"Brueggeman Moments" is a phrase the Fellows created to describe the various types of challenges they face during the Independent research at Xavier and as they continue their research and service during their immersion experience. I have co-opted the term here because I have asked them to share what the Brueggeman experience meant to them and how it has made a difference in their lives, careers and values. There are too many to post at once so I will post 15-20 at a time in the order in which they come in - unedited in any way.
My experience with the Brueggeman Fellowship sparked a trajectory in my career toward opportunities and achievements I never expected. Having the opportunity to independently plan and spend 6 weeks in Central America, conducting research, honing my Spanish fluency, and forming relationships with organizations fostered a foundation on which I have built both my professional and doctoral experiences. My unique research experiences in Guatemala and Nicaragua contributed to continued participation in a field school in Guatemala for 3 following summers and acceptance into a PhD program in Occupational Science. It developed skills and independence that have allowed me to conduct an innovative dissertation in order to listen to and document the perspective of Spanish speaking immigrants. The personal experience of traveling and learning through the Brueggeman Fellowship offered an opportunity to humble myself in the face of diverse cultures; a continuously developing humility that I believe has allowed me to connect, collaborate, and train with occupational therapists in Guatemala, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Argentina, Chile, and Colombia so far in my professional career. The lessons and skills I began learning in the Brueggeman Fellowship were seeds that have grown, and I hope will continue to grow, into what I have found to be a nourishing and exciting career. Ryan Lavalley (Fellow 2012-2013)
The experience of being a Brueggeman Fellow is, in a word, empowering. After completing months of research, planning and budgeting, in addition to actually going on my tip, I felt empowered by all that I had accomplished and all that I learned about my topic, the world and myself. The Fellowship challenged me in new, distinctive ways that were unparalleled to any other experience I had at Xavier. The articles I read and the discussions I had with Dr. Buchanan challenged me to think in new ways and confront the pre-existing thoughts I had on my topic. The preparations were lengthy and demanding, but they taught me how to immerse myself in a topic, plan an entire trip abroad including housing and flights, and create a budget that would last me throughout my trip. This experience tested my problem-solving abilities and my patience, not only in preparation, but also while on the trip. Living abroad for six weeks alone also forced me to embrace fear, discomfort, loneliness and homesickness, and in doing so, I became better equipped to handle those same emotions again as I transitioned to my new job and my new life in DC. While I learned much about my topic through research and immersion, I learned even more about myself; I discovered what kind of work I enjoy, and what I don’t; I uncovered how I cope in situations of stress, loneliness or anxiety; and I learned how I conceive of myself and form my notions of identity, especially when thrown into the murky waters of a different country. Together, my learning experiences through the Brueggeman Fellowship have facilitated my growth as an individual and equipped me to continue growing, learning and striving to achieve the unimaginable. Shelby Lauter (Fellow 2017-2018)
The Brueggeman Fellowship is unique in part because it is very difficult to pin down. It offers no specific goal for students to obtain, and it varies in scope to suit each project’s needs. Its strength stems from allowing students to pursue their research without compromise or recourse to an institutional expectation, even to the extent of allowing for the possibility of failure. The Brueggeman Fellowship also offers the opportunity to create a grant in a field where none exist, or where research is limited and underfunded.
I am artist, and although there is no shortage of competitive opportunities for artists in the world, very few of them are research oriented and even fewer are funded. Worse yet, these opportunities are usually a compromise on the part of the artist, who changes her/his proposal to be more in line with the opportunity’s stated research goals. The Brueggeman Fellowship allowed me, and continually allows Xavier students in all fields, to do the research I proposed in the way I saw most fitting. The strength of the program is the strength of Xavier’s students, who take risks in order to pursue important research in their fields.
My project was fairly unique, in that it involved traveling to many different countries to complete it. I proposed a photography-based research project exploring the lives of monks and ascetics in different religious orders around the world. I felt the project was timely in an increasingly media-oriented, consumerist world, and the Brueggeman Fellowship program allowed me to start what has now become an ongoing project, titled ASKESIS, which I expect to continue for many years. The work I created for my fellowship travels was an integral part of my applications to graduate schools, and I am now in a fully-funded MFA program at University of Kentucky.
