Earlier this year, I attended the annual conference of the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities in Washington, DC. It was energizing to hear about what is happening in Catholic higher education around the country and discuss the opportunities and challenges that lie before us.
Marymount is a diverse community that welcomes individuals of all backgrounds and faith traditions. This openness – this commitment to being inclusive and respectful of all of God's children – is a manifestation of our university's Catholic identity. In fact, that identity underpins everything that we do.
The ACCU conference prompted me to take an informal inventory of the initiatives on our campus that reflect and enhance Marymount's mission as a Catholic institution of higher learning. I am happy to take this opportunity to share some of those initiatives with you.
It is vital that we maintain a strong connection with the values of Marymount's founding order, the Religious of the Sacred Heart of Mary. One way that we do this is through our annual Founders Day celebration, held this year on March 12. Mass in the campus chapel was followed by a luncheon presentation by Sister Teresita Faye, RSHM. Sister Teresita discussed how the Religious of the Sacred Heart of Mary are carrying out the mission of Perfectae Caritatis, a decree on the adaptation and renewal of religious life that was proclaimed by Pope Paul VI. It was an inspiring program that reminded us of the many important contributions of the women of faith who established the foundation for Marymount University's success.
Work is now underway on the renovation of Marymount's Sacred Heart of Mary Chapel, which lies at the heart of our campus and represents the heart of our work as educators in the Catholic tradition. The renovated chapel will have a columned entry portico; new flooring, lighting, and sound equipment; a refurbished sanctuary; new pews and kneelers; and 22 beautiful stained-glass windows that reflect our university's Catholic and RSHM heritage. The chapel is the site of daily and Sunday Masses during the academic year, as well as such special events as the Mass of the Holy Spirit and our Christmas Candlelight Mass.
Maintaining the Catholic Intellectual Tradition
As a Catholic institution of higher learning, Marymount fosters students' intellectual, spiritual, and moral growth through study, reflection, and application of knowledge. Faculty in all disciplines encourage their students to examine the "big questions" of human existence – questions like "What is the meaning and purpose of human life?" "What are our values and ethical principles, and how do we apply them?" and "How can we use our gifts to serve others and advance social justice?" In addition, Marymount's core curriculum requires that all undergraduates complete introductory and advanced courses in philosophy and in theology/religious studies – ensuring that our students have a solid foundation for continued spiritual and moral growth.
Ethics Awareness Week
Marymount emphasizes ethics and values across the curriculum and throughout campus life. Each February, our annual Ethics Awareness Week highlights one particular area of ethical concern. This year's programs focused on human trafficking – a very serious moral and social justice issue about which all people of good conscience should be informed. Bradley Myles, executive director and CEO of Polaris Project, gave our 2013 GEICO Ethics Lecture (to a packed auditorium!) and accepted the Marymount University Ethics Award in recognition of his work combating modern-day slavery. Other speakers addressing human trafficking included Sister Kathleen Kanet, RSHM, and Sister Virginia Dorgan, RSHM, of the Network for Peace through Dialogue, and Dr. Sunitha Krishnan, co-founder of Prajwala, an organization in Hyderabad, India, that rescues women and children who have been victims of human trafficking and sexual exploitation.
Discussion of Marymount's Catholic Identity
At a recent Campus Ministry-sponsored Dollar Dinner, Marymount's vice presidents, deans, and I met with interested students to discuss what the university's Catholic identity means and how we can integrate it more fully into campus life. We explored such topics as Catholic social teaching; Marymount's commitment to service; the charism of the RSHM; and how to create an even more vibrant faith community on campus – an environment where Catholic students are energized about living their faith, while non-Catholics feel welcome and also have opportunities to strengthen their spirituality. It was a very stimulating discussion, and I was impressed with the seriousness and commitment that our students brought to it.
