Working Together to Address Human Suffering: Students Attend JUHAN Conference
Earlier this month, seven Fairfield students joined some 100 other students, faculty and staff from 14 other universities and colleges from around the U.S. and across the globe at the fourth JUHAN (Jesuit Universities Humanitarian Action Network) Conference, which was held at John Carroll University in Cleveland. Rev. Rick Ryscavage, S.J., Director of the Center for Faith & Public Life, and Julie Mughal, Director of the University’s JUHAN program also attended the four-day conference, focused on “Ending Enduring Human Suffering.”
Panel discussions, break-out workshops, and poster sessions all provided opportunities for students to share information and ideas on important humanitarian issues, such as immigration, refugee education, and earning a living wage. A sampling of topics in the break-out sessions included “Student-Led Efforts to Reduce Suffering,” “Global Efforts as a Catalyst for Social Justice and Transformational Change,” “Jesuit Commons - Higher Education at the Margins,” and many more.
“I loved the conference,” said Solanlly Canas ’17. “I think it was great that so many colleges and universities came together to talk about humanitarian issues that are happening right now—such as the unaccompanied minors crossing the border, the earthquake in Nepal, and segregation and racism in schools. These are issues that need our attention, and it was good to talk…to understand what is happening and what we could do from this point on.”
Fairfield students attending the conference included: Deirdre McElroy ’17, David Jose ’16, Alvin Jerome ’16, Nicole Davidow ’15, Marcia Arambulo Rodriguez MS’15, Solanlly Canas ’17, and Joshua Singleton ’18. (Pictured above, l-r: Marcia Arambulo Rodriguez, Gianna Maita (Georgetown), and Alvin Jerome)
Fr. Ryscavage gave one of the plenary addresses: “A Forgotten Humanitarian Crisis: What is happening to the thousands of undocumented children who entered the USA unaccompanied by a parent or adult?” In his remarks he encouraged students to “disaggregate the problem” and to take action at the local and community levels.
The following day, Fr. Ryscavage and Dr. Janie Leatherman, Professor of politics and Co-Director of the Teagle Foundation project, were part of a panel presentation examining the implementation of a grant the Center received from the Teagle Foundation. Entitled “A Larger Vision for Student Learning—Education for Civic and Moral Responsibility: The Examination of Enduring Questions through Humanitarian Education,” the presentation outlined the models being developed by Fairfield and Georgetown Universities and the Universidad Centroamericana in Managua, Nicaragua. Each university is using JUHAN as a platform to examine and integrate “enduring questions” into both curricular and extra-curricular student experiences, Julie Mughal noted.
Recent Fairfield graduate Nicole Davidow ’15 and Deirdre McElroy ’17 gave a presentation on student-led efforts to reduce suffering, which focused on the JUHAN Student Fellows Program at Fairfield and Georgetown universities and how it can serve as a model for other schools. The Fellows program aims to develop student leaders and promote research and raise awareness on Jesuit campuses of the meaning of humanitarian response and its implications for the Jesuit ideology of “men and women for others.”
The Fairfield students combined their projects into one poster describing the humanitarian activities each has done, from working to make water accessible, engaging with youth in India, fundraising for children in Armenia, and more. By combining all of these experiences, they were able to see the connections between actions, both large and small, and how they each positively impact both the people involved and the team members themselves.
“Every action has an impact on lessening human suffering, and everyone has the ability to take action, no matter who they are or where they are in life,” McElroy said.
It was a long road trip for the six students who drove to Cleveland, but well worth the effort. “It was a fun experience,” Canas said. “We were able to get to know each other better and definitely made some good friendships on the way…Plus, we were able to go to the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame after the last day of the conference!”