‘A Light to the Nations’: Catholic Relief Services Partners with Catholic Colleges and Universities

As we enter the Advent season, we are reminded of our continual call to direct our hearts and minds to the coming of Jesus Christ. As we do so, we reflect on his eternal sacrifice and his life on earth. Christ came to us a “light to the nations” and was a true example of how to give yourself to those in need. As Catholics we are called to do the same, for “the Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the broken hearted, to proclaim liberty to captives and freedom to prisoners; to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord and the day of vengeance of our God” (Isaiah 21:1-2).

For Catholic colleges and universities, partnering with Catholic Relief Services (CRS) offers the opportunity to lead by example and follow Christ’s example to be a light in the world. CRS uses the message of Jesus to defend the dignity of all human life through charity, justice, and living out Catholic Social Teaching. CRS offers these university and college partnerships as a way of “joining in solidarity with the global poor through education, prayer, and action.” Campuses have the opportunity to partner with CRS in three ways: through CRS Student Ambassadors, CRS faculty learning commons, and as a CRS Global Campus.

Villanova University is using their partnership with CRS through the Student Ambassadors program to advance its mission of awareness and solidarity for those in need. According to CRS, student ambassadors “are trained by CRS to mobilize their peers and bring to life the mission of solidarity, [which then] allows for chapters to connect and build across the nation.” At Villanova, student ambassadors are bringing awareness to their peers of modern-day slavery. In honor of Human Trafficking Awareness Day, student ambassadors set up a table in a popular campus building in order to engage as many students as possible. Ambassadors gave students blue duct-taped ribbons to wear throughout the week in order to spark questions and discussion among peers.

The table also provided pamphlets with information on quick ways to help human trafficking victims. These tips ranged from how to identify possible victims to how to become a conscientious and informed consumer. Human Trafficking Awareness Day concluded with a screening of the documentary “Indifference is Not an Option.” According to CRS, the film “chronicles the lives of three escaped slaves spanning three countries and calls people to fight and stop hiding behind the excuse of ignorance.” The screening ended with the audience signing 80 advocacy letters. “These letters urged senators and representatives to pass the Supply Chain Transparency Act, which would help combat forced labor by forcing companies to reveal steps in their supply chain,” noted CRS.

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The Catholic University of America partnered with Catholic Relief Services to host CRS Iraq director Hani El Mahdi. From left to right: Hani El Mahdi; CRS Student Ambassador Mary Lastowka; CUA associate professor Dr. Maryann Cusimano Love; and CRS University Outreach representative Mary Beth Iduh.

Professors at The Catholic University of America are using resources provided by CRS Faculty Learning Commons to put a human face on issues learned in the classroom. CRS explains how faculty learning commons “provides opportunities for faculty members and other academic leaders to enrich student learning experiences by tapping into CRS’s expertise in global development and humanitarian response through the world.”

Professor Maryann Cusimano Love leverages CUA’s partnership with CRS in her politics courses by using the CRS faculty learning commons materials as required readings that deal with issues such as war and peace, refugees, global poverty, climate change, human trafficking, fair trade, and moral responsibilities to global challenges. Students then have a chance to answer written questions, she explains, and use the materials as an “example of how a general topic discussed in class manifests in a specific circumstance.” She also invites students to use CRS materials for projects and gives them the “opportunity to partner with CRS to bring in a speaker to campus or engage with CRS programming.” Love recalled how one student group chose to look at the issues faced by Iraqi refugees and invited Hani El Mahdi, director of CRS Iraq, to speak at CUA.

Dante Orlandini, senior politics major at CUA, recalls that “through the implementation of studies, documentation, and techniques, Dr. Love effectively incorporated Catholic Relief Services’ mission into our Global Issues course at Catholic, which provided me with valuable lessons.” Dr. Love explains that by partnering with CRS, “students are taken out of their comfort zone and grapple with the real world consequences of global trends, and reflect on whether and how they are contributing to global problems or to global solutions.”

