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The Kolvenbach grants program guidelines

In a speech delivered at Santa Clara University in 2000, Fr. Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, the former Superior-General of the Society of Jesus, had this to say about the connections between direct experience, intellectual inquiry, and constructive engagement in Jesuit higher education: 

When the heart is touched by direct experience, the mind may be challenged to change. Personal involvement with innocent suffering, with the injustice others suffer, is the catalyst for solidarity, which then gives rise to intellectual inquiry and moral reflection.  Students, in the course of their formation, must let the gritty reality of this world into their lives, so they can learn to feel it, think about it critically, respond to its suffering, and engage it constructively. 

Discussions at the Intersections Common Room faculty retreat in New Hampshire often center on the lack of integration between experience, inquiry, and engagement in the lives of Boston College undergraduates. The academic programs and intellectual interests of our students are often quite disconnected from the domestic and international service and immersion programs in which they participate. 

Faculty and administrators who participate in Intersections trips to Jamaica and Nicaragua often face similar issues of connection and integration.  Having witnessed some of the poverty, injustice, and social struggles faced on a daily basis by Nicaraguans and Jamaicans, what are we supposed to do about it?

Jesuits often use the term magis, the Latin word for more.  Derived from the motto of the Society of Jesus, Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam ("For the greater glory of God"), magis for our purposes means looking at something more closely, delving a bit more deeply, and making connections between the experiences that we've had and the work that we do. 

Upon returning from New Hampshire, Jamaica, or Nicaragua, retreat and trip participants often want to do something with their group -- to keep the group together through meetings or common projects.  We completely understand and appreciate this sentiment, having felt it often ourselves.  But our experience in Intersections suggests that this doesn't work.  Once back on campus, we all get drawn back into our own pursuits, be they administrative or academic.  Given the reality of our day to day lives, it is difficult to find the time and energy to contribute in substantive ways to new projects and programs unrelated what we are already doing.

What does seem to work well is when faculty and administrators incorporate some aspect of the retreat or trip into their own work -- a new or revised course, a new trajectory or emphasis in an ongoing research agenda, an expanded understanding of advising and mentoring, or new forms of collaboration between existing programs. 

What could you do?  There's no one-size-fits-all response to Common Room, Focus On Jamaica, or the Nicaragua immersion trip.  Participant take away very different things from these programs, in keeping with their own interests and inclinations.  Here are a few examples of what some of our colleagues have done after participating in an Intersections retreat or trip:

  • Eileen Donovan-Kranz, English Department (Focus on Jamaica): Boston College students frequently say that they find it difficult to articulate their experiences on international service and immersion trips.  After her own trip to Jamaica, Eileen created a writing seminar to help students do precisely that after their return to campus.

  • Jennie Purnell, Political Science Department (Common Room faculty retreat): One of the central themes of the Common Room retreat is the gulf between students' academic programs and their participation in international service and immersion trips.  Jennie modified a course on Latin American politics to incorporate material relevant to the Arrupe International immersion trip program, and held some class seats for trip participants.

  • Rosanna DeMarco, Connell School of Nursing (Focus on Jamaica): Rosanna's research focuses on women, marginalization, and health behaviors, including women living with HIV/AIDS.  After participating in the Focus on Jamaica program, she provided the Jamaican Ministry of Health with her prevention education film, Women's Voices, Women's Lives, and related curricula; her work was adopted as a teaching tool in the Ministry's 2012-2017 National Strategic Plan for HIV/AIDS.

  • Tomeu Estelrich Barcelo, Office of the Vice-President for Mission and Ministry (Common Room faculty reteat): In response to a conversation over dinner with a tenure-track faculty member and a senior colleague, Tomeu collaborated with other administrators in Mission and Ministry to create the Threshold seminar for recently-tenured faculty who meet over dinner a few times a semester to discuss their work.

  • Eve Spangler, Sociology Department (Nicaragua immersion trip): Eve's trip to Nicaragua inspired her to dedicate herself as a teacher and activist to Middle East peace issues.  She now teaches a year-long course on Israel/Palestine that includes a week-long immersion trip to the region over the winter break.

  • Patrick McQuillan, Lynch School of Education (Nicaragua immersion trip): Boston College faculty and administrators visit the El Centro Cultural de Batahola Norte, an educational community center in North Batahola, a destitute neighborhood in Managua, as part of the annual trip to Nicaragua.  Upon his return, Patrick organized a music festival/fundraising event; nine years later and counting, he, his family, and his neighbors have sent over $30,000 to the center.

To encourage and support these sorts of endeavors, Intersections has created the Kolvenbach grants program, named for Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, S.J. in appreciation of his sense of the holistic nature of Jesuit higher education and the need to forge connections between research, teaching, social issues, and spirituality. 

Up to $1000 is available per grant for proposals that derive from your experiences during the Common Room faculty retreat, the Focus On Jamaica program, or the Nicaragua immersion trip.  Proposals need not deal directly with educational issues raised at Common Room or issues encountered in Nicaragua or Jamaica.  There needs to be some connection, but it's likely to be a personal one, rooted in your own work or other aspects of your life.  We're not looking for ideas to transform the university in one fell swoop, but rather for manageable and sustainable ways to build on retreat and trip experiences. 

Here are some possible expenses that could be covered by a Kolvenbach grant:

  • books and other teaching materials for a new or revised course;
  • travel expenses related to research trips or conference participation;
  • tuition and other expenses related to a course or other type of educational program;
  • funding for a spiritual retreat, such as the 7-8 day silent retreat at Eastern Point, the Jesuit retreat house in Gloucester.

We can't provide income or electronics but we'll consider almost any other kind of expense.  Grants will take the form of expense reimbursements in accordance with the usual university rules.

Click on this link for information on how to apply.