By Deanna Howes Spiro, Vice President of Communications, AJCU

Eight months have passed since the pandemic transformed Jesuit higher education, from in-class teaching to predominantly online platforms. How have our institutions fared? From a virtual Shakespeare festival to an online physics retreat, we think it’s gone pretty well.

In this issue of Connections, you’ll learn about the creative ways that Jesuit institutions in the United States (and Canada!) have been engaging their students, faculty and staff throughout the summer and fall. With so many schools planning to continue offering courses online in Spring 2021, we hope that these examples will inspire other institutions to incorporate some of these best practices into their classes and programs.

We also hope that you will visit the AJCU Faculty Teaching Commons – a new forum for faculty to connect with others within their discipline, and to share best practices for online teaching via Google Docs. From communications to dentistry, there’s something for everyone! If you have questions about the Commons or would like to see another discipline added, please contact AJCU’s Vice President for Mission Integration, Dr. Stephanie Russell:

We are very thankful for all of the universities and organizations that contributed the nine (9!) articles to this issue of Connections, possibly our largest edition yet. In the spirit of Thanksgiving, we hope that everyone across the AJCU network has a wonderful, safe and healthy holiday filled with joy and gratitude.

By Cindy Bonfini-Hotlosz (Centreity), Ellen Keohane (College of the Holy Cross), Jim Burke & R. Todd Bruce (John Carroll University)

Note: This article is dedicated to Rev. Gerald Sabo, S.J., former professor at John Carroll University, and among its first faculty to learn new techniques for teaching online during the pandemic. Fr. Sabo passed away on October 24, 2020.

Rev. Gerald Sabo, S.J., former professor at John Carroll University (photo by Pierce Srail of John Carroll University)

Rev. Gerald Sabo, S.J., former professor at John Carroll University (photo by Pierce Srail of John Carroll University)

Five centuries ago, a cannonball became the vehicle of transformation for “a man given to the vanities of the world, whose chief delight consisted in martial exercises, with a great and vain desire to win renown.” (Autobiography, 1) The man who became St. Ignatius of Loyola received a “shock” to his life that reverberates to this day.

According to Cindy Bonfini-Hotlosz, CEO of Centreity, an online learning solutions company, and past Executive Director of JesuitNET Global, “Ignatius didn’t just survive the shock. He became stronger: he was a living example of anti-fragility and architected a formula to thrive in uncertain times hidden within the Spiritual Exercises: the basis of the Ignatian Pedagogical Framework.”

Nassim Nicholas Taleb, author of Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder, notes:

“Some things benefit from shocks; they thrive and grow when exposed to volatility, randomness, disorder, stressors, love, adventure, risk, and uncertainty. Yet, in spite of the ubiquity of the phenomenon, there is no word for the exact opposite of fragile. Let us call it antifragile. Antifragility is beyond resilience or robustness. The resilient resist shocks and stay the same; the antifragile get better…

…Antifragility has a singular property of allowing us to deal with the unknown, to do things without understanding them—and do them well.”

The connections between anti-fragility and the life of St. Ignatius were made apparent last spring, as the coronavirus spread across the globe, forcing colleges and universities (including Jesuit institutions in the United States) to adapt to a new reality. The pandemic hit John Carroll University at a particularly unfortunate time. The University’s Center for Teaching and Learning, once a strong faculty-led force for professional development on campus, had been on hiatus for a number of years. Information Technology Services (ITS) had been trying to fill some of the gaps, but some faculty were uncertain about taking pedagogical advice from IT professionals. Inconsistent attendance at training sessions and the failure of a sizable population of faculty to productively use Canvas (John Carroll’s learning management system) left the University vulnerable to challenges associated with online learning.

When the coronavirus hit Cleveland, things moved quickly. Todd Bruce, Assistant Provost for Institutional Effectiveness and Assessment at John Carroll, explained, “We moved from ‘perhaps we should have a day when everyone has class online to practice how it works’ to ‘classes are cancelled for the rest of the week and everything is online thereafter’ in the course of hours. The next few days saw a massive mobilization of ITS.”

Chief Information Officer Jim Burke said, “Suddenly, workshops that were poorly attended in the past were full-to-overflowing with faculty and staff who needed new skills to succeed in this remote environment. Dozens of workshops brought hundreds of faculty and staff up to speed in just a few short days.”

Click on the image to take a look inside a Zoom Classroom at John Carroll University (video by Mike McDonald of John Carroll University)

Click on the image to take a look inside a Zoom Classroom at John Carroll University (video by Mike McDonald of John Carroll University)

In addition to training the campus at large, ITS quickly organized workshops to teach the remaining IT staff what they needed to know to support the campus through the transition to an all-virtual learning format. Burke said, “The word agile comes to mind but doesn’t begin to describe the response of the IT staff as programmers and server administrators worked side by side with the IT Service Desk staff to support the deluge of help calls that would come in. And come they did. Even the five-fold increase in IT staff at the Service Desk was challenged to keep up with the equivalent increase in service requests.”

Not surprisingly, John Carroll had to institute a hiring freeze, but at the Provost’s direction, Bruce and Burke leveraged an established relationship between ITS and Centreity to fill this void. In April, Bonfini-Hotlosz and her team served as an Instructional Design Help Desk and pushed out tips and suggestions to faculty.

When the spring semester ended, Centreity created an Ignatian Pedagogy Design Workshop: a series of four-week bootcamps that focused on building HyFlex (hybrid-flexible model) courses using a template based on the Quality Matters International Standard for Online Learning. Combined with skill-based courses to complement the training offered by ITS and the University’s Center for Digital Media, faculty and staff engaged in over 50,000 professional development hours completed through the summer.

In preparing for the fall semester, the HyFlex course design model was chosen for its flexible delivery options. Building courses for the worst-case scenario would enable a robust experience that could flex or adapt when necessary, for both faculty and students. Faculty member Malia McAndrews created a HyFlex learning group, and webinars were offered by the Provost’s office, faculty, ITS and Centreity to prepare faculty to return to teaching for the fall semester.

