DECEMBER 2011 | VOL. 12 NO. 4  
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  Ignatian Colleagues Program Participants Inspired by Experience, Called to Action

Dr. Amanda Thomas and Dr. Karyl Leggio from Loyola University Maryland offer their perspectives on the Ignatian Colleagues Program.

When I was asked to consider joining the initial cohort of the Ignatian Colleagues Program (ICP), my first response was “uh, me?”

I called the director (who was very encouraging and knowledgeable), checked around with some friends, and basically figured if I did this, I was signing up to spend a lot of time focusing on subject matter I knew very little about. Orientation didn’t help matters much; it seemed that everyone but me had been on silent retreats, knew in which “week” of the Exercises he or she was currently living, and was ready for high level, theological debate at any moment. But it turned out that being a part of the ICP was the best use of time I could possibly have chosen. The readings and accompanying online/web chats were more than interesting – they’ve already proved helpful in my day to day work as an administrator (how did Ignatius manage to write almost 7,000 letters in his lifetime?).

During the 18 months of the program, I learned a significant amount and was spurred by my fabulous colleagues at other AJCU institutions to come up with some good ideas to use on my campus. I completed an Ignatian pedagogy project that became a spotlight initiative of the current strategic plan for the Loyola Clinical Centers, an interdisciplinary graduate training clinic that provides quality facilities and treatment for people experiencing difficulties in the areas of psychology, pastoral counseling, literacy, hearing, speech, and language. That program is still going strong. The Magis retreat, a week of silence in the Rocky Mountains with fantastic spiritual directors, was truly exceptional.

Beyond description was the transformative experience of the international immersion trip to El Salvador. As we walked through the garden of the University of Central America where six Jesuits, their housekeeper and her daughter were slaughtered just 22 years ago, my colleagues and I heard the traumatic stories from survivors of the past war and the current gang violence. When we tried to understand the economy and government of a country that does not have its own currency, we experienced exactly what the late Rev. Dean Brackley, SJ described: we fell in love, our hearts were broken, we were ruined for life. Ruined in the best way possible. I am sure that it was God calling me personally to this program, to have a formative experience that made me feel responsible for living the Jesuit mission, each and every day, at Loyola University Maryland.

Amanda M. Thomas, Ph.D.
Associate Vice President for Graduate Studies & Professor of Psychology, Loyola University Maryland

Silence is a scarce and valuable commodity to the dean of a business school.

Meetings, travel, and miscellaneous functions outside of my daily commitments often commandeer the moments that could be devoted to substantive contemplation. So when I was recently afforded the opportunity to truly reflect during an Ignatian Colleagues Program (ICP) silent retreat, I took full advantage of the precious quiet, focusing my attention on how the Jesuit mission should influence my role within Loyola University Maryland, the community, and the world. Among the many answers: a commitment to social justice. But how, where, and when could that commitment be applied most effectively?

My inspiration was born out of a Sunday Mass thousands of miles from home. While on an ICP immersion trip to El Salvador, our group of 30 university leaders visited an isolated, sparsely populated village that had been devastated by massacres. The people were strong despite the tragedy they had weathered. Their perseverance and conviction were palpable. Over the course of our time in country, another, more subtle reality became strikingly obvious: the economy in El Salvador is in shambles. There are no jobs. A vast majority of the parishioners attending Mass were either women or children missing a husband, father, brother, or son who had left the country to pursue minimum wage jobs in the United States – only to send home most of their earnings to ensure their families are fed, clothed, and have a place to live. Crime is rampant in El Salvador. So is corruption.

I can’t fix El Salvador. I knew, however, that I could take what I saw in El Salvador and devote time to confronting similar decades-long economic plight that has ravaged Loyola’s neighbors in Baltimore, Maryland, as well as many urban communities across America. The principal community engagement initiative of Loyola’s current strategic plan is the York Road Initiative, which aims to improve the quality of life for everyone living, working, and learning in the economically challenged Govanstowne neighborhood situated immediately east of campus – and my ICP experience made it abundantly clear that this was my opportunity to get involved. This was my opportunity to make a difference.

I joined the task force. I received grant funding for an AmeriCorps VISTA member to coordinate a small business resource center for the York Road community (run by the Sellinger School). Together, the Sellinger School, Loyola, local partners, and our Govanstowne neighbors brought a farmers market to the community so residents would have access to fresh produce; sales and traffic data from the farmers market will be used to support the need for a grocery store in the community. We developed websites for businesses in an effort to help them expand; taught social networking classes; developed classes in financial literacy; and wrote business plans to help Govanstowne businesses grow.

For me, it was ICP that lit the fire. With the Ignatian philosophy as a prominent thread in the fabric of curriculums at Jesuit business schools, students graduate prepared to lead with a focus on social justice. Helping someone in less fortunate circumstances will be your true legacy. As educators, we must emphasize to our students that the legacy you leave will not solely be what you do to grow a company; it will be what you do in the community that adds value.

Karyl B. Leggio, Ph.D., Dean, Loyola University Maryland Sellinger School of Business and Management