BY ISN STAFF | August 16, 2016
From July 26-29, ISN held its fifth University Leaders Summit on the campus of John Carroll University in University Heights, OH. 25 student leaders representing ten Jesuit universities engaged in a variety of sessions designed to provide formation in the areas of leadership, social justice and Ignatian spirituality.
The Summit provided space and time for networking and discussion, and student participants seized the opportunity for dynamic collaboration, sharing experiences of advocating for justice on their home campuses and in their communities, and taking action to facilitate a multi-campus program during the 2016-2017 academic year.
Motivated by successful mock border wall projects on the campuses of John Carroll University and Santa Clara University, Summit participants created an action plan to establish an “Immigration Week” on all Jesuit campuses during the 2016-2017 school year. Vanessa Kreiss, Summit participant, John Carroll University student and ISN intern explains that the week will include “similar events such as a mock border wall, slam poetry, documentary showings, wall campouts,” and other activities tailored to the needs and interest of each campus community. Precious Uwaya, student at Loyola University Maryland explains that the project is “able to combine the issues of global politics and immigration….we are both educating students and taking that one step further and trying to bring justice to the issue of immigration.”
Throughout the Summit, students engaged in programming designed to encourage reflection upon development of leadership skills tied to various Jesuit role models, including Pedro Arrupe, St. Ignatius of Loyola and Pope Francis, with facilitators including ISN board president Fred Kammer, S.J., Jimmy Menkhaus, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Theology at Gannon University, Monsieree de Castro, NETWORK fellow and University Leaders Summit alumna, and ISN Executive Director Christopher Kerr.
Monsieree de Castro provided a unique and engaging perspective, as a former Summit participant, student activist and recent graduate continuing to work for justice. Using the Jesuit martyrs as a model of challenging systems, de Castro invited participants to consider the risks, benefits and processes involved in challenging systems on college campuses. She drew from specific examples from her time as a student at Gonzaga University, where she successfully helped develop a Solidarity and Social Justice minor and brought Alta Gracia’s living wage apparel to the campus bookstore.
Joining Monsieree de Castro to form a Young Alumni Panel were Samantha Cocco, a John Carroll University graduate and former Jesuit Volunteer who is currently working at John Carroll University as Assistant Director of the Center for Service and Social Action and Carissa Avalos, a Fordham University alumna and current graduate student who has worked in the realm of community health and, who, in 2014, co-created IgnatianQ: The LGBTQ & Ally Conference. The three panelists provided wide-ranging and concrete examples of how Jesuit-educated individuals apply their passion for social justice, both as students and alumni.
ISN Program Director, Kim Miller, expressed enthusiasm for the dynamic that developed as students engaged in discussion surrounding campus initiatives and personal passions, guided by program facilitators. “We create spaces for networking where they don’t typically exist,” explains Miller, of the ability for the Summit to unite students from various regions throughout the country with one another and a diverse team of presenters.
Students left with concrete ideas and plans and renewed energy for taking action as they return to their campuses this fall. In the words of one participant, “coming together with other individuals my age who are just as passionate about social justice as I am ignites my soul, my fire to work harder—to truly be a part of a faith that does action.”