Continuing the Legacy of St. Ignatius Loyola:
A Pioneer in International Education
International Student Advisor
Jesuits are instinctively international. Since its inception, the Jesuit mission has been focused on reaching across the boundaries created by borders and cultures, using commonalities created by a connection of faith, knowledge and education in order to foster bonds which lead us to understand one another and, ultimately, develop a sense of community, both locally and globally.
Ignatius himself traveled abroad, both during his pilgrimage to Jerusalem and then to undertake studies in Paris, France. There, he met some of his closest companions – four men from Spain, one man from France and one from Portugal. Like the international students we see at our Universities today, it is not far-fetched to assume that these friends bonded over their shared experience and common ideas. As a student who had experienced studying abroad and being an international student, he carried the values of cross-cultural communication into his ministry.
In the same way, the AJCU Conference on International Education attempts to collaborate to offer an experience similar to that which shaped St. Ignatius’s life in order to help shape the identities of both faculty and students, fostering cura personalis. For one of the key ways in which we learn about ourselves as humans is when our identities are challenged. Students who engage in cross-cultural experiences are more likely to reflect upon the fact that many of their world views are based on cultural assumptions.
The AJCU Conference on International Education has been active since before 2000. The group met annually for the first few years, usually at the time of NAFSA’s annual meeting. In 2006, the group thought it would be beneficial to have a mid-year meeting, and since that time the conference has met bi-annually, sometimes in an international location. One of the highlights of the international education conference has been the proposal and discussion surrounding the possibility of a Study Abroad Consortium between the AJCU Member Institutions. The Consortium developed a study abroad basket that allows students from different Jesuit institutions in the United States to enroll in study abroad programs offered by another Jesuit institution. For example, it would be possible for a student from Xavier University to participate in the Academic Service Learning Semester offered by Marquette University in Cape Town, South Africa.
The Consortium’s Memorandum of Agreement (MOA), signed thus far by 22 of the 28 AJCU institutions, allows for flexibility for the student and institution. The schools have the opportunity and ability to work together to find solutions to questions that commonly arise, especially regarding credit transfers and financial aid. Even as recently as September of 2009, representatives of the AJCU Conference on International Education have presented the idea of the Study Abroad Consortium to the meeting of the AJCU Associate Vice Provosts. With the implementation of the Study Abroad Consortium, students are able to find and participate in the study abroad programs they want, while maintaining the teaching of the Jesuit values.
The mid-year meetings in January or February of the AJCU Conference on International Education have focused on ways to collaborate with Jesuit institutions in Latin America, who are members of AUSJAL (La Asociación de Universidades Confiadas a la Compañía de Jesús en América). These discussions have included the use of technology in international education, the expansion of the Study Abroad Consortium, and faculty exchange programs.
The Conference on International Education has seen increased interest from Jesuit universities outside of Latin America. At the 2009 mid-year meeting in Cali, Colombia, hosted by Pontificia Universidad Javeriana, it was exciting to see conversations taking place between the director of the Bejing Center in China and administrators from AUSJAL institutions.
The next mid-year meeting will be held on February 17-18, 2011 at Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio. At the previous mid-year meeting, it was agreed that the meeting would take place every other year in Latin America and every other year in the United States.
The Conference on International Education also hopes to expand from a focus on study abroad to include all of the areas of international education, such as intensive English programs, international enrollment management and international education leadership. For example, there has been discussion about a recruiting trip with AJCU colleagues in October of 2011 to Latin America, specifically targeting Jesuit and Catholic high schools. The Conference hopes to continue to implement ideas such as these in the other areas of international education as well.
The AJCU Conference on International Education is obviously dedicated to encouraging students to participate in cross-cultural experiences and grow in their knowledge of themselves and develop in themselves a sense of men and women for others. Students have a unique opportunity to experience the world and, in challenging their identity, discover who they really are, which will enable them, in the future to “go forth and set the world on fire” (Saint Ignatius Loyola).