Collaborative Project in Student Learning
The Examination of Enduring Questions through Humanitarian Education
In June 2015, Fairfield University, in partnership with Georgetown University and the Universidad Centroamericana (UCA) in Nicaragua, finished the second year of a three-year grant from the Teagle Foundationg to equip students to deal more effectively with some of the large clusters of “great questions” of meaning, value, and moral responsibility. This grant follows upon the 2008 award to Fairfield by the Teagle Foundation to develop an assessment framework in partnership with Georgetown and Fordham to measure the impact of JUHAN on student learning and personal development.
A Letter from the Project Director
Dr. Janie Leatherman, Professor of Politics and International Studies Program
It is hard to believe that we are already in the third year of the Teagle Foundation-funded grant Collaborative Project in Student Learning: The Examination of Enduring Questions through Humanitarian Education! It has been a fascinating and stimulating journey as Fairfield University, along with our partner institutions Georgetown and the University of Central America (UCA), Nicaragua, have developed models to equip our students to deal with enduring questions of meaning, value and moral responsibility in relation to humanitarian needs.
One of the greatest strengths of the collaboration has been a greater awareness of how our different institutional and national experiences shape approaches to and understandings of humanitarian action. Is humanitarianism about emergency response, peace and justice, or development work? Does humanitarianism mean working oversees or attending to one's duties at home and locally? Humanitarian action is anchored in this creative tension. It is very much at the core of enduring questions on human suffering and our individual and collective responsibilities to alleviate them.
Our campus dialogues and learning also raise profound questions about the kind of humanitarian action pedagogy we are developing. Understanding how we are grounding this pedagogy will be an important objective for the third year of the grant. One resource that resonates with our dialogue is the writing of Ignacio Ellacuría, a Jesuit priest from Spain who lived much of his life in El Salvador, including during this country's civil war. Ellacuría's philosophical and theological framework describes a vision for conceptualizing a grounded pedagogy as a way of "taking hold of reality" through three kinds of imperatives: knowledge to grasp reality, an ethical dimension to bear the burden of this reality and action to take responsibility for reality.
The type of JUHAN pedagogy we are developing nurtures the yearning to make a difference that many of our student have. We seek to give that yearning a voice, though tempering its idealism with a grounded practice that will enable students to connect theory and practice, so one informs the other. Thus a shared goal is to develop tools that make a difference and that are transformational. The three enduring questions provide entry points for each institution to develop a humanitarian pedagogy and methodologies for "taking hold of reality" and "bearing its burdens" through reflection, discernment and action.
Last year, our Fairfield University Teagle Advisory Team worked to develop a Humanitarian Action Minor, one of just a few in the country. While approval is ongoing, we are hoping to receive final endorsement of the minor in the fall which integrates learning across nursing, business, engineering, and the arts and sciences to equip students with an understanding of humanitarian assistance, and skills and methods needed in the field. The foundation courses and capstone for the minor will engage the students weekly in enduring questions. This methodology will ground students in self-reflection, moral commitment and ethical action. Service learning in class and immersion experiences at home and abroad will model responses to the needs of vulnerable communities wherever humanitarian needs arise, starting with needs in our own community. The minor is our way to enable Fairfield students, in the words of Ellacuría, “to take hold of reality and bear its burdens.
Fairfield University Project Team:
- Janie Leatherman, Project Director
- Richard Ryscavage, Director, Center for Faith and Public Life
- Julie Mughal, Associate Director, Center for Faith and Public Life
Interdisciplinary Project Advisory Group:
- Bryan Crandall, Ph.D., Director, CT Writing Project and Assistant Professor, Graduate School of Education and Allied Professions
- David McFadden, Ph.D., Professor of History, College of Arts & Sciences
- Patricia Poli, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Accounting, Dolan School of Business:
- Sally Gerard, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Nursing, School of Nursing
- Ryan Munden, Ph.D., Assistant Dean, Assistant Professor, Electrical Engineering, School of Engineering
- Suzanna Klaf, Ph.D., Associate Director, Center for Academic Excellence
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