Students from the Master of Nonprofit and Public Administration program at the University of San Francisco (USF) traveled to Rome over the winter break as part of the inaugural Academic Global Immersion (AGI) program in January 2015. The week-long course, International Jesuit Models of Refugee Service Management, aims to explore non-government sector practices outside of the U.S. and compare effective administrative strategies for forced migrations around the world.
USF Professor Marco Tavanti collaborated with the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) to design the course that helps students recognize how human dignity and social justice paradigms play a key role in the leadership and management of projects for humanitarian assistance worldwide.
“I wanted to give our students the chance to reflect on emergencies related to forced migrations that are quite vivid and challenging even in our communities here in the U.S. and the Bay Area,” Tavanti said. “The value of these intensive immersion experiences is not only becoming informed and sensitive global citizens, but also providing adequate responses through our profession and location to these global challenges.”
To achieve these goals, Tavanti and the students were given the opportunity to work with The United Nations Office for Partnerships at the Food and Agricultural Organization (UN-FAO), The International Development Law Organization (IDLO) and JRS Italy represented by the Centro Astalli, Caritas (Catholic Charities) Rome.
Pope Francis, the first Jesuit Pope, who has made the issue of welcoming immigrants and avoiding abusive and inhumane situations like modern slavery a focal point of his papacy, also greeted students in St. Peter’s Square.
Elizabeth Ramos, Masters of Public Administration student ‘16, said she chose to participate in the program to gain a deeper understanding of her chosen field and further develop her education, but what the group came away with was a unified mission.
“My peers and I came to a similar conclusion that it is our responsibility to not only be compassionate and knowledgeable about refugee issues, but to also think critically and establish how as individuals, and within our networks, we can take this experience and ensure that it is sustained within our work moving forward,” she said.
The personal element of these larger issues was highlighted by the moving story of a young refugee from Afghanistan named Mohammed, who was a guest of Centro Astalli. His story of forced migration gave an intimate meaning to the policy discussions.
“I was especially impacted by Mohammed's testimonial. He shared his personal story of seeking refuge and it tied all the elements together for a deeper understanding of the issues and social pressures that both refugees and governments of sanctuary are currently facing,” Ramos said. “I am thankful for this individual’s story and his resilience despite his barriers. I can only imagine the children who are my neighbors that are currently in different stages of a similar journey.”
Now back at USF, the AGI participants plan to continue their experience by contributing to an upcoming symposium on Forced Migration at USF’s Downtown campus on May 30th, featuring the “accompaniment” values of JRS and the work of selected Bay Area non-profit and organizations engaged in these social challenges. Ramos and her cohorts will use this opportunity to demonstrate their commitment to the social issues they were exposed to in Rome. “I have found that to be a leader, businessperson and entrepreneur involves getting closest to the people that are closest to the issues at hand,” Ramos said. “Constant communication and understanding are essential to move forward.”
For more information about the Academic Global Immersion Program, click here.
Article by Sage Curtis; Photos by Michael De Leon.