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Seattle University


United in Mission

Written by Mike Thee
May 7, 2013

For more than a decade Joe Orlando has been leading groups of faculty and staff to Managua, Nicaragua, to meet with counterparts at Universidad Centroamericana (UCA). This week, the two Jesuit universities will swap roles, as a delegation of UCA faculty, staff and administrators visit our campus.

The unprecedented four-day visit, coordinated by Orlando, assistant vice president for mission and ministry, includes a bursting-at-the-seams slate of activities and meetings, and culminates with a free, half-day conference, "Jesuit Universities Engaging Poverty: Perspectives from Seattle and Managua." Sponsored by the Office of Jesuit Mission and Identity and the Poverty Education Center of Matteo Ricci College, the conference takes place 9 a.m-1:30 p.m. Saturday, May 11, in the Student Center. Faculty, staff, students and members of the wider community are encouraged to attend.

The event is an opportunity for UCA and SU to compare notes and learn from each other in terms of how teaching, research and service can be brought to bear in confronting poverty.

"The Jesuit mission challenges us to confront poverty," says Orlando. "Both universities are engaging with our communities for the common good and reaching out to the marginalized."

In SU's case, much of this engagement with the community is, of course, taking place through the Seattle University Youth Initiative (SUYI). UCA is similarly partnering with its surrounding community. For instance, the university conducted research on the challenges facing rural farmers which birthed a spin-off organization that equips farmers with business skills and supports them with microloans.

Ben Curtis, director of the Poverty Education Center, which was established in 2011, sees the conference as having two main objectives. The first is to get SU students, faculty, and staff thinking deeply about how they are learning and teaching about poverty, and engaging with people in need both locally and globally. The second objective is to share what SU and UCA are already doing with poverty and education, in order to improve teaching, learning and community engagement at both schools.

"I hope that attendees will come away from the event with new ideas for projects, programs and collaborations connected to poverty, here in Seattle and between SU and UCA," he says. "I also hope that people come away with a strengthened commitment to realizing the social justice aspects of SU's educational mission."

In addition to learning more about the SUYI, the UCA delegation will have an opportunity to visit the Bullitt Center, the greenest commercial building in the world, which houses SU's Center for Environmental Justice and Sustainability. The group will also attend the Celebration of Student Research (Friday, May 10, 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m., Student Center and Casey), which is co-sponsored by the Office of Research Services and Sponsored Projects and the Graduate Student Council.

The UCA delegation's visit comes at a time when Seattle University is deepening its ties with the school. As The Commons reported last fall, UCA has been identified as the first site for the university's new convergence sites initiative, which is being led by Victoria Jones, associate provost for global engagement.

Orlando says a number of faculty and staff have been instrumental in nurturing SU's ever-strengthening partnership with UCA, including Raven Lidman, professor of law; Russ Lidman, professor emeritus and former director of the Institute of Public Service; and Sue Jackels, professor of chemistry.