A world facing many challenges – climate change, polarization, misinformation and inequality – needs hopeful yet realistic leaders, filled with cultural and ethical humility, and who put into practice the Jesuit values of “walking with the excluded”. ” and to give voice to the voiceless in practice. These are just some of the traits that ‘Fordham: Hope in a Fractured World’ panelists suggested the University can instill in its students in order to make a difference in increasingly difficult times.
Anne Williams-Isom, FCLC ’86, Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services in New York City and James R. Dumpson Professor of Child Welfare Studies at the Graduate School of Social Service of Fordham, moderated the panel, which included Celia Fisher, Ph.D., Marie Ward Doty University Chair of Ethics and founding director of Fordham’s Center for Ethics Education; Reverend Bryan N. Massingale, STD, James and Nancy Buckman Professor of Applied Christian Ethics at Fordham; and Professor Iftekhar Hasan, E. Gerald Corrigan Chair in International Business and Finance at the Gabelli School of Business.
The panel, held Oct. 11 on Fordham’s Lincoln Center campus, was part of a week-long series of events celebrating the inauguration of Speaker Tania Tetlow as Fordham’s 33rd president. Tetlow, who gave the closing speech for the event, said talks like this were part of the reason she decided to come to Fordham.
“Fordham has this incredible chance to matter; the reason I came here is because the world feels like it’s falling apart, I wanted to be in the place that could make the most difference , not because we’re going to solve all the problems in the world,” she said. “But because we’re going to try.”
“Hope is not a fantasy”
One of the best ways for Fordham to address today’s challenges and inspire students to work on those challenges is to not ignore “the bad stuff,” Massingale said.
“I think we can too easily hope without looking at the wrong things,” he said, pointing out that while issues such as ecological irresponsibility, attacks on suffrage, racism, anti-Semitism and anti-Asian hatred exist. for a time, they have returned to the forefront in recent years.
“We have to talk about the wrong things, otherwise hope becomes an escape and a fantasy, and hope is not a fantasy,” he said. “I look at all of these things – I think we have to be honest and ask ourselves, ‘How do we create a student who can take their place as a citizen of the world in the face of these challenges?'”
Hasan said that for students to engage in global society, they must learn to cut out “the noise” thrown at them on social media from important factual information.
“The world has changed in such a way that the information that comes to students – it used to be traditional newspapers, television and radio – and now it comes from big tech, social media,” he said. . “In a social sense, they have to be prepared to sort out the noise from what’s done.”
Teaching soft and hard skills
Williams-Isom said she remembers a time when she worked as the chief executive of anti-poverty organization Harlem Children’s Zone, and felt the technical skills she brought to the job weren’t enough. to address the challenges of poverty. his organization was trying to resolve.
“I have it all [skills]”I have a law degree — and I was like, ‘I need something else,'” she said, adding that she decided to get a doctorate in ministry to help her. with the spirit and “soul” of his work. “I felt like I had these tough skills, but if I didn’t have the ability to see some hope in some sort of healing, radical love, I wasn’t really going to be ready to do that. this work.”
Massingale said Fordham has the opportunity to provide students with those “softer skills,” like critical thinking and a desire to help those in need, that can help them deal with difficult situations.
“I think too often we apologize for a liberal upbringing, saying it’s impractical,” he said. “And what you just said was ‘yes, we can give skills, but skills will become obsolete.’ What we need is something more – which is going to keep you in this fight, especially when you don’t see how your skills make a practical difference.
Fisher said one of the things she tries to teach her students is “cultural and ethical humility.”
“How do we give students this kind of tool? said Fisher, whose Center for Ethics Education oversees Fordham’s master’s program in ethics and society. “As part of the Jesuit tradition, it is an openness to others, as well as a desire, a need and an understanding of self-reflection of our own biases, but also understanding that we cannot help people if we don’t understand the social, political life in which they live.
Fisher gave an example of students doing research and how they “can’t just study the individual, they have to look at the context in which the individual is engaged”.
Continuous growth and improvement
Massingale said Jesuit values and teaching methods, such as those Fisher used to describe his students’ research, could be further emphasized at Fordham.
“I think where we could do better is to think of something like the universal apostolic preferences of the Jesuits, where it’s about walking with the excluded, where it’s about walking with young people to give them a future filled with hope,” he said.
Panelists also called on the University to ensure it continually works to improve and address the problem when the “fractured world” and its problems appear on campus, which Tetlow reflected on in his closing remarks. .
“I love the challenge for us as an institution to model our values and how we make those tough choices…how we collectively decide what kind of community we create and in all ways which we often fail in this regard, but we always strive to do better,” she said.
learn from students
One of the ways the University can ensure it does this is to listen and learn from its students, Tetlow said.
“How we are prepared to teach our students to question assumptions and challenge authority, knowing that they will turn against us, and to be proud of them when they do, even if it takes a minute “, she said.
Fisher said it’s something she took to heart during her teaching years.
“It is very important that…as teachers we indicate that we are open to learning, that we recognize that our life experience is not your life experience. What can you tell me? How can I help you? How can I connect you to others, whether inside the University or outside, who can give you more of that global perspective that we need than me,” Fisher said.
This message was echoed throughout, as the panel began with a video of eight students sharing their experiences on why they decided to go to Fordham.
“I came to Fordham Law to represent low-wage immigrant workers, especially undocumented workers who have their wages stolen by bad employers,” said Anthony Damelio, FCRH ’08, LAW ’22 in the video. “Fordham Law has not only given me the tools to be an excellent advocate for my clients, but it has also fanned the flames of justice within me that are essential to advocating for social change.
Williams-Isom stressed the importance of centering student voices.
“In a way, we should probably always start with the student voice because that keeps us grounded, and there was definitely a lot of hope there,” she said.