Bruce noted, “The result of this effort was truly a transformed experience for John Carroll students when we began the fall semester. While this was a very challenging transition, it was an amazing display of the cura personalis that is the hallmark of Jesuit education.”

Bonfini-Hotlosz said, “Ignatian Pedagogy has anti-fragility built into its framework. There are five elements in the model: Context, Experience, Reflection, Action and Evaluation. When the first element (context) changes, the experience adjusts to the new context. Evaluation not only completes the learning cycle, it assesses the context for the next stage of learning.”

A Jesuit prepares to give an online lecture at John Caroll university (photo by Mike McDonald of John Carroll University)

A Jesuit prepares to give an online lecture at John Caroll university (photo by Mike McDonald of John Carroll University)

After learning about the success at John Carroll, the College of the Holy Cross reached out to Centreity to pilot their approach with fifty faculty members in July. Five cohorts of faculty built their courses using the Ignatian Pedagogical Design Framework. At the same time, Holy Cross was transitioning from Moodle as its Learning Management System (LMS) to Canvas. Centreity assisted IT in providing skills-based Canvas sessions to accompany a learning workshop.

“At Holy Cross, our vision was not only to get through this crisis by serving our students as best we could in a remote learning mode, but to emerge from this stronger,” explained Ellen Keohane, Chief Information Officer at Holy Cross. “We have no plans to continue in a wholly online mode [after the pandemic], but neither do we expect to return to the same face-to-face classroom experience as before. We will be changed and our challenge is to continue to use educational and instructional technologies in ways that enhance our preeminent face-to-face, in-classroom experience.”

In reflecting on the relationship between anti-fragility and Jesuit education, Bonfini-Hotlosz said, “It isn’t about building courses online — it is about building a faculty body capable of pivoting and thriving in times of uncertainty. With the pandemic, we have been able to measure the fragility of our organizations. If institutions simply replace face-to-face learning with synchronous learning without re-imagining the educational experience, then, when faced with the next crisis, you start from scratch. If you build a curriculum that is anti-fragile, during the next crisis, you will quickly pivot and become better for it.”

Bonfini-Hotlosz concluded, “After working with Jesuit institutions over the past two decades, it is clear that the formula for anti-fragility exists within the Ignatian Pedagogical Framework. We will emerge from this crisis with a faculty capable of delivering education across a spectrum of communication channels – stronger and prepared for whatever comes next.”

Cindy Bonfini-Hotlosz is the Chief Executive Officer of Centreity; Ellen Keohane is the Chief Information Officer at the College of the Holy Cross; Jim Burke is the Chief Information Officer at John Carroll University; and Dr. R. Todd Bruce is the Assistant Provost for Institutional Effectiveness and Assessment at John Carroll University.

By Kristin Agostoni, Assistant Director of Media and Public Relations, Loyola Marymount University

Zoom screenshot from LMU’s Shakespeare on the Bluff festival (photo courtesy of Loyola Marymount University)

Zoom screenshot from LMU’s Shakespeare on the Bluff festival (photo courtesy of Loyola Marymount University)

In the early months of the pandemic, when it became clear that Loyola Marymount University’s (LMU) annual Shakespeare on the Bluff festival could not go on as planned, Artistic Director Kevin Wetmore began to pivot. He wasn’t sure how his current and former theatre students would react to joining virtual productions on Zoom and not performing to an audience on an outdoor stage. But the response he received was overwhelming.

“When I put out the call to work on this project, people came out of the woodwork, including alumni,” said Wetmore, professor of theatre arts within LMU’s College of Communication and Fine Arts (CFA). “They said, ‘My shows have been canceled, there are no auditions. I’m an artist and I want to share my art, even if it’s online.’”

“So,” he continued, “the limitations of the pandemic have actually created an opportunity to work with and showcase incredibly inventive and talented actors.”

That statement holds true not only for the virtual Shakespeare on the Bluff festival, which presented two plays this year, but for other 2020-21 LMU Theatre Arts Department productions that have moved onto the virtual stage since the pandemic shuttered on-campus performance venues.

They include She Kills Monsters, a Dungeons and Dragons-themed show; the dark comedy Mr. Burns — A Post Electric Play; Haunting of the Hannon, a Halloween-themed takeover of LMU’s Hannon Library; and A Night of Black Excellence, a celebration of Black art, Black stories and Black lives in collaboration with the student group, Theater in Color. This month, the department presented the plays Love and Lysistrata, a fast-paced comedy inspired by Aristophanes’ play.

Performers and faculty members, while missing the stage, are finding many advantages to performing online, from learning new special effects, to improvising with props, costumes and lighting from home. Another upside: online performances make theatre available to people who might not otherwise be able to attend shows on campus. “The accessibility to live performance has never been more important than it is now. As we find ourselves more and more isolated, our need to tell stories to and with each other is essential to nurturing and maintaining our humanity,” said Katharine Noon, professor and chair of theatre arts.

“Whether we are participating as audiences, performers, designers, directors or writers, our need to create community through live performance is an essential part of our lives,” Noon added. “Until our hearts can beat together in the same space, we will continue to tell stories in any way that we can and to anyone in need of coming together around the virtual campfire.”

Zoom screenshot from LMU’s Shakespeare on the Bluff festival (photo courtesy of Loyola Marymount University)

Zoom screenshot from LMU’s Shakespeare on the Bluff festival (photo courtesy of Loyola Marymount University)

Shakespeare on the Bluff helped chart the course for LMU’s transition to virtual productions during the pandemic. The online festival was conceptualized by CFA Dean Bryant Keith Alexander, who brought the idea to Wetmore. With the support of LMU leadership and help from Information Technology Services, the festival’s third season – which featured performances of All’s Well That End’s Well and The Two Noble Kinsmen – began to take shape in late spring/early summer.

“The plays were handpicked for this current historical moment,” Alexander said. “Both needed light-heartedness (from the previously projected summer season) with some mixture of fairy tale and a cynical realism that invites us to reflect on virtues and vices of people and the times; always locating ourselves in the social realities of the plays that are both make-believe and make-belief.”

The productions – which together attracted roughly 1,500 YouTube views – featured a cast of students and alumni from all across the country. All were welcome to RSVP for access to the free, family-friendly 90-minute shows.

