Archive for the ‘Education’ Category

Jesuit Leading Santa Clara University Solar Decathlon Team to Victory

Jesuit Father Jim Reites started out as an engineering student at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, but meeting the Jesuits his senior year changed his career path. Instead, he joined the Society of Jesus and became a professor of religious studies at Santa Clara University in California. In a nod to his former career path, Fr. Reites is now making headlines as the adviser of Santa Clara’s Solar Decathlon team.

The United States Department of Energy sponsors the Solar Decathlon every two years, in which teams from schools worldwide compete to build the most efficient, livable and beautiful solar home. Santa Clara’s teams finished in third place in both 2007 and 2009, besting many bigger, better-funded universities. Students credit Fr. Reites as a large reason for their success, and the 2013 solar decathlon team is currently working on their next entry at the Santa Clara campus.

“I’ve never seen him down in spirits or tired,” said Santa Clara junior Brian Grau. “He’s always ready to work whether it’s actually doing physical labor all day long or helping us with the design.”

Fr. Reites may be 75 years old, but he is teaching young Santa Clara students plenty about technology. Additionally, Fr. Reites brings his love of science to his position as chair of the Religious Studies Department at Santa Clara. “The very first personal computer in a department on campus was in the Department of Religious Studies,” said Fr. Reites. “And I built it from a kit.” His do-it-yourself attitude led the university to ask him to become the Solar Decathlon team adviser.

Tim Hight, professor of mechanical engineering and faculty project leader for the Solar Decathlon team, said Fr. Reites “always seemed to be around when something needed to be done and outworked most of the team in terms of energy and enthusiasm. His understanding of so many aspects of the house, whether electrical, plumbing or controls, means that he knows how the whole house works and how to fix it if it doesn’t.”

According to Fr. Reites, building a solar house is right in line with the Jesuits’ mission. “It’s engineering with a mission, a real mission to make the world a better place.” [NBC Bay Area, Santa Clara University]

Jesuit Founder of Cristo Rey Jesuit Houston Profiled by Hometown Paper

Jesuit Father TJ Martinez was recently profiled by his hometown paper, The Brownsville Herald of Brownsville, Texas, about founding Cristo Rey Jesuit in southeast Houston. “Within 24 hours of graduating from Harvard [with an MA in educational leadership], I was on a plane from Boston to Houston,” Fr. Martinez recalled. “My first assignment as a new priest was to start this new school.”

Part of the Cristo Rey network of schools, the high school exclusively serves children living at or below the poverty line and charges no tuition, supported instead by donations and a work-study program in which students are employed at local corporations one day a week.

“We wanted to see if we could launch not just a Catholic high school but, more importantly, to at least begin a movement of Catholic education reform focused on children who are most in need. We started with nothing but a good idea,” said Fr. Martinez.

The school celebrated its success with its first graduation ceremony this past June. The entire first graduating class received scholarships, most covering full tuition and expenses, to some of the most prestigious schools in the country.

When the school was founded in 2009, Cristo Rey Jesuit relied heavily on donors in the city of Houston for financial assistance. However, Fr. Martinez also sought to “involve the community in the bigger concept. … We didn’t want just donors and corporate sponsors. We wanted them to become supporters so that they would take ownership of the movement.

“If we could turn someone who was being supported by the taxpayers into someone who contributed to our community,” achieving the goal would change Houston, said Fr. Martinez. “I was shocked that the support came from as many non-Catholics as Catholics. They realized that we could change the landscape. … It’s an investment.”

Cristo Rey Jesuit students participate in a work-study program that employs them in entry-level positions one day a week to earn the remainder of the tuition not covered by donations. According to Fr. Martinez, the jobs allow these students who have grown up in the toughest neighborhoods and come from the most broken families to re-imagine themselves as future business leaders and future family leaders.

“It’s almost like pressing a reset button on their minds,” Fr. Martinez said. “It ignites a positive potential, a ‘divine spark’ that I believe exists in every child.”

This fall, Fr. Martinez will travel to Kenya on a six-month mission to meet Jesuits who are considering opening a similar school in Nairobi. After his time abroad, Fr. Martinez will return to Cristo Rey Jesuit for another term as president. [The Brownsville Herald]

Jesuit Professor: ‘Inequality is the Issue of the Next Century’

Photo by Kuna Malik Hamad, via Georgetown University.

Jesuit Father Matthew Carnes, assistant professor of government at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., untangles the politics that underlie labor policy, social welfare and inequality issues in his research and in the classroom. “I’m convinced that inequality is the issue of the next century,” he said.

