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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 retreats and immersion trips 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 New Hampshire, Maine, 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 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 to Common Room, Villa, or the Nicaragua immersion trip.  Participants 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 colleagues have done with Kolvenbach grants, along with some of their own thoughts about their experiences (grant recipient quotations in italics).

Jim Weiss, Theology Department (Nicaragua immersion trip and Common Room retreat)

  • As a faculty member in the PULSE program and the founder of the Capstone program, Jim often discusses the connections between service, academics, and social justice with his students.   After participating in a Nicaragua immersion trip and a Common Room retreat, Jim realized that he too needed to “let the gritty reality of this world” back into his life so as to strengthen the connection between direct experience, intellectual inquiry, and social engagement in his own work and other commitments.  Jim’s Kolvenbach grant covered the travel expenses involved in a week-long trip to the Jesuit-run Red Cloud Indian School on the Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota.  Long a financial supporter of the school, Jim wanted to spend time living, working, and talking with its students and teachers.
  • “The results of my Kolvenbach Grant thus far are like sprouts in early spring, signs of new life without clear definition. Let me name them. First, I shall look for ways to integrate “Red theology” (akin to Black theology) and the historic injustice against Native Americans into my PULSE course when I resume teaching it next fall. Second, a wonderful opportunity has opened for me to design a Capstone Seminar for the Cristo Rey High School in New York…I’m also proposing to do this for Cristo Rey in Boston.  Third, for my sabbatical, as a result of my long engagement with the Lakota, I’m planning serious reading on the theme of forgiveness in the face of historic injustice.”

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."

Heather Rowan-Kenyon, Associate Professor, Higher Education Program, LSOE (Common Room retreat)

  • Discussions at the Common Room faculty retreat often include the role of domestic and international immersion trips in students' intellectual, moral, and civic education.  Programs such as the Appalachia Volunteers and the Arrupe International Immersion Trips are enormously popular, and students often describe their participation in them as transformative.  Yet we don't know much about their impact on students' lives and choices.  Having participated in these discussions at Common Room, Heather Rowan-Kennedy decided to launch a new research project focused on student meaning-making in relation to their experiences on immersion trips.  She applied for a Kolvenbach grant to cover part of the cost of interview transcription.
  • "During the three days of the Common Room retreat, I was engaged in both formal and informal conversations concerning student learning and development related to participation in Boston College immersion trips. Often these conversations centered on how students spent a great deal of time and energy preparing for and raising money to participate in these experiences, but there was a question about if and how students were learning and developing as a result of participation.   Others shared how students struggle to navigate the complex social problems that students are exposed to during these experiences, and how to work to incorporate social change into their lives once back in Boston.  I am interested in further exploring the experiences of students who participate in these programs."

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 and spouses, 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."

Up to $1000 is available per grant for proposals that derive from your experiences during the Common Room faculty retreat, the Villa faculty writing retreat, or the Nicaragua immersion trip.  Proposals need not deal directly with educational or scholarly issues raised at Common Room or social 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 offered at Jesuit retreat houses around the country

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.