Even though the festival was nicknamed “Shakespeare in a Box,” Wetmore stressed that the computer screen should not be seen as a limitation. Zoom offered cast members a chance to be playful and innovative, and to use whatever they had at home as props, knowing the styles would mix and match. Wetmore explained that the platform also allowed for some special effects, such as using display names to announce characters, and giving some performers the chance to sit farther away from the screen, appearing to be in the distance.

Kylie Sullivan, a theatre arts major who has performed in four virtual productions at LMU, added that the use of virtual backgrounds in Zoom can help to unify characters and tell a story. It is easier to do this online in some ways, she said, because not as much muscle is required to change a set.

“There has been so much that I’ve learned from doing theatre over Zoom,” said Sullivan, who was the steward in All’s Well That Ends Well and Nell in Two Noble Kinsmen. “I learned the importance of text work and table work in regard to Shakespeare. It was even more crucial that we knew what we were saying because we couldn’t express the text and story as much with our bodies,” she explained. “I’m a very kinetic actor who thrives off movement in my acting, so these two shows really pushed me out of my comfort zone in that way.”

To learn more about the LMU Theatre Arts 2020-21 Mainstage Season, please click here.

By Joseph DeFeo, Ph.D., Executive Director, Ignatian Colleagues Program

New members of ICP met virtually during their orientation program via Zoom (photo courtesy of Dr. Joseph DeFeo)

New members of ICP met virtually during their orientation program via Zoom (photo courtesy of Dr. Joseph DeFeo)

They say that life happens in between our well-formed plans.

Since its inception twelve years ago, the Ignatian Colleagues Program (ICP) has provided transformative and engaging in-person experiences that foster discerning leadership for administrators and faculty in Jesuit higher education. But due to the pandemic and the concern for safe travel, our team, like so many of us in higher education, have needed to re-think our program, identify what is most essential, and deliver it in innovative formats.

In any given year, the senior administrators and faculty leaders who participate in ICP have very full calendars. ICP requires a not insignificant investment of time and energy to fully experience each of its components. In non-pandemic times, participants travel to be with colleagues from across the AJCU network for orientation, a silent retreat and an international immersion trip. The value of being together over an extended period of time has helped to build a community of colleagues who are committed to deepening their understanding and experiences of the Ignatian charism, and engaging in opportunities for imaginative and creative thinking about shared challenges in Jesuit higher education. ICP members demonstrate their care for and commitment to our Jesuit and Catholic mission as they offer their valuable time to the program.

So, how did we adapt? First, we restructured our orientation program, reducing a typical four-day gathering over the summer to eight 75-minute Zoom sessions (twice daily over four days). Presenters pre-recorded short videos or provided readings and reflection questions online ahead of each session so that “in-person” Zoom meetings could be used for small and large group discussions. We mourned the reality of not gathering in person, but we also sought to take advantage of what virtual formats do have to offer, such as hosting new speakers (including several Jesuit university presidents) who could be with us without a day of time-consuming travel.

While there was plenty of room for improvement as we adapted to an online orientation, several participants found the experience enriching:

“The discussions in the orientation program allowed us to see how many of us from different institutions are navigating similar challenges, and to think together about how Ignatian principles and processes can help us through these challenges,”

“The nature and sequence of topics and the rich presentations led me to think in new ways it was very illuminating and inspiring!”

One participant described especially well a sentiment held by many over the summer:

“During an unusual and anxious summer, I often felt disconnected from my campus and unsure about how I could contribute to my institutional and programmatic goals from afar… As I read the articles and listened to the guest speakers, I was reminded of all the things that make my work at my institution so rewarding (e.g. serving at a place with a tradition, not just a chronology; working in a space where we have the vocabulary and the imperative to address the major issues confronting our society; being in community with colleagues who can have honest conversations about their insecurities and their aspirations). It really was an inspiring week, and it reenergized me to face the work ahead.”

ICP was already accustomed to using Zoom for its online learning workshops that invite participants, in small groups, to explore readings, podcasts, videos, case studies and reflection questions on themes such as the life of St. Ignatius Loyola, Ignatian pedagogy, Catholic Social Teaching and Ignatian discernment. These workshops are facilitated by leaders who help participants build community by engaging in conversations about how their learning can be applied to common issues and complexities facing our institutions. For example: as our institutions more intentionally increased their awareness and learning about racial injustice, white privilege and diversity, ICP participants also benefited from the wisdom and generosity of approximately twelve chief diversity officers, who helped to facilitate Courageous Conversations: a session on racial inequality and a call to take action.

ICP has taken to Zoom for several other new programs, some content-based, others prayerful/reflective. This fall, we have been building on our discussion that began at orientation on the important influence and role of women in Ignatius’ life, with a session on Ignatian Pedagogy and Feminist Theory in Jesuit Education, led by Julie Dowd, formerly of the University of San Francisco (USF). In December, we will continue our learning and engagement of racial justice through a session on Centering Equity and Anti-Racism in Our Work led by Mary Wardell-Ghirarduzzi, also from USF.

As we anticipate this “new normal” will be with us for some time, it has been important to recognize that our usual short-term solutions (“keep your head down, work hard/er until it’s over and we can get back to the way it used to be”) will not suffice. Learning to accept and embrace this reality, we have sought to offer ways to support those in our program who are struggling to keep our institutions vibrant and afloat. To that end, we have created spaces for short, spirit-lifting communal prayer and reflection. ICP Soul Sessions have been offered every Tuesday at 12 PM and 8 PM (ET) for the months of October and November. Led by different presenters from across the AJCU network, Soul Sessions allows anyone (not just ICP participants) to take a breath, renew and re-energize their spirit for a few minutes before heading back to their busy schedules. Sessions have included the Ignatian Examen, poems, prayer through movement (such as Tai Chi) and more.

In December, we will offer an extended Ignatian Examen on “Looking Back” over the past semester, and a second Examen in January on “Looking Ahead” to new possibilities. By using the Examen, ICP is attempting to model aspects of discerning Ignatian leadership and forming “contemplatives in action,” while providing spaces for participants to rest and renew their spirits.

