In this edition:
- President's Post
- JASPA Membership Survey
- Monthly Community Impact Award
- Reflection on Leadership in Jesuit University Student Affairs
- More from the AJCU Network
Bridging the American Divide
In the last several weeks, over 72 million people have voted for Joe Biden and over 68 million people cast a vote for Donald Trump. Our country is divided and polarized, and as a result potentially paralyzed.
As a country we have perhaps never faced greater challenges: a raging pandemic, fires and hurricanes fueled by climate change, a national reckoning with (and the denial of) anti-black racism, and the separation of families at our border -- but to name a few.
It is unlikely that we can address these problems, given their complexity and scale, unless we can bridge the American divide. An endeavor that seems perhaps less likely than ever, in the wake of a Donald Trump presidency. And yet, bridge the divide, we must.
The words and actions of our President have directly and substantively threatened marginalized students, staff and faculty on our campuses. For these constituents and their allies, there is nothing academic about this election. In the face of injury and division, what are we called to do? Attend to both.
One avenue to attend to injury and division is to practice what the Ignatian Solidarity Network refers to as prophetic resistance. Prophetic resistance asks us to do two things. First, we must name injustice and to break down the systems that result in marginalization. Second, we must bring together people, of diverse backgrounds and world views, to do the slow, steady and hard work of finding common ground and building new systems based on common values. The first dimension of prophetic resistance -- challenging injustice and advocating for and with the marginalized -- is often at the center of our work with students and is a hallmark of Jesuit student affairs professionals.
The second characteristic, bringing together diverse voices and worldviews, is proving to be an increasingly difficult and uncommon experience in the world around us and on our campuses. Our social media feeds, our sources for news and information and sometimes our daily experiences increasingly lead us to believe that people with progressive and conservative political views share no common values. The history of Jesuit colleges and universities, however, challenge this assertion. Our institutions have long (albeit imperfectly) worked to be “big tents,” intentionally bringing together students, staff and faculty with distinct worldviews around shared values. Our Jesuit values of service, solidarity, justice and cura personalis are not partisan political values -- they are Ignatian -- and emerge out of our Catholic, Jesuit tradition. And these values have long been practiced by people on both “sides of the aisle."
Addressing the great challenges of our time, climate change, systemic racism and inequality, cannot be accomplished by one president in four or even eight years. Especially not a president leading a country as divided as ours. Jesuit colleges and universities, and student affairs professionals in particular, can be leaders in confronting these challenges in various ways. One way is to build on our Jesuit history of calling together constituents of diverse political stripes to explore difference, seek out common ground and to act together on our shared values.
In his latest encyclical, “Fratelli tutti,” Pope Francis argues that underlying and exacerbating many of our gravest problems is an “eruption” of “fragmentation.” As student affairs professionals, we must challenge this trend. As Jesuit student affairs professionals, we are uniquely positioned to leverage our mission to bridge the American divide -- and together we must.
Dave Johnson, Ph.D.
JASPA Membership Survey
One of JASPA’s goals is to respond to the most pressing needs of our organization’s members. To help us do that, we invite you to share your thoughts in a brief online survey.
Understanding how busy everyone is, we worked to make this survey as short as possible. This survey should take around five minutes to complete and will help us with our plans in the coming months, particularly in terms of online enrichment and networking opportunities.
We would greatly appreciate receiving your response no later than Friday, November 20, 2020. If you have any questions about the survey, please contact Shannon Howes, Vice President for Scholarship & Member Services at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you!
Click here to take the survey.
Monthly Community Impact Award
Each month we continue to recognize members of the JASPA community who are creating innovative ways to integrate our Jesuit values into student affairs work on their respective campus. The purpose of the JASPA Community Impact Award is to highlight a program, service, publication, or institutional commitment that embodies the values of Jesuit higher education. Awardees are selected monthly to showcase best practices integrating Jesuit mission and identity to inform our student affairs work.
