Group Picture - International Education Conference, Creighton University, Omaha

Report on the 2018 Fall AJCU International Education Conference

EDITOR’S NOTE: We asked René Padilla, PhD, Vice Provost for Global Engagement, Creighton University, Omaha, NE. to share a short report about the conference taking place at Creighton University.


The AJCU International Education Conference met on October 31 through November 2, 2018 for its annual fall conference at Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska.  The event gathered 70 international educators from 31 Jesuit or Catholic institutions from 15 countries around the world.  The conference was dedicated to the exploration of how international education at Jesuit universities can actively contribute to the call for such institutions to re-imagine and reorganize themselves so that, in a globalized world, they more effectively can work toward construction of a more human, just, sustainable, and faith-filled world.  The conference was organized along the themes of the Deusto 2018 Assembly of Jesuit Higher Education Institutions, Transforming our World Together with a combination of plenary and small group sessions.

Former U.S. Secretaries of State Dr. Madeleine Albright and Gen. Colin Powell set the stage for the meeting at a pre-conference event on October 30th, part of Creighton 140 Presidential Lecture Series.  These former diplomats pondered topics ranging from the news of the moment to the challenges facing the Founding Fathers in the drafting of the US Constitution. Trust and confidence were central themes of the evening’s conversation, both noting that there is a significant need for American leadership in forging multilateral partnerships across the world.

Madeleine Albright (Middle) and Colin Powell (Left), moderated by Suzanne Malveaux

The AJCU International Education Conference opened with a plenary talks from Fr. Michael Garanzini, S.J., Secretary of Education for the Society of Jesus.  In his talk, Fr. Garanzini explored the challenges and opportunities facing Jesuit higher education, noting that forming the next generation of civic and political leaders for a world that is increasingly divided along economic, religious, and social lines constitutes a new frontier. He challenged the group to find ways to help make Jesuit universities agents of reconciliation in the landscape of divisions and polarization.

Garanzini’s theme was later extended by Eileen Burke-Sullivan, STD, Vice Provost for Mission & Ministry at Creighton University, who noted it is imperative that Jesuit Institutions undertake strategically organized and funded formation processes for their own future leadership.  She argued that in a world where the Jesuit Order has fewer members and multiple apostolic works in addition to education, and where the Catholic Church is called to be in constant dialog with persons of other faith traditions - or no faith tradition at all – Jesuit schools at all levels require men and women who are not Catholic clerics or professed religious to be well formed to provide leadership. She explored means of collaboration among Jesuit institutions across the world to meet this need now and for the future.

Breakout sessions explored the Deusto themes of Education of the Marginalized, Environmental and Economic Justice, Inter-religious Dialogue and Understanding, and Peace and Reconciliation. Across these breakout sessions there was discussion about how traditional opportunities for study abroad could be transformed to explicitly engage these themes.  For example, there was great enthusiasm over the opportunities to engage students at Jesuit universities in on-line courses with students participating in the Jesuit Worldwide Learning (JWL) diploma program through a “global classroom” that facilitates direct communication and formation of bonds between students across the world without the barriers of travel. 

"IAJU will provide means for the cultivation

of a culture of generosity among institutions"

The formation of the International Association of Jesuit Universities (IAJU) as a forum for facilitation of partnerships and collaboration took center stage with a panel of presidents, including Fr. Daniel Hendrickson, S.J. (Creighton University), Fr. Julio Fernández Techera, S.J. (Universidad Católica del Uruguay), Dr. Gabriel Maria Pérez Alcalá (Universidad Loyola Andalucía, Spain) and Fr. Michael Sheeran, S.J. (AJCU). They noted that although IAJU is in its infancy it will provide a means for the cultivation of a culture of generosity among institutions.  They noted that Jesuit universities must leave their comfort zones in order to enter into real dialogue with people at the margins or with people with whom we disagree.  They also commented that they were encouraged by the way in which Jesuit universities are becoming energized as apostolates and challenged conference participants to help their institutions more accurately reflect their role as “sources of a reconciled life.”

Finally, a draft of the Magis Exchange multilateral agreement was circulated for discussion. This voluntary agreement is designed to reduce barriers to a broader exchange of students across the world.  Participants presented various strategies their institutions are putting in place to facilitate this exchange, such as designating a portion of a staff member’s position to coordinate, to allocating funding to assist with student housing costs.  Recommendations were made for clarity of the agreement and plans were finalized to obtain a final round of feedback before the draft is forwarded to the IAJU Board for consideration.

The final day of the conference was dedicated to collaboration hubs in which participants shared initiatives at their institutions surrounding the Deusto Assembly themes. More importantly, ideas for collaborations between institutions emerged and plans were made to report back to participants at the next networking meeting, which will take place in Washington DC at the AJCU office on May 29, 2019. 

The next Fall AJCU International Education Conference was set to take place at the Universidad Javeriana de Bogotá, Colombia in October of 2019.