Love notes that “CUA, with its Washington, DC, location, is blessed to live and work at the intersection of Church and state. CRS works on this same intersection, bringing our values of faith to the global problems of the world.”

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As a Catholic Relief Services Global Campus, Marquette University students participate in the Student Ambassador Program in order “to increase student awareness of global poverty and how CRS works to address these issues.”

The final way that campuses partner with CRS is by becoming a global campus. Through this institutional partnership, CRS engages with the campus through all three core constituencies: students, faculty, and administration, with the support of campus ministry and social justice staff. As a global campus, the college or university participates in both the Student Ambassador Program and the Faculty Learning Commons Program and establishes an interdisciplinary CRS advisory group. Sherri Walker, the program coordinator at Marquette’s Center for Peacemaking, explains that “as a global campus, Marquette University contributes to and also learns from CRS’s work in peace building” by using CRS’s work and examples as a way to “help form men and women who can be instruments of peace building and champions of a more equitable world.”

Because Marquette is a CRS Global Campus, its faculty have the opportunity to engage with CRS by using “collaborative methods of teaching, learning, and research that connect Marquette classrooms with CRS’s world-class teaching resources and research that addresses world problems,” Walker adds. For instance, Marquette faculty and administrators participated in the Ghana Faculty Enrichment Program. Walker notes that this program “served as a pilot project aimed at creating a model for partnering with the CRS country program in Ghana, as well as local universities. This partnership was expected to lead to joint research programs and closer collaboration between the in-country program staff, local university professors, and U.S. professors.” During this immersion experience, participants “studied the integral human development framework that CRS uses to design its programming, and the country-specific academic research that leads to development programming decisions.”

Walker explains that as a Catholic institution, Marquette recognizes that “God’s love is not restricted to a select few, but is extended to all.” From this perspective, “students from all faith traditions understands CRS’s engagement with populations where the majority are not Catholic.”

The month of December is the perfect time to learn about how Catholic colleges and universities are seeking to empower others to fight for peace and justice throughout the nation and world. By partnering with CRS in a variety of ways, institutions are given the opportunity to enrich the classroom experience and foster a community willing and ready to serve

Villanova’s Low-cost Robot to Aid Cambodia

Villanova University faculty and students are seeking to live out the university’s mission of to help create a more sustainable world through serving those in need in Cambodia. Cambodia has suffered decades of bombings followed by the rise of the Khmer Rouge which lead to the Cambodian genocide. Eventually Cambodia was able to push the Khmer Rouge out of Cambodia through the use of a significant number of landmines. Cambodia is now contaminated with explosive remnants of war, which has led to the death of 64,121 innocent people as of June 2012. (SITE) As a developing country, Cambodia does not have the access to “expensive military-grade EOD (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) robots” which are designed to provide advanced capabilities when it comes to the disposing of bombs.

Villanova University has collaborated with the Golden West Humanitarian foundation (GWHF) to address the urgent need for a lower-cost EOD robot solution. The main objective of this project is to “design and build a low-cost humanitarian explosive ordnance disposal robot capable of operating in low income countries, like Cambodia.”

Since the project began in 2013, four Villanova engineering faculty and more than 25 Villanova Engineering students have worked on this project. They have completing field trials in Cambodia and the most recent prototype was “determined ready to undergo redesign for production.” The robot has met the necessary goals of being economically viable, simple to repair, a wide range of mobility, and is operator-friendly. Villanova is now seeking donors to help with bringing this life-saving robot to the market.

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Inclusion on Campus: Support Underrepresented Students who are Pursuing High-Need Careers

savethedate-bannerAs Catholic campuses, we strive to build a true sense of community and oneness based on our understanding that we are all children of God. ACCU member institutions have developed many successful initiatives to bring about greater diversity and a stronger sense of inclusion. Here, we share just a few of those practices that have helped forge vibrant, welcoming campus communities.

