Mission-Based Partnerships and Transformative Education
Rev. Don McNeill
I am rewriting most of this after being with many of you Tuesday during Activities Night at the Joyce Center. What an energizing experience! Thanks and gracias to the Student Activities Office for sponsoring the event for hundreds with the support of Rec Sports, Center for Social Concerns, Club Coordination Council and many other partners from on and off campus. I especially enjoyed conversations with students exploring how their gifts and energy could be shared in areas of need in South Bend and beyond.
I am grateful to The Observer that the Center for Social Concerns will again have the opportunity for a bi-weekly column. I am confident that we will continue to provide quality explorations and discussions of issues, challenges, and controversies around the part of our mission statement which states "… calling us all to service and action for a more just and humane world." The column will be from the perspective of our CSC staff, students, faculty, alumni/ae and others who have participated in our mission over the years.
A brief word of introduction: I am Executive Director of the Center for Social Concerns, a member of the Department of Theology, a resident in McGlinn Hall, a Holy Cross priest and a Notre Dame grad of '58. I have had the privilege of teaching and developing programs related to experiential and service learning over the past three decades. Students, faculty and staff returning from these mission-based experiences continue to teach and challenge me.
My focus today is on Mission-Based Partnerships, how they are critical for our Center mission and the mission of Notre Dame and how partners off-campus can often challenge us to new viewpoints and experiences of transformative education which need to be shared upon return. The students' learning brings to life a specific part of the University's mission statement (Colloquy 2000) as a call to a "… disciplined sensibility to the poverty, injustice and oppression that burden the lives of so many. The aim is to create a sense of human solidarity and concern for the common good that will bear fruit as learning becomes service to justice."
We at the Center and Notre Dame are enriched each year by the increasing number of participants living out this mission at Notre Dame, locally, nationally and globally. All of our multiple programs, courses and seminars would be impossible without many mission-based partners and partnerships off-campus. I want to explore with you on the importance of creative partnerships which enhance our ND/CSC Mission and the missions of other units on campus.
Below I will highlight two major program partnerships which enhance the ND/CSC mission. These seminars and courses are linked with the department of theology. Some are cross-listed. Two other mission-based partnerships will be summarized. Ads, posters and further columns with more comprehensive information will be shared in the weeks ahead.
Summer Service Projects/Programs: 234 students have recently returned from 8-10 weeks of national and international programs of service learning. It is a privilege to read their journals, papers and listen to their stories, like our CSC staff did yesterday morning, of how the partner sites were teachers. Alumni Club representatives are critical partners in most sites. These site partners and their communities of need challenged students' perspectives and concerns about poverty, injustice, oppression, solidarity, racism, child abuse, community organizing, etc. Current students are part of a 40-year tradition of summer service experiences which transformed students before them, including Monk Malloy, C.S.C. in the early '60s. We are pleased that 18 students could learn with international partner sites in 8 different countries at 12 sites this summer.
Social Concerns Seminars: Please request a copy of our recent brochure on "Interdisciplinary and Service Learning with ND Partners Across the World." I will indicate most of the seminar titles, approximate number of students and sites below. Please imagine approximately 700 students linked with 70 partner sites last year:
Appalachia (300 students/15 sites); Cultural Diversity (12/1); Children and Poverty (24/2); Leadership Issues (12/1); Washington, D.C. (40/1); Church and Social Action: Urban Plunge (300/50); Holy Cross Mission (15/2); Border Issues (6/2); Mexico (12/1); Marcelo (Chile) (5/1); Haiti; (8/1); Civil Rights (8/many); L'Arche, Toronto (6/1); Migrant Experiences (12/1).
South Bend and Post Graduate Service Sites: USA and Global include approximately 60 partner sites/programs each year. In South Bend, community-based partnerships provide "citizenship" education for around 2,000 undergraduates in service learning, social action, community development, and faith-based programs. Around 190 graduating seniors continue their service and education with 40 different partner programs at even more sites. Many are with faith-based groups living out "a process of transforming Church and society in light of the Gospel" (Institute for Church Life of ND mission statement).
In conclusion, I challenge all of you to see and experience your fellow students as partners for positive change and called to explore new ways to bring about a more just and humane world. Please take the opportunity to talk with some of the students and alumni/ae who have been transformed by the encounters with people in the mission-based partnerships mentioned above. They would love to be asked! I hope all of us become more passionate mission-based partners for change rooted in Gospel values and acting on our transformative education. Peace!
"May you be blessed with passion and may you follow it all your life."
— Helen Prejean, CSJ
Father Don McNeill is the founder and Executive Director of the Center for Social Concerns. For a More Just and Humane World is a bi-weekly column sponsored by the Center for Social Concerns. Comments and discussions are welcome at ND.firstname.lastname@example.org.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.
All Viewpoint Stories for Thursday, September 2, 1999