Fairfield University, AJCU and Jesuit Conference to host Jesuit schools for first-ever conference on migration

Fairfield University, AJCU and Jesuit Conference to host Jesuit schools for first-ever conference on migration

The United Nations estimates that approximately one out of every 35 persons worldwide is an international migrant. Jesuit institutions are now teaming up to try to make an impact on the issue of migration, one of the most significant concerns facing the United States and the world today.

Fairfield University has joined The Association of American Jesuit Colleges and Universities (AJCU), the Social and International Ministries Office of the United States Jesuit Conference and Jesuit Refugee Service to invite Jesuit colleges and universities to a three-day symposium on migration, a focal issue as identified by the Society of Jesus.

"Migration Studies & Jesuit Identity: Forging a Path Forward," will take place from Thursday, June 9, through Saturday, June 11, at Fairfield University in Fairfield, Conn., with a registration and welcoming on Wednesday, June 8.

The conference marks the first time the Jesuit universities and colleges have attempted to join forces to collaborate on one academic area, said Rev. Richard Ryscavage, S.J., a visiting professor at Fairfield University and a former national director for Jesuit Refugee Service USA. It's also particularly timely, as the United States Congress is poised to consider reform of U.S. immigration law, said Fr. Ryscavage, who is also one of the coordinators of the conference. In the first years of the 21st century the United Nations estimates that one out of every 35 persons worldwide is an international migrant.

The conference seeks to explore ways that the Society of Jesus and Jesuit higher education institutions might establish collaborative relationships in migration studies and enhance the status of migration as an area for academic research. A second goal is to investigate avenues for curriculum development, traditional interdisciplinary course instruction, and experiential approaches such as service learning. Finally, the conference aims to consider ways Jesuit colleges and universities might play an advocacy role in helping alleviate current injustices experienced by migrants.

Some of the Jesuit schools, such as Georgetown University and Fordham University, already have graduate initiatives dealing with migration.

Fairfield University itself offers a number of migration courses, has hired new faculty members in sociology and international studies whose expertise is in international migration, and has tackled the issue of immigration in both its Graduate School of Education and Allied Professions and its School of Nursing. The conference will attempt to pool some of the great work and expertise developed individually by the Jesuit schools, Fr. Ryscavage said. One of the aims is to develop curriculum that can be used by all of the Jesuit schools for both undergraduate and graduate students.

"Within universities you have things going on in migration but they're not collaborating," Fr. Ryscavage said. "We want to promote issues of refugees and get students involved in advocacy efforts."

The conference revolves around the Society of Jesus' determination that migration has become one of its primary apostolic priorities. The Jesuit Refugee Service has already done extensive work in the area, and has come to be known for its personalized approach to helping refugees. Whereas larger non-governmental organizations often supply food and medicine, JRS does not make assumptions about what the refugees require, and tries to provide for needs that the refugees themselves outline, such as education or pastoral counseling.

While the conference will host mainly Jesuit institutions in the United States, Jesuit schools from all over the world are invited. The Universidad CentroAmericana (UCA) in Nicaragua, which has partnered with Fairfield University for educational collaboration, is taking a leadership role in recruiting Jesuit higher education institutions in Mexico and Central America for the conference, said Fr. James Bowler, S.J., director of Fairfield's Office of Jesuit and Catholic Mission and Identity, who initiated the partnership.

Following registration on Wednesday, June 8, the conference kicks off on Thursday, June 9, with an introduction and welcome by a representative from the Jesuit Superior General in Rome, Father Lluis MagriƱa, S.J., director of the Jesuit Refugee Service in Rome. Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio, Bishop of Brooklyn and U.S. representative on the United Nations Global Commission on International Migration will then deliver the keynote address, a report on the work of the U.N. Global Commission, whose findings will not be formally announced until the end of June by U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan.

Also speaking that day will be U.N. Special Rapporteur for the Rights of Migrants Dr. Gabriella Rodriguez Pizarro, who is the U.N. Secretary General's appointee to deal with migrants rights worldwide. She will discuss "Cutting Issues in Forced and Voluntary International Migration" with Brunson McKinley, director general of the International Organization for Migration. Among the other featured speakers at the conference are: Dr. Jeffrey Crisp, director of Research, Global Commission on Migration; Dr. Jose Luis Rocha, investigator, Instituto de Investigacion y Desarrollo at UCA; Dr. Susan Forbes Martin, director of the Institute for the Study of International Migration at Georgetown University; Dr. Katherine Kidd, director of International Studies at Fairfield University; Donald Kerwin, executive director of The Catholic Legal Immigration Network; and Dr. T. Alexander Aleinikoff, dean of the Georgetown University Law Center.

Fairfield University also hopes to use the conference as a launching point for a three-year center based at the University with a full-time staff member to continue networking and collaborative programming among the schools promoting curriculum development, joint research, lectures and events on migration. "This is an exciting opportunity for all segments of the Fairfield Community to involve themselves in this critical priority of the Jesuits," said Mark LeClair, Ph.D., associate professor of economics at Fairfield University, who would be the faculty leader for such a center. "I anticipate a significant number of important outcomes, in terms of research, curriculum development, service and advocacy from this initiative." The conference is also typical of the type of programming that would be sponsored by a "Center for the Study of Faith, Civic Engagement, and Public Policy" that Fairfield University is planning to establish.

Issues of migration are nothing new to Jesuit institutions in the United States. In fact, many of them were founded to help educate the immigrant populations of past generations, such as Irish and Italians, said Dr. Kidd. Many of the biggest immigrant groups of today are largely Catholic, such as Mexicans, Cubans, Haitians and Central Americans, Dr. Kidd noted.

Immigration to the United States today is as great as it was at the turn of the century, but it is not noticed as much because the immigrants are absorbed into a larger overall population, Fr. Ryscavage noted.

"The future of the Catholic Church in America is the immigrant population," Dr. Kidd said. "This is something that is connected to our history."

The fee to attend the seminar for four days (meals included) is $150 and participants stay on campus in The Apartments. For more information or to register, contact Ms. Laura Martin in the Fairfield University President's Office at (203) 254-4000, ext. 2256, or e-mail lmartin@mail.fairfield.edu.

Posted On: 03-08-2005 10:03 AM

Volume: 37 Number: 189