Upon returning from an Intersections program, retreat and trip participants often want to do something more. What could you do? There is no one-size-fits-all response. Participants take away very different things from these experiences in keeping with their own interests and inclinations. What seems 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.
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 an Intersections program. Proposals need not deal directly with educational or scholarly issues raised from the experience. 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.
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 Intersections programs 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 sometimes disconnected from formative experiences in which they participate. Faculty and administrators who participate in Intersections programs may face similar issues of connection and integration in their own lives.
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 an Intersections experience, 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 to 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. Participants take away very different things from these programs, in keeping with their own interests and inclinations. For examples of what some colleagues have done with Kolvenbach grants, along with some of their own thoughts about their experiences, see the "Faculty Experiences" tab, below.
Quotations are in italics.
Amey Victoria Adkins-Jones, Assistant Professor of Theology and African and African Disapora Studies (Villa retreat):
- Having attended the Villa faculty writing retreat at the end of her first, hectic year as an assistant professor at Boston College, Amey Victoria was able to bring a renewed sense of purpose, clarity, and commitment to her first book project, Immaculate Misconceptions. But she also envisioned a future project, one dealing with the daily lives and work of southern Black women. As part of this project, Amey Victoria applied for a Kovenbach grant to fund her attendance at a quilting retreat organized by the Gee's Bend Quilting Collective. Gee's Bend is a small, rural community in Alabama, peopled mainly by the descendants of enslaved Africans. For well over a century, the women of Gee's Bend have pieced together bits of fabric to create vivid masterpieces of African American art.
- "[T]he rhythm of the waves outside my window beat out the patterns of a project that has long been in my heart, but remained unconnected from my head; a book project theologically centering Southern black women's work, centering the mundane, everyday "stuff" of life for me as a little girl in a rural world, centering the things of faith my Granny taught me far beyond the Sunday School walls. Right now I'm calling the project "Preserved: A Eucharistic Theology of Black Women's Lives" and want to explore five different areas of daily life and rhythm that shaped my grandmother's and my life together --- the things she taught me, so to speak: growing food, then canning and preserving it for winter (thus the title), quilting and creating warmth and protection from scraps, dyeing fabrics (specifically indigo, and rethinking both cotton and indigo as slave trades), midwifery and birthing, and last "sitting practices" of presence, from 'porch sittin', to "sitting with" those who were elderly or could not be left alone, to finally sitting with the dead."
Dacia Gentilella, Assistant Director for Outreach and Support, Learning to Learn, and adjunct faculty in English (Compañía pilgrimage and seminar)
- The pilgrimage in Spain and Rome encouraged Dacia to connect her interests in mindfulness, meditation, and Buddhism to the practices of Ignatian Spirituality, and to think about how she might better incorporate mindfulness into her courses and other work with students. She returned from the trip intent upon putting together a mindfulness program for first generation college students, recognizing the extent to which they experience stress and anxiety in their daily lives. A Kolvenbach grant helped to fund her training in teaching mindfulness to others.
- The opportunity to be away from work and home during the pilgrimage trip allowed me to truly be more mindful than I had been at home. I have taken mindfulness MBSR [mindfulness-based stress reduction] trainings in the past and meditate each day, but the further physical removal from my everyday work and home made a profound difference for me. It occurs to me that mindfulness training is a natural step toward working to be more attentive in our lives.
Brian Gareau, Sociology Department (Villa retreat)
- Having recognized the importance of contemplation and reflection to his own work at the Villa faculty writing retreat, Brian applied for a Kolvenbach grant to fund a one-day “Villa” student retreat as part of a course on industrialization and the environment that he and his wife, Tara Pisani Gareau (Environmental Studies), planned to teach in London later that summer. Supplied with good food and a contemplative setting, students were asked to reflect upon the ways in which they might incorporate what they learned in the class into their daily lives, their course and major choices, and their future vocational plans.