What the Brueggeman Fellowship program personally represents to its Fellows is perhaps even more significant. Each fellow joins a community of people dedicated to helping them achieve their goals as a student, a researcher, and a fellow human. The Brueggeman Fellowship program is an investment in a student’s potential, and a platform for each fellow’s success. Frank Geiser (Fellow 2016-2017)
My personal and professional development was drastically impacted by the Brueggeman Fellowship Program. The encouragement and direction from the entire center, Dr. Buchanan, and my peers throughout the year leading up to my trip pushed me to think ‘BIG’ globally and expanded my horizons as to what was possible. The immersion in a culture and support to travel solo continues to impact my life today. I developed a new sense of identity, confidence, and independence that was not there before. I am now an entrepreneur and avid outdoor enthusiast. I continue to travel often and pursue my individual passions ensuring I do at least 1 solo trip a year to reset and renew in a unique way. I thank the Brueggeman Center for being the spark that allowed me to have the confidence to go out alone and live my life in the manner I do today. Natalie Clark (Fellow 2010-2011)
The Brueggeman Fellowship was the most transformative part of my Xavier experience. The academic exchanges and interactions with fellow scholars during the school year thought me how to participate in a positive dialogue and provided a safe forum where exciting topics could be debated. The Fellowship also embedded the altruistic value of self-led learning into my psyche for which I am forever grateful. After three months in Turkey with the Brueggeman Fellowship examining Christian minority communities, I was exposed to the U.S. diplomatic community for the first time. This interaction changed my career trajectory and my life completely. I have now been a diplomat for four and a half years and the Fellowship experience abroad played a major part setting me on a path to public service. As a side note, I’m looking to come back to Washington on my next assignment to work as the desk officer at the state department for Turkey.... bringing things full circle Michael Westndorp (Fellow 2008-2009)
One of my most impactful academic experiences, a Brueggeman Fellowship, was shaped by an early interest in pursuing a career in the medical field. When I was six years old, my younger brother, Carson, was diagnosed with a primary immunodeficiency - hypogammaglobulinemia. Primary immunodeficiency diseases are rare, genetic disorders in which the immune system is absent or hindered in its ability to function. My Brueggeman Fellowship provided an opportunity to spend a year performing a self-crafted research project focused on gene therapy as a treatment option for primary immunodeficiency diseases. Originally, my research was based on the scientific background of gene therapy treatments. The perspectives of the other students in the fellowship challenged me to expand my research beyond this to include the ethical implications of modifying the human genome, the role of health insurance as it relates to the high costs of gene therapy treatments, the process of conducting a clinical trial, and the environmental impact of increased population growth due to the treatment of fatal diseases. My fellowship culminated in a position at Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital in London, England. I shadowed and researched under Dr. Bobby Gaspar, one of the world’s leading researchers in pediatric immunology. As a first year medical student at The Ohio State University College of Medicine, I am confident that the skills and experiences I garnered as a Brueggeman Fellows have greatly prepared me for my career in medicine. The opportunity to independently create and execute my own research project, collaborate with students from other disciplines, and research internationally provided a unique opportunity to engage my intellectual curiosity and to cultivate a commitment to interdisciplinary, lifelong learning. (Ashley Hardee, Fellow 2016-2017)
I consider my Brueggeman Fellowship the most influential, formative, and pinnacle experience of my entire life-long education. I was involved at Xavier in a multitude of both academic and co-curricular programs and nothing contributed more to the education and development of my whole person than this fellowship; both in the year of independent study and project design phase, as well as the immersion experience. The characteristics and nature of Brueggeman Fellows program highlights Xavier's Jesuit identity and commitment to Ignatian values through its ability to allow students to formulate their passions, explore these passions through critical questioning and dialogue, and contemplate the hidden realities of our globalized world, leading to action in the spirit of the magis, beyond oneself. It is unique, challenging, and fulfills the mission of the university more than any other single program offering. Not only did the fellowship contribute to my learning and personal development at the time, but it has greatly affected my life post-graduation in enhancing my critical thinking and problem solving skills, commitment to dialogue across cultures, and confidence in my own ability to do something and be a part of something greater than myself. Spencer Leichty (Fellow 2013-2014)
I will never forget submitting my application to become a Brueggeman Fellow. I was studying abroad in Paris at the time, and I was absolutely certain that being a Fellow was the next step I needed to take in order to become a more informed, connected global citizen. Being a Brueggeman Fellow has completely altered my life trajectory for the better. My experience as a Fellow taught me how to think more critically about humanity on a global level. It helped me merge my interests in rigorous academics, travel, and humanitarian work. I maintain relationships with the people I met during my travels. The Fellowship is a major reason I am now pursuing a doctoral degree in social work at Columbia University. Jenny Hartmann (Fellow 2007-2008)
