July Newsletter: Finding God in All Things
- JASPA Innovation Grant Recipients
- News from the AJCU Network
Just about three years ago, on a chilly fall night, I was sitting next to a campfire with my then four-year-old son and three-year-old daughter. Ben and Eva were each resting on one of my legs, all of us simultaneously leaning towards the fire and into one another. I vividly remember our conversation. We had been talking about love and marriage in the simplistic and sweet way that young children do. At some point I asked them, “Ben and Eva, when you grow up do you think you will marry a boy or a girl.” Eva answered first, as she often does, “A boy, definitely a boy.” Ben answered second but with equal confidence, “A boy. Yes, a boy.”
I realize I shouldn’t make too much of my four-year-old’s musings, but I couldn’t help but be moved by his conviction. I recall thinking (and very much feeling), I want to do everything I can so that Ben and Eva continue to feel encouraged—and have the courage—to be their truest selves.
I have worked and studied on Catholic university campuses for just over twenty years. Over the years, I have watched students come alive as they discover and embrace their authentic sense of self. These students generally leave our schools with passion, purpose and pace. I also have witnessed students, who have been discouraged from embracing their identities, suffer and struggle. For some of our students, that discouragement has targeted their gender and sexual identity. Some, too many to be sure, have heard the message that they should find God in all things – though perhaps not in their own identity.
In recent years, our Jesuit colleges and universities have increasingly named this reality. As well, many leaders: students, staff, Jesuits and faculty have boldly nudged, invited and cajoled our schools to live our values of solidarity, justice and cura personalis by inviting all of our students to find God and the good in their truest and most authentic identities.
This June, in the midst of virtual Pride events, I read articles by Jesuit priests, students and well-known authors reflecting on the history, meaning and importance of Pride. The themes and analysis have been moving and diverse, often in harmony though occasionally at odds. Three of my own take-aways have been that Pride is about protest, celebration and invitation. Pride is a protest of forces that discourage, marginalize and restrict; it is a celebration of God’s presence in all people; and it is an invitation to transform our campuses and the world so that all our students and all people might be encouraged to be their most authentic selves.
As we prepare for an academic year unlike any before, the demands on our time, attention and focus will be many and complex. Our Ignatian tradition offers us a path through the challenges before us, to find God in all things. May we seek God in the good and hard work involved in welcoming our students safely to our campuses. And too, may we not lose sight of God in ourselves and especially in our many, diverse and beautiful identities.
Dave Johnson, PhD
JASPA Innovation Grant Recipients
Each year, JASPA’s Innovation Grants fund projects that are informed by current research, and designed to address pressing issues in Jesuit student affairs. Applications are evaluated based on criteria that include (but not limited to) the projects’ alignment with JASPA’s goals and values, potential impact, and emphasis on diversity and inclusion. Committee members were extremely impressed by the outstanding applications that were submitted this year, and wished that it was possible to fund them all. The committee is excited to announce that the following projects will receive funding in the 2020-2021 academic year:
- Black Women Matter: A Retreat (Katie Dalton, Boston College)
- Graduate Students Leadership Program (Carole Hughes, Boston College)
Restorative Justice Conference Facilitators Apprenticeship (John Orozco, Loyola Marymount University)
At the end of the academic year, please look for JASPA newsletter posts, webinars, and/or other opportunities for the grant recipients to share their findings and recommendations with the JASPA community.
Thank you to the JASPA Innovation Grants committee members: Keith Eldredge (Fordham University), Shannon Howes (Loyola University Chicago), Jeremy Kaler (Fairfield University), Jack McLean (Loyola University Chicago), Bernell Nevil (Santa Clara University), Mark Piatkowski (Canisius College), Jordan Schwabauer (Rockhurst University).
News from the AJCU Network