Being Hoyas for Others: Rebuilding our Campus Community

By Madeline Vitek Memenza, Associate Director in the Office of Campus Ministry.

A group of colleagues standing together in front of trees with autumnal leaves

Erik Smulson (C’89), VP for Public Affairs & Senior Advisor to the President with staff from Public Affairs, Business Policy, Protocol & Events, and Strategic Communications.

In the Fall of 2021, Georgetown University carefully negotiated a physical return to campus life. Much of the university’s focus was aimed at the student experience ensuring their transition to life on the Hilltop – many for the first time – was as smooth as possible. 

However, as the community attended to the needs of students (and rightly so) Campus Ministry noticed that staff seemed to also be struggling as they returned to campus. The COVID-19 pandemic fundamentally reshaped our individual and collective relationships with ‘work.’ This has special implications at Georgetown, a community and workplace where relationships are essential to nearly all of our roles, regardless of the department or specialty. Indeed, for many of us who call Georgetown our professional home, the supportive and collegial relationships we build with other staff are key to our sense of belonging, value, and engagement at work. 

We heard resoundingly from staff all across campus that coming back together was challenging and that relationship- and community-building were deep needs. To meet the moment, Fr. Greg Schenden SJ, director of Campus Ministry, Aaron Johnson, managing director, and myself developed a slate of day retreats for staff grounded in the Ignatian mission and values. 

“Spending the day at the CCC [Calcagnini Contemplative Center] provided us space to reacquaint ourselves and think about our professional relationships and how we were going to proceed,” said Erik Smulson (C’89), Vice President for Public Affairs and Senior Advisor to the President. 

The day retreats are held at the Calcagnini Contemplative Center (CCC) with each retreat tailored to the needs of the participating department. Participants are led through a reflective talk by a chaplain and then are invited into a discussion immediately following. 

“Under the guidance of Madeline, and Fr. Greg we were able to share and connect in a beautiful safe space, away from campus, but at the same time feeling very much like Georgetown and the spirit it embodies. What a gift it is,” Smulson added.

After the discussion, teams enjoy lunch together and then are provided time for individual and communal reflection, as well as activities such as walking meditation in the beautiful natural setting of the Blue Ridge Mountains. 

Since launching the program we’ve had the honor of hosting more than 230 members of the Georgetown community and look forward to seeing more colleagues at the CCC to help meet the contemplative, reflective needs of teams coming back together. 

If you would like to plan a day retreat for staff (Georgetown employees only), please contact her at Madeline.Vitek@georgetown.edu

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