While we eagerly look forward to the time when we can travel to be in closer contact with one another, we feel grateful for the technology that makes possible the continuity of this important program. Ignatian leaders are called to embrace their current reality as fully as possible, borrowing the wisdom of St. Ignatius, who stated in his Spiritual Exercises that the Exercises “must be adapted to the condition of the one who is to engage them.” (SP Exercises #18). ICP is adapting and adjusting to our current challenging conditions with a joyful hope that meaning and connection can come in surprising ways even as “life happens” in between all our planning.

By Karen Augé, Magazine Editor, Regis University

Thomas Gilhooly (left) and Adam Samhouri in front of Main Hall on Regis’ campus in Denver, CO (photo by Bear Gutierrez for Regis University)

Thomas Gilhooly (left) and Adam Samhouri in front of Main Hall on Regis’ campus in Denver, CO (photo by Bear Gutierrez for Regis University)

Regis University has long been a leader in providing online learning for non-traditional students. But for nearly two decades, Regis’ Higher Learning Partners (HLP) division has been on a mission to become a leader in helping other institutions realize the benefits of virtual and distance learning, as well as curriculum exchange.

Now, the development of next-generation software, projections of future enrollment declines ─ and a pandemic ─ have combined to create unprecedented demand for the products and consulting services that HLP provides.

“Course exchange, which has been the lifeblood of this department since 2005, is now getting a lot of attention,” said Thomas Gilhooly, chief executive officer and executive director of HLP.

One institution that took notice? The University of Tennessee. This summer, HLP contracted with UT to create a platform that will academically unite the system’s four campuses, which together serve 50,000 students.

The UT system’s search for a way to develop a more robust online education system led them to HLP, said Karen Etzkorn, director of academic affairs for the University of Tennessee System. “Regis was incredibly flexible and worked to meet the needs of our system and was able to offer a platform in a way that wasn’t one-size-fits-all,” Etzkorn said. “It was adapted for the UT system.”

Tennessee hopes to roll out the shared system with 10 mostly entry-level courses, and grow from there. Students in any of UT’s four campuses, which are spread across the state, will be able to register online for any of the courses offered online, regardless of which location the course originates in.

The partnership has potential to benefit both institutions. Working with the UT system is an extension of Regis’ Jesuit mission, said Adam Samhouri, HLP’s academic and operations director: “We’re here to help enhance learning for students.”

For Tennessee and other schools that share curriculum or offer greater online options, it can be a revenue saver. When an institution offers such options, it lessens the risk of losing summer-school students to community colleges closer to home, explained Samhouri. It also offers a convenient option for students who may fall behind in their courses, or for those who may have had to drop a few courses and, in doing so, put themselves below the minimum credit hours required to receive aid. The result, according to Samhouri, is greater student retention and higher graduation rates.

Regis pioneered online learning in the 1990s, at a time when dial-up modems and fuzzy internet connections were common. The University stuck with it, and so did students, particularly those trying to juggle jobs, families and education. “Regis is a believer in making lifelong learning available, and being open to educating all people,” Gilhooly said.

HLP brings that expertise to its work by providing other colleges and universities with services that enable them to expand professional and continuing education programs, and through its consulting work with more than 100 institutions of higher education.

In 2005, Regis launched an online course exchange program. The Online Consortium of Independent Colleges and Universities (OCICU) has grown to include roughly 300 schools nationwide, which share courses through an online marketplace. As of 2020, that course exchange has had 50,000 enrollments and, Gilhooly noted, “raised tens of millions of dollars for our partner schools.” In addition, HLP has developed course-sharing software that is now in use in 80 schools.

In course exchanges, a student can enroll in a course offered at a college that is an exchange partner. The student pays tuition to their home college, which then pays the partner providing the class. All members of the exchange pay a per-class fee, as well as an annual fee.

Gannon University, in Erie, PA, was a charter member of OCICU. “We got in at the ground level and it’s created immense institutional value,” said Earl “Tex” Brieger, chief online learning officer for the Catholic university. He added that allowing students to take courses from home during summer break has put a substantial amount of money that might otherwise have gone to a state school or community college into Gannon’s coffers. Gannon also values working with other small- to mid-sized Catholic institutions in the exchange.

While Regis has long seen the wisdom of online courses and exchanges, some institutions had been hesitant. “In three years, I visited 70-plus campuses,” Gilhooly said. On some campuses, a rich, sophisticated online curriculum was considered a luxury. Then came the pandemic, which has expedited the need for online learning. Course sharing, in particular, “is one of the hotter subjects in higher education right now,” Gilhooly said.

The impact of the coronavirus on college enrollment, combined with demographic data showing an upcoming decline in the number of traditional college-aged students, means tough times ahead for many colleges and universities. Gilhooly believes that course exchanges could soften the economic blow for many of them. “I don’t know if this will save schools. But it will definitely help schools come together to increase their retention and their graduation rates.”

To learn more about HLP and its services, please visit or contact Thomas Gilhooly: or (303) 458-4929.

By Molly Robey, Assistant Director of Communications, Loyola University Maryland

Screenshot of LCC patients receiving therapy via Zoom (photo courtesy of Loyola University Maryland)

Screenshot of LCC patients receiving therapy via Zoom (photo courtesy of Loyola University Maryland)

When the coronavirus pandemic hit Baltimore in March, faculty and graduate students at the Loyola Clinical Centers (LCC) at Loyola University Maryland were tasked with moving operations entirely online to support clients and assist the local community.

“The faculty at the LCC took on the task of not only delivering services to their clients via telehealth/telepractice, but also the excellent training of our graduate students in psychology, speech-language-hearing and literacy,” said Kara Vincent, executive director of the LCC.

The LCC provides state-of-the-art facilities and treatment for people experiencing difficulties in the areas of psychology, literacy, hearing, speech and language. Despite the challenges presented by the pandemic, many LCC programs have continued to offer services and, as a result, received positive feedback from clients.

“The efforts of our faculty and students and their ability to adapt in these circumstances are what allowed the LCC to thrive,” said Vincent.

