In his autobiography, St. Ignatius of Loyola describes a “great commotion at the university” that occurs after he gives the Spiritual Exercises to a few prominent teachers and students. Five centuries later, a similar dynamic can occur whenever a student, staff, or faculty member is transformed by an Ignatian formation program and is invited to exteriorize what they have deeply interiorized. St. Ignatius was willing to disrupt the status quo of universities and other institutions in order to see things new and follow God’s calling in the service of the common good. Jesuit schools, in the spirit of their founder, have evolved over time to meet the educational demands of the changing societies in which they operate. And while the forms of Jesuit education have been updated, including the development of professional and continuing education programs like those at Georgetown’s School of Continuing Studies (SCS), the essential core of Ignatian-inspired teaching and learning has never changed. Universities like Georgetown and schools within them like SCS continue to uphold a humanistic tradition with a religious vision that, initiated 500 years ago and celebrated in this Ignatian Year, is constantly seeking how to most effectively respond to the challenges of our time while attending to the unique contexts of our diverse learners.
At SCS, whose vision is to “transform the lives and careers of diverse lifelong learners by providing access to engaged and personalized liberal and professional education for all,” the intentional incorporation of the Spirit of Georgetown continues to bear fruit across the academic enterprise. Faculty are encouraged to explore the resources of Ignatian Pedagogy in order to integrate Jesuit values across the curriculum. For example, SCS Vice Dean Shenita Ray’s guide, Strategies to Integrate Georgetown Values into Online and On-Campus Courses, helps faculty and instructional designers visualize the practical ways that Ignatian Pedagogy can come alive in assignments and other learning activities.
Students, faculty, and staff are also invited to participate in a variety of Ignatian-inspired retreats and other spirituality programs, including SCS Daily Digital Meditation, a digitally connected community that originated at the beginning of the pandemic that continues to extend the resources of mindfulness meditation, including a weekly Examen. And a weekly blog reflection, Mission in Motion, narrates the many ways that SCS students, faculty, staff, and alumni live out Jesuit values in their study, work, and engagement with the communities beyond Georgetown.
One of the signature SCS manifestations of Ignatian spirituality and pedagogy is “Jesuit Values in Professional Practice” (recently renamed “The Reflective Professional”), a first-of-its-kind elective open to all degree-seeking students at the School. Offered annually since 2016, this community-based learning course, which is supported by Georgetown’s Center for Social Justice, Research, Teaching & Service, is a reflection-based exploration of the history, education philosophy, spirituality, and social justice applications of Jesuit education. I created the interdisciplinary course in response to my own transformative experience of the Spiritual Exercises. Similar to those early Ignatian-animated citizens of the university, I discerned at the retreat’s conclusion how best to share my transformative experience with others. The outcome of my discernment was a dedicated course that introduces some of the tools of the Ignatian tradition in a way that honors religious pluralism, advances social justice, and meets the needs of busy adult learners at SCS.
All of these experiences hopefully make clear that the enduring resources of Jesuit education and the vision of its founder animate the life of SCS. In this Ignatian Year, I invite you to consider: what might it mean for you to cause a little graced commotion at Georgetown and beyond? How might you listen for and respond to deep callings in your life, your study, and your work?
Jamie Kralovec is the Associate Director for Mission Integration at the School of Continuing Studies.