- “Several students remarked that they wished that they had the chance to reflect on ALL their courses at the end of a term. They seemed to really value this event, several remarking that they felt that they might remember more of the experience having had the chance to discuss the course and its importance to their lives. Others mentioned that it brought about ideas about how they might bring change into their lives that would help with the environmental issues that we discussed in the class. Many ideas of personal change came organically out of our discussions that very day!”
Jonathan Laurence, Professor of Political Science, MCAS (Villa retreat)
- At the Villa writing retreat, Jonathan Laurence pondered the final chapters of his book manuscript, a large-scale historical comparison of the religious institutions within Sunni Islam and Catholicism and their relationships with the modern state. He realized that he wanted to connect more immediately and directly to some of the present-day events discussed in the book, most notably to the current refugee crisis in Germany. Jonathan applied for a Kolvenbach grant to fund a research trip, during the course of which he was able to conduct interviews with political and religious leaders concerning the impact of the crisis on state-Islam relations.
- "This field research enabled by the Kolvenbach grant was valuable for my book manuscript and short essay writing, but it was above all helpful to keep my professional activities grounded in a worldly reality. While at the Villa reinforced I was reminded how lucky I am to be at Boston College with time to think, read, travel, and to speak to people who are living and trying to resolve the world’s problems. When I sat in York staring at the ocean, I was thinking about my table of contents, the critical nuts and bolts of structure —those moments and the Kolvenbach grant that followed allowed me ground my work in constant dialogue with the world outside."
Gergana Nenkov, Associate Professor of Marketing, CSOM (Common Room retreat)
- Discussions about the moral dimensions of Jesuit education at the Common Room faculty retreat led Gergana Nenkov, a scholar of consumer behavior, to ponder the role of morality in consumers' choices and actions. She applied for a Kolvenbach grant to fund a collaborative workshop she called the Moral Table, organized in conjunction with a colleague from Fordham University, to map out a scholarly agenda on morality in the marketplace.
- "The Moral Table is meant to be a platform for collaborative work shedding light on the role of morality in the marketplace. Our idea is to have two Jesuit schools partner in an effort to create a lively and exciting forum on the role of morality in the marketplace and the role of the marketplace in encouraging morality. This topic has important implications for consumer well being and fits really well with the missions of both universities."
Régine Jean-Charles, Associate Professor of Romance Languages and Literatures, MCAS, and Katie Dalton, Director of the Women's Center (Nicaragua immersion trip)
- Having met with a number of activists engaged in the struggle against sexual and domestic violence in Nicaragua, Régine Jean-Charles and Katie Dalton decided to collaborate in bringing the organization A Long Walk Home to campus, with its mission of using the arts to educate, inspire, and mobilize young people to end violence against girls and women. The visit, funded by a Kolvenbach grant, featured a multimedia project called Story of a Rape Survivor, which used photography, dance, song, and storytelling to communicate a message of hope and healing in the aftermath of sexual violence.
- "Régine and I had spoken about bringing A Long Walk Home to campus on multiple occasions over the past four years but it was not until our shared experience on the Nicaragua Immersion Trip that we felt called to act. Many of the conversations in Managua focused on women and gender issues, specifically that of domestic and sexual violence. The stories that we heard from women on the frontlines, advocating for safety and providing resources for others who are suffering due to gender-based violence, resonated with the work that we both do here at Boston College."
Amy Boesky, Professor of English and Director of the Medical Humanities, Health, and Culture Minor, MCAS; and Summer Hawkins, Associate Professor and Director of the Global Health Program, School of Social Work (Villa retreat)
- Taking a break from their individual work at the Villa faculty writing retreat, Amy and Summer walked to the Nubble House Lighthouse, discussing the possibilities for collaboration between their two programs in health and health care, as well as the challenges faced by administrators of interdisciplinary programs, especially those who want to cross the boundaries of their own particular schools. The lighthouse itself provided a metaphor for their predicament: a narrow channel of water divides the lighthouse from the mainland even at low tide; one would need a bridge (or a boat) to cross from one to another. They decided to apply for dual Kolvenbach grants to build a bridge between their two programs. The grant funded a series of brainstorming lunches involving faculty from the relevant disciplines in the MCAS and School of Social Work, as well as guest speakers from universities with similar programs.
