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An Examination of Alternative Break Trips and Whiteness in Catholic Education

2022-01-19 @ 3:00 pm - 4:15 pm

An Examination of Alternative Break Trips and Whiteness in Jesuit Education is a recent publication written by Susan Haarman and Annie Selak. Alternative break trips punctuate life on Jesuit high school and college campuses, acting as experiences of conversion and putting faith into action. The Universal Apostolic Preferences of “walking with the excluded” and “accompanying the youth” come together in the practice of alternative break programs. However, these trips often operate through the position of whiteness.

In this paper, we examine alternative service trips through the lens of whiteness. Too often, predominately white groups insert themselves into non-white contexts and assert themselves as owners of the space. Practices of white high school and university students instrumentalizing experiences of service as agents in their own conversion displace the agency of others, resulting in a lack of solidarity and a shallow experience of walking with the excluded. While walking with the excluded is an important preference to enact, it must not be done in the posture of “inverted hospitality.” Accompanying the youth entails challenging structures of whiteness and privilege. We propose best practices for accompanying the youth through resisting cultures of whiteness and instead moving towards solidarity.


Susan Haarman

Susan Haarman hails from Louisville, KY, but has lived in Milwaukee, Texas, Berkeley, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and the fine city of Chicago. She serves as the Associate Director of the Center for Experiential Learning at Loyola University Chicago, where she runs their service-learning program and faculty development programs. She was first exposed to Jesuit education as an undergraduate at Marquette University and has been connected to an Ignatian apostolate or Jesuit school as an employee or a student since 2000. Susan holds a Masters in Divinity from the Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley and a Masters in Community Counseling from Loyola University Chicago. She has been working in higher education for almost 15 years and is also a Licensed Professional Counselor.

Susan specializes in Ignatian Pedagogy’s connection to personal growth and transformation, especially within the realm of community-based learning, civic engagement, and service immersions. Previous to joining the CEL team, she served as the Faith and Justice Campus Minister, primarily in charge of the Alternative Break Immersion program. In her time in this position, she more than tripled the program. Susan is passionate about Jesuit education, community-based learning, and asking the big questions of how a university seeks to transform the social reality it also participates in.

Annie Selak

Annie Selak is the Associate Director in the Women’s Center at Georgetown University. Annie comes to the Women’s Center with a wealth of experience in student affairs, Jesuit higher education, and theology. She spent 4 years as a residence hall rector at the University of Notre Dame, where she also had dual appointments in the Career Center and the Center for Social Concerns. In this capacity, she was involved in student leadership and development, sexual assault prevention and response, vocational discernment, and preparing students for culturally-informed service-learning trips.

Annie earned her doctorate in systematic theology at Boston College, specializing in the church in the United States. Her academic research includes rape culture on Catholic college campuses, identity formation in young women, multicultural and interfaith aspects of Catholicism, responding to the sex abuse crisis in the Catholic church, feminist and liberation theology, and racism and sexism in the Catholic church. Her research has appeared in Modern Theology, Journal for Catholic Social Thought, America Magazine, Washington Post, and several edited volumes and collections. She has taught in diverse learning environments including the University of Notre Dame, Boston College, and Marymount University. As a former Jesuit Volunteer (Detroit, 2005-06), Annie is committed to supporting Jesuit higher education and served on the board of directors for Alpha Sigma Nu, the Jesuit Honor Society. She is a graduate of Santa Clara University (BA Religious Studies, BS Political Science) and the Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley (MDiv). She is a native Californian and lives in Washington, D.C.