Partnerships with External Organizations
On April 13, Marymount hosted a conference sponsored by the Diocese of Arlington's Peace and Justice Commission. The keynote speaker was Dr. Caroline Woo, president and CEO of Catholic Relief Services, and the event included lively presentations and discussion on a range of social justice issues. This coming fall, Marymount will welcome four student interns from the Archdiocese of Washington's Don Bosco Cristo Rey High School. The students at Don Bosco come from economically disadvantaged families; they attend the school on full scholarship, taking classes four days each week and gaining work experience by interning on the fifth day. Organizations that host the interns pay for the privilege, which helps to cover the cost of the students' tuition. We are very pleased to be starting this partnership, which will help to ensure that deserving students have access to quality Catholic education. Marymount also recently joined The Shepherd Higher Education Consortium on Poverty, a national movement to expand the study of poverty, its causes, and potential solutions through collaboration among member institutions.
This April, Claude AnShin Thomas, a Vietnam veteran who is now a Buddhist monk and advocate for non-violence, came to campus to speak on "The Roots of War, the Seeds of Peace," at Marymount's 2013 Interfaith Forum. He also participated in an event for veterans in the MU community, discussing the need for spiritual healing following exposure to war and violence. Mr. Thomas's visit is just one example of the many ecumenical and interfaith programs at Marymount; another is our monthly non-denominational praise and worship service called "Ignite," which was spearheaded by students.
Focus on Service
Earlier this year, we were informed that Marymount University has once again been named to the President's Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll. This is the fifth time we have received this national honor, which recognizes our commitment to service. Last year, more than 1,500 MU students gave a total of 21,000 hours of volunteer service on campus, in the local community, and around the world. Many service activities are organized through our Campus Ministry Association; in addition, student groups across campus conduct a broad array of service events each year.
Alternative Spring Break
Marymount's Alternative Spring Break program offers students the opportunity to share their time and talents through national and international service projects during Spring Break week (when many college students are lounging on the beach!) This year, we had more than 50 participants. Some traveled to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to work with the St. Vincent de Paul Youth and Young Adult Center; others went to Cranks Creek, Kentucky, to rebuild and repair homes in a poverty-stricken community; and a third group journeyed to Kingston, Jamaica, to assist the Missionaries of the Poor in providing services to orphans, the elderly, and individuals with disabilities. Alternative Spring Break participants do service projects during the day and share prayer and reflection in the evenings.
A Final Note: The Office of Campus Ministry
The Office of Campus Ministry plays an integral role at Marymount, helping to ensure that we live out our identity as a Catholic institution of higher learning committed to educating the whole person. For the past six years, this office was led by Father David Sharland, Y.A., our chaplain and director of campus ministry from July 2007 through June 2013. This month, Father Sharland moved to Blacksburg, Virginia, to take up a new responsibility – heading up the Catholic community at Virginia Tech. His dedicated and faith-filled leadership will be deeply missed by the Marymount community.
Throughout his tenure at MU, Father Sharland was supported by Father Jack Peterson, Y.A., serving as assistant chaplain. I am pleased to report that Father Peterson will remain with us in this role. And next month, the Marymount community will welcome its new chaplain and director of campus ministry – Father Brian G. Bashista.
A northern Virginia native, Father Bashista earned his B.A. in architecture at Virginia Tech, then worked as an architect for several years. In 1994, he entered seminary formation for the Diocese of Arlington. After earning both a Master of Divinity and an M.A. in theology from Mount Saint Mary's Seminary, Father Bashista was ordained to the priesthood on May 15, 1999. His first assignment was as parochial vicar at St. Mary of Sorrows Church in Fairfax, Virginia. In 2002, Bishop Loverde named Father Bashista to serve as promoter of vocations for the Diocese of Arlington. In addition, Father Bashista served as director of the Society for the Propagation of the Faith in 2002 and 2003. For the past decade, he has been both the promoter of vocations and the director of the Office of Vocations for the Arlington diocese.
Having talked with him extensively about his new role at Marymount, I am impressed by Father Bashista's commitment to sharing the Catholic faith with young people, while providing an environment where students of all faith traditions have opportunities for moral and spiritual development. We look forward to welcoming Father Bashista to campus this August and working with him to celebrate and build upon Marymount's Catholic identity as we move forward.
In Other News...
Chuck Todd Offers Graduates Advice, Encouragement
On May 19, more than 450 undergraduates and 350 graduate students walked across the stage at D.A.R. Constitution Hall to receive their degrees at Marymount University's 2013 Commencement Ceremonies.
