Growing up in the Catholic Church, Jennifer Tilghman-Havens always strongly identified with the Jesuit mission to serve God by serving others. That's one of the things that attracted her to Boston College, a Jesuit institution that was founded upon principles of social justice and selfless service.
As a dual-degree graduate student in both Pastoral Ministry and Social Work, Tilghman-Havens was able to nurture her spiritual calling while getting the hands-on social work training to become a true foot soldier for social justice.
"There's a really strong connection between what we as Christians are called to do and what social workers do," says Tilghman-Havens, who now helps direct the Office of Jesuit Ministry and Identity at Seattle University. "Both are callings to create systems that are more just and that meet the needs of people who are marginalized in the society."
At BC Social Work, Tilghman-Havens thrived in a close community of like-minded classmates and professors, despite a broad diversity of beliefs and backgrounds.
"Whether or not my classmates had the same faith background, or even any faith background, was not as evident to me as that they shared the same value systems," says Tilghman-Havens. "Namely, a desire for social change and social justice."
After graduation, Tilghman-Havens landed what she calls the "perfect social work job," director of the Women's Resource Center at Boston College.
"It was a combination of individual counseling and programmatic, systemic work; creating an environment that was more healthy for women on campus," says Tilghman-Havens, who says that her social work education trained her to be able to focus simultaneously on the macro and micro level.
At Seattle University, Tilghman-Havens helps students and faculty engage with the social justice mission of the college, organizing local outreach programs, retreats and service trips to post-Katrina New Orleans, Nicaragua, Mexico, Belize and Ecuador. The Chicago native says it's no accident that she's ended up working in a university setting, particularly at another Jesuit college.
"I love an environment that fosters constant learning, growth and transformation," she says of her experiences at BC and Seattle University. "Both universities I've come to call 'home' have intentionally set out to provide a compassionate environment for students, faculty and staff."
Learn more about the mission of the School of Social Work and how social workers contribute to a more equitable and just society.