Expanding outreach
In 2013, Mary Lee Walls, a speech-language pathologist and clinical supervisor, started a Reading Readiness program and Articulation Therapy program at St. Mark Catholic School in Catonsville, MD. With the help of Lisa Tolino-Hill, also a speech-language pathologist and clinical supervisor, and many Loyola graduate students, the team translated this program online this past summer, to offer children an engaging virtual educational experience.

“One of the benefits of moving to a virtual platform is [expanding our] geographical range,” Walls explained. “The creativity of the graduate students carrying out instruction virtually is impressive and requires a tremendous amount of planning—and the excitement of the children makes it all worth it.”

The 2020 program has consisted of a series of group therapy sessions offered via telepractice using a HIPAA-secure Zoom platform. Sessions have focused on Reading Readiness, Reading Comprehension, and written language for students from kindergarten through sixth grade.

“The primary goal of this program is to engage students with reading and writing activities that are fun, purposeful and thought-provoking,” said Tolino-Hill. “We can, and do, teach them specific strategies that help them comprehend what they read, as well as ways to generate and expand their ideas in writing. A huge piece of engagement depends on the environment we create: a place where we model excitement about reading and writing, where they know their ideas are important, and where they have the time and opportunity to share those ideas.”

Screenshot of LCC patients receiving therapy via Zoom (photo courtesy of Loyola University Maryland)

Screenshot of LCC patients receiving therapy via Zoom (photo courtesy of Loyola University Maryland)

Focus on speech, psychology and wellness
In addition to the St. Mark Summer Program, the LCC worked with Govans Elementary School—just a short walk east from Loyola’s Evergreen campus in Baltimore—to provide a virtual program for middle schoolers and rising sixth graders. Clinical instructors and speech-language pathologists Marissa Kleiman and Jill Keller worked to develop the seven-week speech-language pathology virtual sessions, which targeted vocabulary and reading comprehension for the eight student participants.

In addition to the speech-language pathology sessions, students were engaged in a five-week virtual wellness program, led by Hadley Cornell, clinical assistant professor of psychology and division director of psychology at LCC.

“This wellness camp offered students skills in managing emotions, such as coping and mindfulness techniques,” said Cornell. “We were excited to have the opportunity to provide such support despite the barriers and added stresses that Covid-19 has brought on. We think this summer was especially important for children to have the tools to manage their emotions.”

Offering virtual support to adult clients
Meanwhile, telepractice sessions were held virtually to support mental wellness among adult clients, and assist patients with neurological disorders. For the past two years, several patients suffering from aphasia (a language-impairment condition) have received therapy through singing. This summer, Cindy Nichols and Theresa Alexander, clinical faculty and speech-language pathologists, created a virtual experience for their Aphasia Choir, where participants could sing with others via Zoom. Choir members enjoyed the online format and asked for more time to chat among themselves after the weekly sessions.

“I think these virtual sessions are a great use of the technology,” said Nichols. “We plan to continue to offer them in the fall for our clients. The virtual experience has been well-received and has been great for our community members who live far away and have other restrictions.”

LCC executive director Vincent added, “Through all the uncertainty, resilience was and continues to be key. We are all facing challenges, both personally and professionally, but at some point during these unprecedented times, my hope is that each of us can stop, take a breath, and feel good about what we have each given to Loyola and our extended community. We have a long, uncertain road ahead, but with continued collaboration and grit, we will get through this.”

Service-learning for undergraduates
Although LCC offers an exceptional example of blending learning with service to the community, Loyola faculty have also found innovative ways to do so in their undergraduate courses. As the pandemic continues to affect the greater Baltimore community, faculty have been eager to offer educational service opportunities that address human and community needs, along with reflection and reciprocity.

“One of Loyola’s strongest assets is our small class size, which allows students and professors to collaborate on exciting projects like the service-learning work we are completing during the fall semester,” said Allen Brizee, Ph.D. As an associate professor of writing and faculty director for community-engaged learning and scholarship, Brizee was challenged with moving his service-learning course entirely online for the semester. Students in his ‘Writing for the Web and Social Media’ course are collaborating virtually with GEDCO/CARES Career Connection to help their clients find and apply for jobs, and write cover letters and résumés. Students are also working with CRISPAZ, a non-profit organization based in El Salvador, to analyze, test and improve their website.

“Unemployment and the digital divide are especially serious problems in Baltimore. My students are working with GEDCO/CARES clients to help increase employment opportunities and decrease the technological barriers that keep Black people from accessing resources that many White people take for granted,” Brizee explained. “The Covid-19 pandemic has amplified the negative effects of racism and injustice, and service-learning is needed now more than ever.”

By Andrew G. Baruth, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Physics, Creighton University

A group of attendees at the annual Heartland Jesuit Physics Retreat held at Creighton University in November 2019 (photo courtesy of Andrew G. Baruth)

A group of attendees at the annual Heartland Jesuit Physics Retreat held at Creighton University in November 2019 (photo courtesy of Andrew G. Baruth)

Physics departments from across the AJCU network have found a welcoming home in the new AJCU Faculty Teaching Commons, but virtual connection is nothing new for this ever-expanding group of collaborators. For seventeen years, physics faculty have gathered both in-person and online as part of the Heartland Jesuit Physics Retreat. In the spirit of collaboration at a time when digital connection and remote teaching have proven essential due to the pandemic, we reflect on our history and encourage AJCU faculty to start similar faculty retreat programs or to participate in ours.

In Spring 2003, Dr. Ruth Howes, former chair of Marquette University’s physics department, visited Creighton University to sit in on their annual physics department retreat. Dr. Michael Cherney, professor emeritus of physics at Creighton (and longtime retreat organizer), recalls that Dr. Howes was impressed by the close connection forged between the students, faculty and staff. She believed an analogous retreat for physics faculty from Jesuit colleges and universities across the Midwest could be similarly beneficial.

That first retreat took place in November of the same year at Camp Wyoming in a very primitive (and cheap) cabin in eastern Iowa: a nice midway point for all participants, especially when funding was limited. In light of its proximity, Loyola University Chicago’s physics department also attended the retreat. Rev. Larry Gillick, S.J., Director of the Deglman Center for Ignatian Spirituality at Creighton, served as facilitator.