It has been five years since I participated in the Brueggeman Fellowship and I am still uncovering new lessons from my time studying independently and with my cohort and my time abroad. I spent my senior year as a fellow studying Ignatian spirituality and the lasting impact it has had on Jesuit educational institutions. Now as a professional in both ministry and higher education at my alma mater, I find myself incorporating that academic study into my professional career. Like many other fellows, the most important learning happened for me while I was traveling abroad. On my own and on pilgrimage for three months in four different countries taught me things that have truly changed the course of my life. I learned about accepting hospitality and asking for what I need, being comfortable with solitude and how to reach out when the solitude became too much, and what it meant to feel “foreign” for the first time in my life. The Brueggeman Fellowship has been, without a doubt, the most valuable educational experience of my entire life. It was not the reason why I chose to attend Xavier, but it is certainly the Xavier experience that I am most grateful for. Abby Anderson (Fellow 2012-2013)
Being a Brueggeman Fellow brought forth a sense of self that I knew I always had inside of me, but had yet to really express itself. I found this confidence by facing challenges while traveling for the fellowship--being a place where I knew no one or the language and trying to navigate everyday life. In particular after completing the fellowship and international travel and moving across the country I felt that I could face whatever unknown would come my way because of what I had learned during the fellowship. Mainly, I learned about community, humility and interdependence. I continue to ruminate on that trip and integrate those experiences into my life. It is both a humbling and confidence-boosting experience unlike I've ever experienced. Grace Badik (Fellow (2012-2013)
Why did you choose to enroll at Xavier? What experiences did you wish to pursue during your time on and off campus? Undoubtedly, academic progress and career potential were part of the initial list, but did you consider the vision and values that our fellow students can share as part of this journey? As I finish up my time as a graduate business student, I can state with certainty that the Brueggeman Fellows program has been the most impactful experience to me while at Xavier University. Spending time with 8-10 curious, thoughtful, intelligent, and passionate people to discuss issues across an expanse of topics like entrepreneurship, music, and human rights seemed a bit daunting at first; however, this special opportunity allowed me to develop skills that are often left behind in modern society: listening and appreciation for different perspectives. I have no doubt that I have forged a bond with this group that will last a lifetime and encourage any individual who is searching for a deeper experience to learn more about the program! Tom Rooney (Fellow 2017-1018)
My Brueggeman experiences left quite an impression upon me for reasons that go beyond the confines of this email. I find myself both saddened and elated to hear that Dr. Buchanan will be transitioning away from being Director of the Center. Your leadership has been instrumental over the years in helping to facilitate a great many projects. Those accomplishments are noteworthy in themselves. However, I believe what is more important is that which cannot be so easily measured: That is to say the lives that you have both personally touched with the fellows who have participated in the fellowship. You helped to inspire and give us the necessary guidance and support to make our dreams become a reality. You have touched many a lives and empowered people to pursue solutions that reflect the systems thinking that the Center prides itself upon. I personally am one of the individuals who have benefited from the tutelage I received as a fellow--so thank you to you both for accompanying me in that experience. Michael McGrath (2016-2017)
I was 21, just finished my junior year in college, and I found myself in Peru. After a year of studying the interplay between history, culture, the environment, and health, I was alone in Lima, a sprawling Latin American capital city of 10 million people, where I stood under the city’s infamous cielo blanco taking in this chaotic and incredible place. Over the course of two months, I found myself all over the amazing country, from the Pacific coastline to the Amazon jungle, down through the Andes mountains to the volcanoes in the south. I found myself in big noisy cities and small homey villages. I found myself taking boats through the dense jungle and bus rides through clouds in the mountains. I found friends that became my Peruvian family and a culture so rich that I cannot stop myself from rambling on endlessly about it. And perhaps most importantly, I found myself growing throughout the trip into a strong, independent, adventurous, more resilient, and more culturally sensitive human, while learning Spanish without any English speakers around, while traveling alone throughout regions of a beautiful foreign country, while eating every new and unique food I could, and while dealing with the endless slew of ‘Brueggeman moments.’ The Brueggeman Fellowship has left me with an insatiable curiosity about the world and its diverse people, cultures, languages, and foods, and undoubtedly changed me into a more confident and more humble human being. The world is too amazing to go unexplored, and I thank the Brueggeman Center for the adventure of a lifetime. Jacob Khoury (Fellow 2014-2015)
A gem. The opportunities it afforded me were unparalleled in my academic and professional career: dinner with Paul Rusesabagina (of Hotel Rwanda fame) or traveling to Argentina to study the cultural and linguistic heritage of pre-World War I German diaspora, not to mention the chance to debate technology, modern day slavery or international lending to developing countries with peers and faculty over pizza. This program is the kind that broadens your mind, your capacity for empathy and your sense of empowerment to go change the world. Matthew Bigelow (Fellow 2005-2006).