Underrepresented students may be the first in their families to pursue a career in fields such as science or technology. Offering them specialized resources can help them achieve their goal. St. Mary’s University (Texas) recently received a $5.3 million grant through the U.S. Department of Education’s Hispanic-Serving Institutions STEM program. The five-year grant will fund creation of new STEM programs and include coaching services for Hispanic students. St. Mary’s has seen significant enrollment gains in undergraduate STEM programs since 2010, especially among Hispanic students.

Villanova University hosts a number of efforts, such as a weeklong Diversity in Engineering camp, designed to introduce STEM topics to students in low-income communities and inspire their interest in related careers. Students are introduced to Villanova’s College of Engineering’s programs like international service learning, Sustainable Engineering and Engineering Entrepreneurship to inspire a diverse population of students form different ethnic and social backgrounds to the traditional fields of engineering.

Over the next few weeks, we will release short examples of  diversity at Catholic institutions of Higher Education as part of a series called “Inclusion on Campus”.  Stay tuned to hear how Catholic institutions are promoting diversity as an expression of God’s grandeur!

Catholic Colleges and Universities Raise Awareness During Hunger and Homelessness Week

Catholic colleges and universities across the nation observed National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week, November 15-21, 2016. The week, began by Villanova University in 1975, has since spread to over 700 campuses and communities, becoming the most widely organized hunger and homelessness event of its type nationwide.  Here are some examples from Catholic colleges:

Villanova University organized a food drive, a solidarity sleepout, and interfaith vigils on the issue of hunger and homelessness.

At Assumption College, Social Justice Ambassadors assembled “Helping Hands” bags to distribute to individuals on the street, encouraged students in the dining hall to eat what a typical meal would be at a soup kitchen, and also held a solidarity sleepout.

Saint John’s University campus ministry sponsored many events including a poverty simulation, a benefit concert, and a service opportunity as part of the week.

The Catholic University of America hosted a number of events such as a hunger banquet, a way of the cross prayer service focused on migration, and a speaker event with local advocate for those who are homeless.

These Catholic colleges and universities, and many others, are reflecting on the Catholic Social Teaching, the option for the poor and vulnerable, creatively tackling direct engagement and awareness in the issues of hunger and homelessness.

Did your campus observe Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week? Share it with us! Email Lexie Bradley.

 

 

Catholic Colleges Featured on Sierra Club’s Cool School’s List

Ten Catholic colleges and universities were featured as 2016 Cool Schools in Sierra Magazine. This list measures colleges in their sustainability efforts in energy, investments, co-curricular, food, innovation, academics, planning, purchasing, transport, waste, and water. Colleges reported their programs and initiatives through the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System (STARS), a program of The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE).

Schools included are Loyola University of Chicago (featured in the Top 20 Cool Schools), Aquinas College, Creighton University, Gonzaga University, Loyola Marymount University, Saint Louis University, Santa Clara University, Seattle University, St. John’s University, and Villanova University.

Congratulations to the colleges on their sustainability initiatives!

Two Catholic Colleges Awarded Second Chance Pell Grant

Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Education awarded 67 colleges and universities with Second Chance Pell grants, to be used to off-set or even cover the costs of tuition for incarcerated individuals pursuing an associate’s or bachelor’s degree. According to the U.S. Department of Education, the pilot program is meant to “build on existing research to examine the effects of restoring Pell eligibility.”

The Second Chance Pell grant pilot will have a significant impact on the students receiving the grants. According to a 2013 RAND Corporation study, offenders who participate in education programs while in prison are 43 percent less likely to return to prison within three years. In reducing re-incarceration or recidivism, RAND estimates that every dollar spent on prison education programs will save four to five dollars on re-incarceration costs.

Knowing that prison or correctional education programs have this kind of effect on offenders, over 200 institutions of higher education applied for Second Chance Pell, Inside Higher Ed reports. Of the 67 that were chosen to receive the grants, two Catholic colleges were chosen: Holy Cross College and Villanova University. Among the two institutions, the grants will be awarded to a total of 125 students.  Congratulations to these two institutions and their students!

How does your college or university educate incarcerated and formerly incarcerated individuals? Let us know!