit mission. These same folks are the ones I try to emulate in all that I do. I try to show that graduates of Jesuit schools are the type of people who leave books of poetry on their co-workers’ desks, who are willing to speak truth to power, and who can look inward to ask themselves how they can work for justice and remain true to this special charism that all began with a cannonball.

*Rev. Pedro Arrupe, S.J., “Men for Others” (Speech, Valencia, July 31, 1973), Institute for Advanced Jesuit Studies.

**Rev. Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, S.J., “The Service of Faith in a Religiously Pluralistic World: The Challenge for Jesuit Higher Education,” in A Jesuit Education Reader: Contemporary Writings on the Jesuit Mission in Education, Principles, the Issue of Catholic Identity, Practical Applications of the Ignatian Way, and More, George W. Traub, S.J. (ed). Chicago: Loyola Press, 2008: 168.

Darby Ratliff is a graduate assistant pursuing a Ph.D. in American Studies at Saint Louis University. She served as an intern for the National Seminar on Jesuit Higher Education last fall, and AJCU this past spring.

By Angeline Boyer, Assistant Director of Media Relations, Saint Peter’s University

Samantha Martinez-Mendoza was presented with The Magis Award for her interest in social justice and gender studies at the Saint Peter's University Michaelmas Convocation. (L-R) David Surrey, Ph.D., professor of sociology, urban studies and anthropology; Devin Heyward, Ph.D., director of gender and sexuality studies; Samantha Martinez-Mendoza '20; and Joseph McLaughlin, Ed.D. ’77, professor and chair of sociology and urban studies (photo taken before the pandemic; courtesy of Saint Peter's University)

Samantha Martinez-Mendoza was presented with The Magis Award for her interest in social justice and gender studies at the Saint Peter’s University Michaelmas Convocation. (L-R) David Surrey, Ph.D., professor of sociology, urban studies and anthropology; Devin Heyward, Ph.D., director of gender and sexuality studies; Samantha Martinez-Mendoza ’20; and Joseph McLaughlin, Ed.D. ’77, professor and chair of sociology and urban studies (photo taken before the pandemic; courtesy of Saint Peter’s University)

A Jesuit education is one that infuses principles set forth by St. Ignatius of Loyola into every aspect of educational life—from academics, to student activities, and beyond. Whether Saint Peter’s University students realize it or not, all of their experiences with the University are rooted in the characteristics of Jesuit education: cura personalis (care for the whole person); formation of people for and with others; and Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam (AMDG: the motto of the Society of Jesus that means “for the greater glory of God”).

One particular example is how the Jersey City community, in which Saint Peter’s is located, is benefitting from the University’s Jesuit-educated students and alumni, who are doing their part to prevent homelessness in their community.

Cura Personalis
Samantha Martinez-Mendoza ’20 started at Saint Peter’s as a nursing major, but felt a little lost when the program wasn’t what she expected it to be. Martinez-Mendoza knew she wanted to help people, but wasn’t sure how to do that if she wasn’t a nurse.

She was unsure of what her academic future held, until she met a Saint Peter’s faculty member whom she refers to as “her angel:” David Surrey, Ph.D., a professor of sociology, urban studies and anthropology. Dr. Surrey helped Martinez-Mendoza to realize her passion for helping others, and which academic programs could help her to achieve that goal. Last year, she graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in sociology with minors in gender and sexuality studies, and anthropology.

Martinez-Mendoza truly experienced cura personalis during her time at Saint Peter’s. She wasn’t just another student who slipped through the cracks, but was given the support and encouragement she needed to succeed. This experience helped her to excel and make a difference in her career today. She currently serves as a housing case manager for the United Way of Hudson County (UWHC), a community-based, non-profit organization that has improved the lives of the most vulnerable residents in Hudson County, New Jersey. UWHC serves the basic needs of economically-insufficient individuals by providing them with food, clothing and shelter. Martinez-Mendoza makes sure to give all of her clients the care and personal attention they need, similar to what she experienced as a student at Saint Peter’s.

People For and With Others
Cassandra Iverson ’14 embraced service from the very start of her time at Saint Peter’s. She participated in every campus ministry community service project she could find, such as Midnight Runs, in which volunteers engaged in late-night relief efforts to provide local homeless with food and clothing. She volunteered as a “Junkyard Dog” and spent days cleaning the streets of Jersey City. She also spent her time working in The Campus Kitchen at Saint Peter’s, a program that takes unused food and repackages it into healthy meals to feed those struggling with hunger.