To accurately describe the experience of being a Brueggeman Fellow, I feel I must somehow use past, present and future tenses simultaneously. Being a fellow isn’t something that just happens for one academic year or for one moment. The experience is at the intersection of these: our ideas and dreams from the past; our research, preparation, and travel during the year of fellowship; and our ability to carry the knowledge and experiences with us through the rest of our lives. I had the wonderful opportunity to travel to the Kibera area of Nairobi, Kenya. I worked at St. Aloysius Gonzaga Secondary School, a school for children who lost one or both parents to AIDS. My primary goal was to help set up a library and a system for lending books. I was also able to teach several English classes to Form 1 (freshman) students and to mentor the journalism club. My work at the school was certainly the highlight of my travels; however, planning the details of the trip and learning to maneuver through international airports and a completely new city was an experience like no other. There were daily frustrations to overcome and daily joys to celebrate. For instance, it is difficult to describe the joy I felt when I successfully cleaned my clothes by hand after walking on dirt roads during the rainy season. Each part of my experience as a fellow left a lasting impression on my life. Dialoguing and collaborating with other fellows was a unique exchange of ideas, knowledge, passions and anxieties. The interactions with other fellows linked me to a community of individuals who inspired and challenged me before, during and after my trip. This was invaluable. My independent research project on the education system in Kenya helped me gain confidence as a learner. I was the creator, leader, manager and motivator of my own learning. I was also afforded the freedom to reshape my final project from a paper into a self-published collection of journals and photos produced by several students at the school in Kenya. I cannot describe the joy I felt when I sent the students copies of the finished book – a book of their own words and photos. I recently gave a copy of this book to my daughter, a moment I never would have anticipated a decade ago. I felt that joy once again. My Brueggeman Fellowship was the most transformative experience during my time at Xavier University. The impact of my fellowship continues to ripple through my life in my work, in my interactions with others, and in my desire to raise my daughters as global citizens. Katie Cole Nagavi (Fellow 2006 – 2007)
The Brueggeman Fellowship Program, in short, defined my experience at Xavier University. As a naturally inquisitive and exploratory student, the program offered guided student directed research and a constant motivation towards holistic understanding. Often academia is limited and scholarly - macro societal questions are limited to the confines of pages of text boxes or the lectures of great professors, conversely the Brueggeman Fellowship Program resoundingly flung open the doors to a much wider lens of education than I had ever experienced and this came first hand on the streets and in the classrooms of Brazil. The program not only defined my experience as an undergraduate but it has been the guiding force towards my career as an educator and entrepreneur." Brett Sutton (Fellow 2009-2010)
“Personal growth” is something I know a lot of fellows attribute to their experience. While this phrase is incredibly vague I will do my best to sum up the personal growth I attribute to this experience. There are two things I come back to when I reflect on my Brueggeman experience. The first is I’m reminded of the fear I felt once I actually began (fear in an abstract sense…I was always physically safe). Can I do this? Am I good enough? What do I do next? This was the first time I grappled with these questions, pressure I put on myself, and genuinely doubting myself. But I made it through. That anxiety quelled. Since my trip I haven’t looked at anything with that same kind of fear or doubt. Everything is attainable. This is because on my trip I learned how to trust myself. Second- and this one took me almost two years to realize- was that I was proud of myself and my project. After my trip I kept reading the blogs of my cohort and missing my friends (I had just graduated) and thinking “I should have done more,” “what if I had just…” I felt this throughout my year in the Jesuit Volunteer Corps. Then I started a dual degree program pursuing my Masters in education policy and my JD. I picked this program because I knew I wanted to go to law school but my research and course work made me want to delve deeper into the structure of education and public thought- and that is what this program allowed. While at a conference for my Master’s program I listened to multiple presentations talking about very similar research (I studied public thought regarding identity and unity in the European Union). After hearing about their work I was able to say “hey, I wasn’t far off from any of those people…I had a methodology like that…I have those same questions!” I felt reconnected to my project and that there was value to what I did. No, it wasn’t published in a journal. No, it didn't’t stop Brexit. But it inspired me to keep going with that original idea. To pursue a higher degree and to keep following those questions I’ve had since I was a junior in college. I was able to take a step back and be okay with the work I did and the relationships I made. I am still discovering more instances of how Brueggeman impacted me and my outlook on life. Brueggeman is the most important thing I’ve done for myself and I am deeply grateful for who this experience is letting me become. Amanda Burns (Fellow 2014-2015)
