(Denver) March 13, 2012 — The first international Jesuit Commons: Higher Education at the Margins Think Tank at Regis University came to a rousing conclusion March 8 with a final round of spirited discussions, poignant presentations and the promise of recommendations that will guide the organization’s future in bring Jesuit higher education to those at the margins of our society.
Jesuit Catholic higher education leaders and innovators from nearly 30 countries were among 120 attendees at the four-day event March 5-8, designed to envision and chart the future of a program that for the past two years has been providing online education to refugees in Kenya, Malawi, and Syria.
The desired outcome of the 'think tank' is to expand the vision and outreach of JC:HEM to empower those at the very edges of our societies through access to Jesuit higher education so that together we may foster hope to create a more peaceful and humane world.
The final day of the conference featured a session on Learning and Synthesis, facilitated by author Paul Nakai and Mary McFarland, international director of JC:HEM and a Gonzaga University professor; a session on Commitments and Responsibilities for the Future with presentations by Fr. Michael Garanzini, S.J., president of Loyola University Chicago and Secretary of Higher Education for the Society of Jesus, and Fr. Stephen Privett, S.J., president of the University of San Francisco; and a closing session and forward steps by McFarland.
A fishbowl and large-group conversation the previous day proved beneficial for participants as well. That discussion included Father Garanzini, Lesley-Anne Knight, Jesuit Refugee Service International Administrative Council; Fr. Michael Lewis, S.J., Jesuits of Africa and Madagascar; Fr. Michael Smith S.J., MCD University of Divinity and Nakai.
The ambitious agenda also included a pre-conference on the first two days which focused on current JC:HEM education programs in Kenya, Malawi and Syria, and offered development and problem-solving discussions on topics such as curriculum, Ignatian pedagogy, human and fiscal resources, organizational structures, and technology. Luis Amaral, S.J., Kakuma Camp, Kenya; Clotilde Giner, Dzaleka Camp, Malawi; and Anne Ziegler, Aleppo, Syria; all also provided updates their respective camps.
Another major conference highlight included two keynote addresses featuring Vincent Cochetel, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees regional representative for the U.S. and Caribbean, who spoke about "Lives at the Margins – The United Nations Looks at the Future" and Father Garanzini, who spoke on "The 450-Year Jesuit Mission at the Margins."
Also among the 'think tank' attendees were Heroic Leadership author and Jesuit Commons President Chris Lowney; Peter Balleis, S.J., international director of Jesuit Refugee Service; author Paul Nakai who facilitated the conference; Fr. Gregory Lucey, S.J., president of the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities (AJCU); Fr. Charlie Currie, S.J., former AJCU president; and Michael A. Evans, S.J., National Director of Jesuit Refugee Service/USA.
JC:HEM is an initiative of the Society of Jesus that brings Jesuit higher education to those at the margins of our society. JC:HEM works with the Jesuit Refugee Service and more than 15 Jesuit universities that has enabled more than 250 refugees to study courses online and on-site in partnership with a global network of Jesuit universities. Those refugees can earn a diploma in liberal studies and pursue community service learning tracks for a certificate of completion that benefit daily life in the camps.
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