Chuck Todd, political director and chief White House correspondent for NBC News, gave the Commencement Address at the undergraduate ceremony and was awarded the honorary degree Doctor of Humane Letters in recognition of his distinguished career in journalism and the personal and professional integrity for which he is known.
Mr. Todd advised the graduates, "Love what you do. …Trust me: when you feel that way about a job, it isn't work." He also emphasized the need to pay attention to details, and to "find a way to simply say, 'Yes.'" He explained, "The folks who figure out how to say yes, they get the cool assignments; they get the promotions; and they even get the experience of failing, which often ends up giving you the foundation you need later in life for a bigger success."
Outstanding Faculty Recognized
Dr. Michele C. Garofalo was recently named the 2013 Virginia Counselor Educator of the Year by the Virginia School Counselor Association. Dr. Garofalo, who has taught at Marymount for 18 years, designed the university's M.A. in School Counseling program. She is assistant chair of the Department of Counseling, director of the school counseling program, and professor of psychology. Dr. Garofalo was honored for her dedication to educating school counselors and her extensive contributions to the field.
Dr. Lisa Jackson-Cherry, chair of Marymount's Department of Counseling, has received the Dr. Judy Miranti Lifetime Service Award from the Association for Spiritual, Ethical, and Religious Values in Counseling (ASERVIC). An active member of ASERVIC for 15 years, Dr. Jackson-Cherry has served as a board member, secretary, president, and past president. She is currently serving a three-year term as ASERVIC's representative on the leadership team of the Governing Council of the American Counseling Association. During her 13 years at Marymount, Dr. Jackson-Cherry has been instrumental in strengthening and expanding the Department of Counseling – establishing the M.A. in Pastoral Counseling program and the Ed.D. in Counselor Education and Supervision.
Dr. Stacy Lopresti-Goodman, assistant professor of psychology, was selected by Marymount's undergraduate Class of 2013 to receive the university's Robert A. Draghi Outstanding Faculty Award. The Draghi Award recognizes the recipient's teaching excellence, efforts to strengthen the Marymount community, and commitment to students. Dr. Lopresti-Goodman notes, "In all the classes I teach, I involve some component of research, and I allow students to pick a topic that they are interested in. I really want to foster their intellectual curiosity." For the past two years, Dr. Lopresti-Goodman has taken students to Kenya to conduct observational research on chimpanzees that have been rescued from captivity and abuse. Her students have presented their research findings at regional, national, and international conferences, and several of them visited Capitol Hill recently, to lobby for restrictions on using chimps for scientific experiments and keeping them as pets.
Saints Standouts Inducted into Athletics Hall of Fame
On May 11, Marymount University inducted its eighth Athletics Hall of Fame class, honoring four former Saints standouts: Randi Jones ʼ06 (women's basketball), Justin Kessler ʼ06 (men's soccer), Meggan Breen Olek ʼ91 (women's soccer), and Tony Smith ʼ00 (men's golf).
Randi Jones is one of 11 Saints to earn All-America accolades, collecting honorable mention honors as a senior. That same year, she was named Capital Athletic Conference Player of the Year, CAC Female Scholar-Athlete of the Year, First Team All-CAC, First Team VaSID All-State, and Second Team D3Hoops.com All-Region, and led MU to its third NCAA Tournament appearance of her tenure. Randi was named CAC All-Academic in each of her four years at Marymount.
Justin Kessler is the most decorated player in the history of Marymount men's soccer. He was a three-time First Team All-Capital Athletic Conference performer during his sophomore, junior, and senior seasons. He also garnered Third Team All-South Atlantic Region honors as a junior and First Team All-South Atlantic Region, to go along with First Team VaSID All-State accolades, as a senior.
Meggan Breen Olek played in the pre-Capital Athletic Conference era but remains one of the top players in women's soccer team history. The team won 36 games during her four-year tenure, the second-highest win total in a four-year span.
Tony Smith played before the Capital Athletic Conference sponsored golf and is the first men's golf inductee into the Marymount Athletics Hall of Fame. He was twice named All-State after finishing in the top 18 at the Virginia Intercollegiate Tournament. At the time of his graduation, Tony held the record for the lowest round and lowest team score, as well as three of the five best individual and team scores.