Jesuit universities collaborate on training students for humanitarian action

On Friday, June 20, the first Jesuit Universities Humanitarian Action Network (JUHAN) Conference opens at Fordham University. The three-day conference, which will provide training for 150 undergraduate students from 20 Jesuit colleges and universities from across the country on the theory and practice of humanitarian emergencies, is the result of a two-year project initiated by Fordham, Georgetown and Fairfield Universities aimed at preparing students intellectually, morally and experientially to respond to communities in need.

The global need for expertise in humanitarian relief has never been greater, including crises in Rwanda, Myanmar (Burma), China, Somalia, and Sudan, to name just a few international hotspots, as well as domestic crises such as those caused by Hurricane Katrina and the Tennessee tornadoes. The conference, "Engaging Students in Humanitarian Action," aims to broaden participants' knowledge and understanding of global humanitarian initiatives, create awareness of the need for humanitarian expertise, and build the capacity for humanitarian training among member institutions of the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities. (AJCU).

Who: Jesuit Universities Humanitarian Action Network
What: Conference: Engaging Students in Humanitarian Action
When: Friday, June 20, Saturday, June 21 and Sunday, June 22
Where: Fordham University, Rose Hill Campus, Bronx, N.Y.

Brendan Cahill, Administrative Director IIHA
Institute of International Humanitarian Affairs
(212) 636-6294 or

Participants from Fordham, Fairfield and Georgetown Universities have been meeting monthly since Spring 2006 to bring the project to fruition. The primary components of establishing JUHAN consisted of the development of a leadership team at each of the 28 participating universities, including ten students, two faculty members and two student affairs administrative staff; new courses during the 2007-08 at Georgetown, Fordham and Fairfield, all related to humanitarian issues and action (followed by a common evaluation of student learning for all the courses); and finally the three-day National Humanitarian Action Conference at Fordham's Rose Hill Campus which begins on June 20.

Sessions will include "Disaster Management - Challenges for the 21st Century" and "Organizing an Effective Response," covering issues such as infectious diseases and HIV/AIDS; legal and physical protection; environment and natural disasters; shelter and camp management; Reaching Vulnerable Populations; and Early Warning, Mitigation and Preparedness.

Rev. Richard Ryscavage, S.J., director of the Center for Faith and Public Life at Fairfield University, said the funding the three universities were able to obtain under a grant from the Teagle Foundation will be invaluable in developing an assessment tool to gage the effectiveness of the program. "We want to develop a model that asks what constitutes success for this project and how can we measure it? We also want to determine the common goals that we can set for undergraduate courses and how we can measure them across all the schools."

Founded in 1841, Fordham is the Jesuit University of New York, offering exceptional education distinguished by the Jesuit tradition to approximately 14,700 students in its four undergraduate colleges and its six graduate and professional schools. It has residential campuses in the Bronx and Manhattan, a commuter campus in Westchester, and the Louis Calder Center Biological Field Station in Armonk, N.Y.

Fairfield University is a Jesuit University, rooted in one of the world's oldest intellectual and spiritual traditions. More than 5,000 undergraduate and graduate students from 35 states, 46 foreign countries, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico are enrolled in the University's six schools. In the spirit of rigorous and sympathetic inquiry into all dimensions of human experience, Fairfield welcomes students from diverse backgrounds to share ideas and engage in open conversations. For more information, visit

Georgetown University is the oldest and largest Catholic and Jesuit university in America, founded in 1789 by Archbishop John Carroll. Georgetown today is a major student-centered, international, research university offering respected undergraduate, graduate and professional programs in Washington, DC, Doha, Qatar and around the world. For more information about Georgetown University, visit

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Media Contact: Nancy Habetz, (203) 254-4000, ext. 2647,

Posted on June 11, 2008

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