The Brueggeman Fellowship was the most transformative experience of my college career both personally and professionally. Completing a self-driven, self-created project gave me confidence, a passion for diversity, and showed me the value of learning. I traveled to the UK to work with vulnerable women as they entered their communities from the criminal justice system. The experience impacted me so greatly that I continued to seek out experiences in corrections and as I graduated, started a job as an Occupational Therapist working in juvenile justice facilities. My daily work focuses on trauma-informed strategies to increase emotional regulation, teaching transitional life skills, and completing research to improve access to such services. Each day that I have the honor to work with young men in Ohio's justice system reminds me of God's call to be present to those who are marginalized and how grateful I am to walk with them on their journey. Rachel Snodgrass (Fellow 2013-2014)
Reflecting upon my four years at Xavier and, quite frankly, my life thus far, I would be hard-pressed to name an experience that has been more personally transformative than the Brueggeman Fellowship. I applied to the program as an overzealous first year college student after attending the annual Fellows presentation in 2014. I was captivated not only by the raw, unquenched sense of adventure of the Fellows, but also by the complexity and diversity of the projects. The Brueggeman Fellowship attracts a certain kind of person, and I was constantly in awe of my peers during the year leading up to the commencement of our travels. The richness of the Brueggeman community was truly one of the most enjoyable aspects of the program. I learned so much from these individuals, and, through our conversations, I was inspired to continually seek new experiences to broaden my horizons and learn more about the world around me. This Fellowship gives bright, daring Xavier students a place to push their growing edges and blossom into their full potential. Not only that, it offers a supportive community in which to do so. Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, I landed in San Jose, Costa Rica, in June of 2015, ready to take on everything the country had to offer me. I was thousands of miles away from anyone I knew, but I felt reassured knowing that across the globe, other Fellows were embarking on similar journeys, alone and maybe a little (or a lot) afraid, too. I was pushed to my limits and beyond during that summer, as I worked for a fast-paced international health policy consulting firm during the week and traveled across the country on the weekends. From learning to cope with a strange sense of solitude to keeping my cool when I found myself stranded in a remote jungle village, the personal growth I underwent cannot be encapsulated in a few words. I can, however, say with utmost confidence that without the Brueggeman Fellowship, I would not be the woman I am today. I will be eternally grateful for having the opportunity to be a Fellow. Haley Beavers (Fellow 2014-2015)
My Brueggeman Fellowship has opened doors for me and increased my confidence to plan, coordinate, and lead my own research project, primarily because of the lack of hand-holding and spoon feeding. Being responsible for myself, by myself, in a foreign country and planning my own research has helped me become a better student leader and as a future professional. Being a Brueggeman fellow means that we pave the path that others will later tread, versus being passive. The fellowship isn’t for everyone, as not everyone can handle the pressure, responsibility, disappointment, and success that the fellowship entails. However those who want more, want to be more, and can be more have an opportunity to actualize this only through the fellowship. Previous fellows have become Fulbright fellows, Boren fellows, and leaders in their fields of study because of this rare opportunity. I am who I am because I was encouraged to dream big and make my dreams a reality through this fellowship. I thank Xavier for not shying away from betting on their own students’ ingenuity, grit, and intelligence. “Tell the students to give up their small ambitions and come eastward,” spoken by St. Francis Xavier. Chloe Peyton (Fellow 2015-2016)