From the Editor: Mental Well-Being and Illness

By Edward W. Schmidt, S.J. 

The Conversations seminar meets three times a year to discuss issues, identify themes, and plan future issues, suggesting authors, specific topics, and places to write about. We rotate the schedule through the 28 AJCU schools. It is an upbeat time, especially meeting faculty and students for lunch and discussion.

When the seminar members made their way to Gonzaga in Spokane last April, they found the campus alive. It seems that the weather had been pretty cheerless in the days before the meeting, but when we got there the sun was shining and the air was warm and the students were all soaking it in. Smiles, excited conversations, lounging about,

When I arrived I had to look for the Jesuit community, which had been moved from where I knew it before. I went into an office to ask, and a bright young man told me, “Oh,
it’s just over across the yard.” When I asked if he could point it out for me, he said, “Oh, no. I’ll walk you over there. I want to get outside. It’s great out!” I suggested he could give me a tour of the campus, but he thought that might be stretching things.or strolling slowly gave the campus a feel of contentment.

We know from the articles in this issue of Conversations that not everything on every campus is so bright and cheerful. As in any human society, issues arise. The intensity of campus life perhaps heightens those issues. But so too, there is a remarkable willingness and competence to confront issues, to provide support, to promote health and well-being.

The stories here study a wide array of issues from anxiety to discrimination, from the stress of the undocumented to sexual identity. Some of the stories explore issues from the personal experience of the writer. All of the stories show important aspects of the issues involved. And they all show clearly that someone cares. Not someone, but rather many, many faculty members, administrators, and students themselves care a lot.

Three of the articles describe very specific programs at Georgetown, Rockhurst, and Regis. Others develop wellbeing resources and tie them in with the cura personalis that many describe as distinctive in Jesuit education. Young alumni share their personal journeys as encouragement to others: You can do it! We can do it!

We have regular features too. One is a two-page spread that in word and in picture shows the history of one of our 28 constituent schools; this time we feature Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia. In Teaching to Mission, a seminar member reflects on teaching as a ministry; this time it is a biology teacher from the very same Saint Joseph’s Univeristy who shares his reflections. And we have our Ten Questions to prompt conversations.

A rare entry is an advertisement for a new editor! I won’t go into fond farewells until a future column, but after six years I am ready to hand over responsibilities to a new editor. Please consider this advertisement!

The cover photo is featured courtesy of Melinda Stuart of the Flickr CC

In issue #53 the photo on the inside back cover was incorrectly identified as John Carroll University. It is in fact of the University of Scranton. Also, on page 24, in the story from the University of Detroit Mercy, Live6 was established by the university and The Kresge Foundation, not “by major businesses,” as stated. Also, Lauren Hood, the first Interim Director of Live6, is no longer with the organization.

Ten Questions for Continuing the Conversation

In the spirit of reflection, we pose these questions as an opportunity to extend the conversation. We hope that by offering these ideas, the discussion continues on your campus— with colleagues, with students, and with your community.

1. How are invitations to campus extended to community members? Does the community invite the university to participate in community events?

2. What vocabulary is used to discuss relationships with the neighborhood, community, organizations? What do those words say about the relationships?

3. What is the role of your university in the place it sits?

4. How does faith drive relationships between the university and the local community?

5. Where does mission of the university drive relationships with the local community?

6. Does gentrifcation play a role in the way your university interacts with the community?

7. What role do government or community organizations play in university decisions? (mayors, governors, city planners, neighborhood associations)

8. How are Jesuit communities using their spaces to respond to the needs of their community?

9. How do our universities reconcile campus safety while maintaining openness with the local community?

10. Does the physical space of the university promote connections with the surrounding community? What barriers or welcome signs exist?


The cover photo is courtesy of Gonzaga University