Iverson even took a two-week service trip to Quito, Ecuador with the Saint Peter’s Global Outreach Team to work for the Working Boys Center (WBC), a Jesuit ministry that supports working boys and girls and their families. When she was interviewed about her trip in 2013, she explained, “One of my paths may lead me – quite happily – back to the WBC as a year-long volunteer or, perhaps, to another organization for others.”

Eight years later, this quote proved to be true because Iverson continues to make a tremendous impact on others, now in the Jersey City community. She currently serves as the secretary of Rebuilding Together Jersey City, a non-profit home rehabilitation organization.

“Being a part of Rebuilding Together Jersey City is one way that I can do my part in helping my fellow men and women in the community to really live in safety, comfort and independence,” said Iverson. “We have a focus on veterans, the elderly, and families. It is really important to me that these members of our community are taken care of when they need it.”

Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam
Karyn Barrera ’21 will be graduating this May with a degree in sociology and anthropology. She laments that she was not able to participate in every student activity and service project that she would have liked to throughout her college career, due to other pressing priorities.

While Barrera was focused on being a student, she was also tasked with working to help support her family, especially her younger sister. Now that she is coming to the end of her career at Saint Peter’s, she has found herself in an unexpected role in which she continues to put others first. Barrera currently serves as an intern and caseworker for the UWHC. She has been specifically hired to help house individuals who have become homeless as a result of the pandemic.

While this wasn’t the exact path Barrera had in mind with her major, she is very proud and humbled in her new role. She explained, “Each day you get ready for work or school and worry about not having the right shoes or the right bag, but working in this role truly opens your eyes to see that some people don’t even have access to the most basic resources. I am here to help these individuals who were lost get back into society.”

Saint Peter’s takes great pride in what these Jesuit-educated students accomplished during their college careers and the impact they continue to make in the community in which the University serves.

By Jenny Smulson, Vice President of Government Relations, AJCU

Many people who have attended a Jesuit college or university (or high school, for that matter) will tell you that there is something more about the education they received. Being #JesuitEducated ensures a rich academic experience but, of equal importance, is the commitment that our institutions make to an education that invites personal growth, puts a premium on care for others (especially those living on the margins), and intentionally forms people who are called to promote justice in the world.

By all measures, we are proud of our schools, especially their outcomes for our graduates. Of the nearly 130,000 undergraduate students enrolled in our 27 U.S. schools, 76% graduate in six years, well above the national average of 62%. Our students are supported by more than $2.5 billion in funded and unfunded institutional aid. Twenty-three percent of our students are recipients of Pell Grants, while many others receive support from programs like Federal Work Study and the Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant. Among schools whose students borrow through the Federal Direct Loan program, Jesuit colleges and universities have loan default rates of 3.1%—well below the national average for private 4-year institutions and all 4-year institutions. Our schools also measure student success by employment rates, enrollment in graduate study, and service in the military or volunteer programs, among other standards.

Access, affordability and success are predicated on partnership. Institutions, states and the federal government invest in students to ensure that regardless of income, each person can have an opportunity to attend a post-secondary institution that is the right place for them, including a Jesuit college or university. The foundation of this partnership is the Pell Grant: a federal program that invests in students, without requiring them to pay back the government. It is a direct grant that a student with great economic need can use to attend the school that best fits their needs. At present, the maximum Pell Grant is $6,495: of the program’s recipients, 80% have family incomes of $40,000 or less. While the Pell Grant is a proven equalizer that makes a positive difference in post-secondary enrollment and completion, the current maximum award is not enough, having not kept pace with the current cost of a college education.

This is why AJCU is calling on Congress to double the maximum Federal Pell Grant this year to $13,000. Next month, our presidents will be meeting with their Senators and Representatives to advocate for their current (and future) students who rely on Pell Grants in order to have access to a Jesuit education. Our advocacy is all the more urgent given the impact that the pandemic has had on retention and enrollment, affecting students with financial need more severely than in past years. We know that many students had to leave school to care for family members, or because they faced a loss of income and/or financial constraints. Others never even started: enrollment declined almost twice as much in 2020 compared to the year prior. Doubling the Pell Grant would enable students to enroll, return, and complete their education by putting them on a path toward a more secure future.

AJCU is making this one of our policy priorities, but we are not alone in this effort. The proposal to double Pell has wide support. Recently, more than 1,200 higher education organizations and institutions sent a letter to Congress, urging them to increase the investment in Pell. For not only does the Pell Grant provide access to post-secondary opportunities for individual students, it does something else: it will help our nation on its path toward recovery and greater equity after the pandemic. Working together, we can get this done!