The retreat weekend consisted of a social gathering on Friday night where everyone chatted around the cabin. It was an opportunity to make connections, socialize and develop empathy for fellow faculty and their unique departments. Mass was offered on Saturday morning and discussions of Jesuit mission, and its application to physics education, were an essential component of the day. The retreat saw synchronization between departments to discover what others were doing in physics education. The first attendants remember an intimate meeting unlike anything they had previously attended in their academic careers. It was a weekend of nurturing, comradery and connection.

After two successful years, the retreat group added faculty from Rockhurst University and Saint Louis University. An invitation was later extended to the remaining Heartland-Delta institutions in 2007. Dr. Nancy Donaldson, longtime chair of physics at Rockhurst, fondly remembers her first retreat in 2005. At the time, she was feeling alone in academia (as a result of her small department) and was excited to join a group of like-minded faculty with whom to share ideas and struggles. She immediately became “part of the family,” and the retreat gave her a sense of confidence that encouraged her to introduce innovative ideas at her own university. She specifically recalled the intimacy of the retreat, including the Friday night socializing and walks around the cabin. There existed a pervasive feeling of “How can we help each other?”

The retreat continued and grew with a typical annual attendance of twenty-five faculty. The first big idea that coalesced amongst the group was to create a common seminar with guest speakers. Each department realized that it was difficult to get speakers from large universities and industries to come to their small departments to give lectures and colloquia. However, if more institutions got together, and with assistance from technology, they could expand the audience and allow for more speakers. Keep in mind that in the mid-2000s, few departments were doing much with videoconferencing and on-site IT staff were often required to troubleshoot technical issues. The group attempted virtual seminars a few times, with some success. Ahead of its time, the endeavor ultimately faltered, but the seeds of what could be accomplished were planted.

Fast forward a decade later, and the concept of video conferencing and virtual meetings had matured and become a common practice for many departments and students. Starting in 2016, the group turned their attention, once again, to using technology to help facilitate broader opportunities in physics education. Using AJCU’s 2006 Inter-Institutional Memorandum of Agreement for Online Courses, physics departments shared course plans that could assist with graduation requirements for their respective students. For example, it was not uncommon to have one or two students needing an “out-of-sequence” course for graduation, or to have a student missing courses due to studying abroad. Through long-distance sharing of courses, the group assisted these students by adding them to their on-site courses virtually. Each course had a local faculty member to help facilitate and assist with tutoring sessions and proctoring to ensure a comparable experience to the home institution, while providing more flexibility for the department and student.

By the time of our last in-person meeting in late 2019 (the most inclusive, to date), the group had grown to include faculty from sixteen physics departments across the AJCU network. At that meeting, we established a Microsoft Teams group to better communicate virtually and more seamlessly share syllabi, course schedules and physics labs. These virtual conversations, and the associated enthusiasm, grew as the spring 2020 semester loomed. Faculty saw new opportunities for their students that they feared were not possible at their home institutions.

It was only months later that everything came to an abrupt halt and classes were forced into a virtual environment due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Reassuringly, this group had already established a means of communication and had experimented with assisting other departments in their course offerings virtually. While existing collaborations continued that spring, by May 2020, bi-weekly virtual meetings had been established to discuss best practices for online teaching, share ideas for virtual physics labs, and to provide an outlet for venting frustrations and finding comradery in these difficult times. The group has continued these regular virtual meetings, where the sharing of upper-level course listings and best-practices for hybrid teaching are primarily discussed. And now, through the AJCU Faculty Teaching Commons, the group has begun to communicate via Google Docs.

The Heartland Jesuit Physics Retreat members look forward to forging new connections with faculty within the Jesuit higher education network to best prepare for this new paradigm in virtual learning and, hopefully, greet one another in person again soon.

By Dr. Tom Phenix, Dean of Campion College, University of Regina

Dr. Tom Phenix (photo courtesy of Campion College)

Dr. Tom Phenix (photo courtesy of Campion College)

In July 2019, I became Dean of Campion College at the University of Regina in Saskatchewan, Canada. I was thrilled to start my new position but knew that things were going to change for me. I had been an associate professor of psychology prior to this appointment and had grown accustomed to a work life that, although busy, had predictable periods of greater or lesser intensity. Our previous Dean warned me that I could expect a greater workload and far more of the unexpected. Of course the unexpected came in a way that no one could have anticipated.

My first fall semester began in a predictable way. Lots of meetings were followed by lots of evening dinners. Not long after the fall semester started, our Executive Director and I began negotiations over our Collective Agreement with our Faculty Union. By January, we had reached a successful conclusion and the new Collective Agreement was ratified. I recall thinking that I was finally getting a feel for what it was like to be a Dean.

The first reported case of Covid-19 in Canada arrived from a flight to Toronto on January 25. While worrisome, it seemed to be contained. For those unfamiliar with Canadian geography, Toronto is more than 2,600 km from Regina, which feels like a world away. This world grew smaller as Covid cases spread throughout Europe, the United States and across our Canadian provinces.

On Thursday, March 12, a person in their 60s who had recently travelled to Egypt became the first Covid-19 case in Saskatchewan, and our planning for the worst-case scenario became reality. We cancelled all classes for the next week while our faculty and staff tried to pivot to a new online environment. In my mind, this was a defining moment for Campion College. Our entire faculty and staff had mere days to transition to a work-from-home context without losing any functional capacity in the process.

In a matter of days, workstations were set up in kitchens, garages, basements and, for one professor, on an ironing board in her laundry room. Workshops on how to teach remotely were set up within our College and resources were identified and made available to all of our academic staff.

I frequently think back to this period and on how our College managed to make such dramatic changes over a small period of time. I have been a professor long enough to understand that change occurs at universities and colleges, but that dramatic changes tend to occur gradually over time and rarely all at once. The process of change tends to be slow because our faculty often have heterogeneous viewpoints that need to be discussed and considered. When this collegial process works well, the resulting item of change is often more nuanced and effective than its original form would have allowed. To my mind, the power to produce intelligent institutional reactions and adaptations is why institutions continue to rely on groups. This pandemic forced our College, along with other colleges and universities around the world, to effectively react within remarkably short timelines. How did this feat happen?