“We have 1 in 5 children in the United States growing up in poverty and 16 percent of the population living below the poverty line. It’s not something that happens naturally; it’s something we actually choose,” Fr. Carnes explained.

According to Fr. Carnes, many political choices affect the levels of inequality — from how much we tax individuals and corporations to how much we fund public education or how we defund welfare programs. “At the end of the day, society gets to make that choice. We are a democratic system, which gives us mechanisms for choosing. But I think we need to recognize it as a choice and talk about those mechanisms.”

Students in his courses study the variation of political behavior over time, across the United States and among different countries. “There are lots of other ways the world can be, [which shows students] we can create the world we want to live in,” said Fr. Carnes, who received Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service Faculty of the Year Award this May.

Fr. Carnes said that while inequality raises complicated and contentious issues, he also sees that his students are eager to tackle them. “I push them to be constantly thinking and rethinking and challenging ideas,” he said.

By showing students how political choices have created the world we live in, Fr. Carnes hopes they understand that their actions can also change it. “Students have this real enthusiasm with trying to make a difference. I point to the fact that there are differences and those differences are human made, so if they want to make a difference they can.”

Read the full interview with Fr. Carnes at the Georgetown University website.

Los Angeles Times Highlights Success of Jesuits’ Verbum Dei High

Verbum Dei Class of 2013After the Jesuits took over Verbum Dei High School in Los Angeles in 2000, the school began accepting only low-income students and doubling up on core classes. Evidence shows that their Cristo Rey Network model is working: all 60 graduating students of the class of 2013 announced they would be going to college at the school’s commitment day ceremony this year.

The all-male high school in the Watts neighborhood of the city was the subject of a recent feature story in the Los Angeles Times’ Column One section. For the sixth straight year, the college acceptance rate was 100 percent for its almost entirely Latino and African-American students.

This celebration of the school’s success highlights the dramatic changes made in Verbum Dei’s recovery from financial problems. In 2000, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, which long kept the school afloat, announced that Verbum Dei was on the verge of closing. Cardinal Roger M. Mahony asked the Jesuits to take over, and they linked the school with the Cristo Rey Network of Catholic schools in 2002, which provides a college preparatory experience for disadvantaged urban teenagers.

By 2009, Verbum Dei was fully operating under the new program. The school, once an athletic powerhouse, directed its focus toward new achievements. “You might not see any more championship athletic banners in the gym,” said Paul Hosch, vice president for mission advancement at Verbum Dei. “But what you will see is five to six college acceptance letters per student.”

Students’ days at Verbum Dei are highly structured, the schedule designed to bring underachieving students to grade level. “Every student here has obstacles or challenges, and we accept that,” Principal Dan O’Connell said. “But that cannot be an excuse. The real world is not going to allow them to use that as excuses.”

The school condenses six years of learning into four, with double sessions of core classes such as English and math. In addition to schoolwork, students work one day during the school week as part of a corporate work-study internship that pays half of their tuition. Parents are asked to pitch in what they can afford, and the remainder of the tuition is made up through grants and fundraising.

School officials said the work at law firms, banks and engineering companies inspires the teens. Ricardo Placensia, who will be attending the University of California, Riverside in the fall, interned at Locke Lord law firm. “I see I made [my mother] proud,” said Placensia. “That’s the one thing I’ve wanted to do.” [Los Angeles Times]

Dr. Thomas Bausch, a Leader in Jesuit Education, Passes Away

Dr. Thomas BauschDr. Thomas Bausch, who led a life committed to his family, Catholic faith, community and the Jesuit mission, passed away on July 17 at age 75. A graduate of John Carroll University in Cleveland (B.S. 1960) and Indiana University (Ph.D. 1969), he had a distinguished career centered on working with Jesuit universities and the Society of Jesus throughout the world.

Bausch, a proponent of Catholic social teaching in business and management, held positions at John Carroll University and Bradley University in Peoria, Ill., prior to becoming dean of the Business School at Marquette University in Milwaukee from 1978 to 1993. He continued to teach at Marquette until 2010.

Bausch was particularly interested in the connection between Ignatian spirituality and business leadership. He was co-founder of the International Association of Jesuit Schools of Business and served as its executive director for 10 years.

His global commitment to the Jesuit mission included working with universities and organizations throughout Latin America, Africa, Europe and Asia. Throughout his career Bausch held many leadership positions, which included serving as president of the World Union of Jesuit Alumni, national president of Christian Life Community and president of the American Assembly of Collegiate Schools of Business. He also served as dean of business at the Jesuits’ Hekima College in Nairobi, Kenya.

Bausch is survived by his wife of 50 years, Bernadine, and their eight children and 17 grandchildren.