Click here for the nomination form for the September and October Community Impact Awards. Nominations are due on Friday, November 27, 2020. The September and October 2020 Awardees will be announced in next month’s newsletter.
Reflection on Leadership in Jesuit University Student Affairs
I am now one month into retirement from my position as Vice President for Student Affairs at John Carroll University after a 40+ year career working in student affairs. As I reflect on the experiences I have had to grow as a professional and leader, I recognize the privilege I have had to immerse myself in the Ignatian heritage and common mission we share through our service at Jesuit university and colleges. I know that I will be forever grateful for the network of lay and Jesuit leaders and colleagues who have been touchstones, mentors, guides, spiritual directors and teachers in this noble profession we have chosen.
In May of 1999, Melissa Rosas, the student commencement speaker at Marquette University, shared part of story written by a Native American, Gawani Pony Boy, that has stuck with me and guided me through many transitions in my career and life filled with cultural, economic, personal, social, financial and leadership changes and challenges. The story begins: ”Our paths’ crossing is not a mistake. Though our Grandmothers could not know which flowers we would pick or which stones would make us stumble, our Creator surely did.” He continues: ”I am young and do not know many things, but this I know -- our paths’ crossing is not a mistake -- they crossed for a reason, a reason our Creator knows of. We must find out why, and in doing so, ensure that the paths [of those who come behind us] will also cross. This I know.”
In many ways I believe that successful leaders recognize that they stand on the shoulders of those who came before, while having the sensitivity, vision and capacity to do as Fr. Pedro Arrupe said to “read the signs of the times” and to “see what we do with fresh eyes.” Upon his election and first homily to the general congregation as the new Superior General of the Society of Jesus, Fr. Nicholas Adolfo, stated, “Perhaps this is what we need to discern, in this moment of our history where do we need to fix our attention, our service, our energy.” This combination of learning about and coming to understand our past while engaging with our current challenges to move us forward toward a different future requires reflective and engaging leaders. We are truly blessed to be working at universities that were founded in a nearly 500 year tradition and a set of values that guide our work even in the most difficult and challenging times in which we find ourselves. It is important to call upon these values so that we might “focus our attention, our service and our energy” to work relentlessly on behalf of, with and for the students we serve.
When I left my position as the Dean of Student Development at Marquette to become Vice President for Student Affairs at John Carroll, my colleagues put together a book of letters from students, staff and faculty about the lessons they learned from me. I realize now that they had it all wrong -- the lessons they described were really the lessons I learned from them. Perhaps they may guide you in your leadership in student affairs work. I have reflected on them often and they have served me well:
- Give people a chance and think well of others. They often surprise you. When others are complaining or frustrated about the actions of others, think about how you can give them the “best possible interpretation” (the Jesuits often talk about this).
- Be prepared, do your homework, identify the best practices out there, stay current, use data to back up your assumptions, read the literature and be an engaged professional.
- Be approachable -- laugh often and find humor in situations, even the most onerous ones.
- Invite others into conversations, encourage genuine collaboration and share information (be transparent).
- Recognize that your limitations are also your gifts -- they remind us that we are human.
- Respect others, lead with trust, laugh with and not about them, care for them as whole persons.
- Be passionate about what you do -- our profession is life giving.
- Be patient and take the long view -- remember something gracious about the past and seek out renewal of the grace in new situations.
- Details are important to keep track of -- don’t overspend your budget, proofread before you hit the send button, be on time for meetings and make a contribution when you are at meetings.
- Most of all -- recognize the importance of gratitude in your work and life. Gratitude enables us to reach beyond ourselves and focus on the needs of others.
Our path as leaders in student affairs work in Jesuit higher education carries with it a long history of culture, tradition, respect, compassion and love. Calling upon this history in the day to day actions we take, decisions we make and interactions we have can shape who we are as leaders and help us to find the motivation, creativity, compassion and perseverance to carry on our work and ensure that the paths of those who come behind us will also cross. This I know.
Mark D. McCarthy, Ph.D.
Retired Vice President for Student Affairs
John Carroll University
More from the AJCU Network