First, it is clear that this change didn’t happen solely because of the efforts of a few administrators. The workload and the complexity of the problems facing our institutions prevented a singular and simplistic response. Instead, the coordinated efforts of numerous groups, united around a common objective, produced responses that deftly addressed the various concerns.

Administrators, faculty and staff accepted that we needed to transition to a virtual teaching/work environment while doing everything we could to maintain the quality and integrity of our activities. Ideas were encouraged, developed and refined. Instead of looking for one solution, numerous possibilities were proposed and accepted. For example, instructors were asked to develop distance learning courses that were primarily using web-based or Zoom-based approaches. Although guidance and resources were provided, the details of how these courses were to be constructed were left to the individual instructors who each had their own unique set of concerns and talents. Thus, by trusting in the professionalism of our instructors, we ensured that each of the unique courses taught were effectively transitioned to this new context of distance learning.

As a new Dean, I did not appreciate the impact that unexpected events could have on our College. However, I have been a witness to the power and effectiveness of coordinated and diverse groups of professionals in addressing these challenges. I do not know how long this pandemic will last or what further challenges are in our future, but I remain confident in my outlook for Campion College because I know we will overcome our challenges together.

Dr. Tom Phenix is an Associate Professor in Psychology and the Dean of Campion College, a federated Jesuit college that is part of the University of Regina in Canada, and an associate member institution of AJCU.

By Evan Elliot, Senior Copywriter, University of San Francisco

Ernest Baskerville MA ’17, creator and host of the @Sports4Positivity podcast, talked with Sport Management students about his work (photo courtesy of the University of San Francisco)

Ernest Baskerville MA ’17, creator and host of the @Sports4Positivity podcast, talked with Sport Management students about his work (photo courtesy of the University of San Francisco)

Six months ago, Dawn Ng, MA ’20 couldn’t imagine having lunch with Paul Ratner, senior director of premium suite sales for the Golden State Warriors.

These days, she doesn’t have to imagine. “We had lunch last week,” said Ng.

Welcome to Fall 2020, the semester of remote learning at the University of San Francisco (USF). While it has its challenges, it also has its advantages.

Lunch and Learn
In USF’s Sport Management program, “virtual lunch” is a highlight of each week. On Thursday afternoons, students meet online with USF graduates and other sports industry professionals who talk about their careers.

Ng, a graduate assistant and student in the program who helps to organize the lunches, noted that with Zoom, more Sport Management alumni than ever before have agreed to attend as guest speakers. “We can interact with these people and ask them questions. It’s like an informational interview,” she said.

In the next few weeks, Ng and her Sport Management classmates have lunch lined up with Matt Lehrer, MA ’11, the chief experience officer of a fitness equipment company; Juergen Padberg, MA ’04, a senior sport manager for the International Paralympic Committee; and Lucy Tseng, MA ’14, a life coach for athletes.

Engaging from a Distance
In some ways, a remote class can be more engaging than an in-person class, said Sabrina Nelson, adjunct professor of rhetoric and language. “In remote classes, I lecture less than I do in person,” she explained. “Because it’s hard to read students’ body language online, it’s hard for me to know if a remote lecture is connecting or not. [Instead of lecturing] I show videos that demonstrate public speaking and persuasive engagement from BIPOC, LGBTQ+, and women industry leaders, for example, so that students see role models they can relate to.”

While Nelson said she could show videos in a brick-and-mortar classroom, “I think they’re far more effective online, because students are able to sit back, watch and reflect in private.”

Nelson added that she loves teaching remotely because she can work more easily with students one-on-one. She said, “I can also set up breakout rooms within Zoom for group work, use polls to gauge interest and understanding, and use more anonymous feedback than I could in the classroom, which helps me adapt the course to student needs much more quickly.”

Click on image to vew a video courtesy of the University of San Francisco

Click on image to vew a video courtesy of the University of San Francisco

Externships Everywhere
In the USF School of Law, student externships remain as popular as ever. “We’ve had USF externs participate in litigation matters, performing research, pleadings, working on strategy sessions, and basically being immersed in the experience of being an in-house transactional lawyer,” said Omar Jabbour, general counsel and chief compliance officer at Astound Commerce in San Bruno, CA.

For both remote and in-person work, USF places student externs in government agencies, corporate legal departments, law firms, nonprofit organizations, and state and federal courts, said Anne Sidwell, assistant professor and director of externship programs at the Law School. She said, “Employers need to know that our students are ready and able to participate in the remote context. They can be powerful lawyers even if they’re working in their living rooms.”

Reactions among students have been positive. “Working with law clerks was a great opportunity for mentorship, and I walked away with relationships that I’ll have for the rest of my professional life,” said Linda Szabados, JD ’20.

“Now is an ideal time to be in law school,” said Celine Purcell, judicial law clerk at the U.S. District Court, Northern District of California. “Knowing that your job is to learn and to get as many experiences as you can? This is exactly what you should be doing right now.”

The Personal Touch
While most classes might be remote this semester, they don’t have to feel remote, said Indre Viskontas, assistant professor of psychology. “Even if we can’t meet here in person, you can still have one-on-one and small-group conversations with your professors.”

Students can and should connect with each other online, said Rachel Beth Egenhoefer, associate professor of design. “Right now, it’s more important than ever for our virtual classrooms to be a place for community.”

By Cathy Helean, Chief Marketing Officer, Spring Hill College

Spring Hill Senior Dionte Rudolph (photo courtesy of Spring Hill College)

Spring Hill Senior Dionte Rudolph (photo courtesy of Spring Hill College)

Spring Hill College, Alabama’s oldest institution of higher learning, has been preparing students to become leaders in faith and in their communities since 1830. During these challenging times, however, it’s also vital to meet students where they are, and to understand their current concerns. This means making a Spring Hill degree more accessible and more affordable to more students than ever before.