- Currently, there is tremendous interest from our undergraduates at BC in situating the study of health and health care practices in cultural and humanistic contexts. In the medical humanities program, two guiding ideas matter deeply to our students. As it happens, both are deeply allied with the Jesuit mission: reflection—which students find primarily in the study and practice of narrative—and ethics. However our two programs end up working in the coming years, Summer and I believe both will be enhanced by continued attention to these principles. We hope that our courses and programs will encourage reflection (through the study of narrative and narrative practices and through writing); and that attention to ethics and social justice will be deeply woven into programs of study concerning health.
Dayton Haskin, Professor of English, MCAS (Common Room retreat)
- Wide-ranging conversations at the Common Room faculty retreat led Dayton Haskin to thoroughly revise his course on Comparative Drama to focus wholly on tragedy, and to bring forward, much more directly than in the past, issues of individual and corporate justice that are invariably raised within this form of narrative. He applied for a Kolvenbach grant to cover the cost of tickets for the class to the Actors' Shakespeare Project performance of A Winter's Tale.
- "When, under what circumstances, does an event qualify as “tragic”? What truths are revealed or concealed when this term is invoked? Is “tragedy” an apt term for a narrative only when those responsible for the outcome acknowledge responsibility and learn from their error? These are questions that I want to use to frame the whole course. By examining the Oresteia which dramatizes the need for and the invention of a system of justice that includes a jury of peers, by probing the political resistance of Antigone, by attempting to understand what might be entailed in Medea’s decision to murder her children, the course I have in mind will prompt many questions about individual and social, political and religious justice. "
Judy Clair, Associate Professor of Management and Organization, CSOM (Villa retreat)
- Judy Clair spent most of the Villa retreat in her room, writing and thinking about writing. One of her areas of research focuses on the challenges pregnant women face in the workplace as they navigate new roles and responsibilities in both the work and the home domains. Having recently concluded a survey of women's experiences during pregnancy, how those experiences shaped their attitudes about work and home, and their choices as they sought to balance work and non-work life, she spent some time pondering whether or not to extend the survey with the same women after the birth of their children. Conversations with colleagues on the retreat helped her make that decision, and a Kolvenbach grant provided some of the funding for the new research.
- "[E]ach day just before and after dinner I took strolls along the paths bordering the Maine beaches, usually with a specific set of faculty women. We often found ourselves talking about our own lives and the challenges we faced in balancing work, children andspouses, and the priorities and decisions we each were making. These days I more often find myself as the person with the older kids in a group and as the faculty member in a more senior role in terms of my position at BC. So, in hearing my somewhat younger colleagues reflect during our walks, I became especially motivated to carry out this follow up to my study. Finding out what women were actually doing with their work and family lives once they had their babies crystalized as the next step that could be very attractive in this work."
- Applications will be accepted twice a year: at the end of January and the end of July.
- Applications should be roughly 2-3 pages in length and should include the following:
- Explain the connections between your trip or retreat and your proposal. Was there a particular conversation, speaker, event, or experience that led to your proposal?
- Describe your proposed plan: what is it that you intend to do? What is your projected time line? How does your proposal relate to your current work? If your proposal involves a spiritual retreat, explain why you want to do it and what you hope to get out of it.
- For proposals that involve collaboration with others, identify your collaborators, briefly describe conversations that you've had with them, and explain the nature and duration of the collaboration.
- Explain the connections between your trip or retreat and your proposal. Was there a particular conversation, speaker, event, or experience that led to your proposal?
- Grant recipients agree to provide Intersections with a short write-up about their project or activity once completed, for use on our website.
- Please email applications and all related material to Burt Howell, Director of Intersections, at firstname.lastname@example.org.