At the core of this change is a focus on curriculum innovations and fresh approaches to learning, both online and in the classroom. It’s also a focus on instilling these changes within the Jesuit, Catholic teaching approach that is a hallmark of the College.

For senior Dionte Rudolph, Vice President of Spring Hill’s Student Government Association, “The curriculum is not about just checking classes off a checklist.” Her chosen fields – a major in Health Science and a minor in Sociology – have allowed her to study the policy side of healthcare. She said, “I realized I wanted to address not only the individual causes of negative health outcomes, but also the systemic challenges that lead to recurrent health issues.”

Rudolph’s focus was nurtured and grew because of her Spring Hill experience. “At Spring Hill, cura personalis is all around us,” she said. “It’s about those insightful and intentional conversations that I have had with professors and friends that cause me to want to go deeper. It’s about coming out of your comfort zone to ask the questions and seek the answers that will ignite your passions so that you can make a positive change. It’s about being ready and willing to use the talents of your own mind, body and spirit to change the communities that you encounter for the greater good.”

Spring Hill sophomore Andrew Castle (photo courtesy of Spring Hill College)

Spring Hill sophomore Andrew Castle (photo courtesy of Spring Hill College)

Andrew Castle, a sophomore Biology major, wanted to be more than just a number when he entered college: he wanted to find a true campus family. He found just what he was looking for at Spring Hill. “I knew that Jesuit schools understood that you are so much more than just a student,” Castle said. “They know that you are a person, and they work to help you cultivate that person into the best possible form. The degree is what comes at the end of your four years here, but the lessons that you learn and the personal growth that takes place can take you further than anything else in life.”

The Spring Hill experience sets the tone for “real world ready” efforts that the College is making toward expanding accessibility, diversity and affordability. To deliver on affordability, the answer is not to continue as the most expensive college in the state, but to lower its tuition. Starting in Fall 2021, tuition will be cut by half: from the current amount of $41,868 per year to $21,100 per year. This change will make Spring Hill among the country’s most affordable private colleges.

New majors and programs are helping to make the change more “real-world” for students. A degree from Spring Hill will have even more value by the addition of Cybersecurity and Sports Management curricula, a state-of-the-art Nursing lab, and more programs for first-generation students. The College also has a real-world focus through its Center for Online Learning, a division of Spring Hill wholly dedicated to educating and empowering undergraduates, graduate students and non-traditional learners through state-of-the-art courses and technology.

Spring Hill’s St. Joseph Chapel at dusk (photo courtesy of Spring Hill College)

Spring Hill’s St. Joseph Chapel at dusk (photo courtesy of Spring Hill College)

“Students are at the center of every decision we make,” said Dr. E. Joseph Lee II, president of Spring Hill. “We studied this change; we talked with key members of the campus community; we planned to ensure students would benefit holistically. Students’ reaction has been very positive.”

Stories like Rudolph’s and Castle’s shape the future course of how the College will continue to grow and improve. “We will always be looking to innovate,” said Lee. “Those innovations will be shaped by the higher education opportunities that can lead to the best possible outcomes for our students.”

Spring Hill College is sharing a series of student, faculty and alumni stories as part of its new “Real World Ready” campaign. Please visit to view them online.

By Jenny Smulson, Vice President of Government Relations, AJCU

In a posthumous New York Times opinion piece published in late July, the Honorable John Lewis, former member of Congress and Civil Rights leader, wrote, “Democracy is not a state. It is an act, and each generation must do its part to help build what we called the Beloved Community, a nation and world society at peace with itself.”

This year, the challenge of holding an election during a worldwide pandemic has upended our nation’s conventional model for exercising the right to vote. Instead of the majority of voters heading to the polls on Tuesday, November 3, most voters in states across the country voted early and/or by mail. In many states, the margin of victory was slim, reminding us of the importance and value of each vote. During this election season (both on and before November 3), who took John Lewis’ words to heart?

According to the Center for Information Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE), about 52 percent of eligible young people (ages 18-29) voted (an increase of approximately 8 percent from 2016). While young people of color favored the Biden/Harris ticket by significant margins, young voters overall choose President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris by a 61% – 36% margin. Their voices may have been especially impactful in swing states like Michigan and Pennsylvania.

AJCU institutions contributed to this swell of youth participation by providing resources to potential voters, including students, faculty and staff. We highlighted stories from four of our campuses in last month’s issue of Connections. Two more examples can be found at institutions located in the aforementioned Pennsylvania and Michigan: states that helped to tip the balance in this election. At The University of Scranton in Scranton, PA, the Royals Vote initiative provided timely information and resources to help engage student voters. Resource guides shared voting deadlines and explained how to register, develop a voting plan and track one’s ballot. Titans Together For the Vote at the University of Detroit Mercy in Detroit, MI used a similar model, providing students with the important information they would need to take part in the democratic process of voting.

The CIRCLE data show that in both Pennsylvania and Michigan, the net youth vote for President-elect Biden was greater than the vote margin. Did they make the difference? We cannot say that with certainty, but we can say that the youth vote contributed overall to victories for the Biden/Harris ticket. Creating awareness and sharing resources was not unique to these institutions, however, as all AJCU institutions worked to inform, empower and encourage student engagement in the election.

The Presidential election is not the only race that will define the federal policy agenda this year and beyond. Although the results are not final, it appears that Democrats will set the agenda in the U.S. House of Representatives, but with a slimmer margin than in the previous 116th Congress. Control of the Senate is still unknown, with two run-off races in Georgia that will determine which party will hold the majority. The outcomes of these two Georgia Senate races will determine whether we have Democratic majorities in the House, Senate and White House, or if this 117th Congress will begin with shared governance. As in Michigan and Pennsylvania, young voters turned out in the Georgia general election and accounted for 21 percent of the vote. Will they play a significant role in the run-off? My guess is that they will meet the call to act again, and that their votes will be consequential in these high-stakes races.

As we look ahead to January, AJCU has a lot of work to do, and we are excited to get started! We will re-engage with our elected leaders – new and returning – and remind them (or introduce them) of the power of a Jesuit education, and why we work to make this formational type of learning accessible to students from the United States and across the world.