On a bright, cloudless late July morning, hundreds of college students from all over the country arrived at the Heights. Some were weary from cross-country flights, some were impressively enthusiastic, and all were excited to dialogue about Jesuit education, to learn about other schools, and to explore servant leadership. Over four hundred delegates from nearly every Jesuit college and university descended upon BC’s campus to attend the National Jesuit Student Leadership Conference, or NJSLC.
Coming from schools as close as the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, MA, as far away as Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, CA, and everywhere in between, student leaders spent four days of their summer at BC reflecting on what it means to be the “First to Love,” which was the theme of the conference. Maria Ireland, A&S ’15, was one of the co-chairs of the planning committee, which started work on the conference two years ago. When asked what “First to Love” means in the context of Jesuit leadership, Ireland remarked that “love is a compelling answer to both the why and the how of leadership. It is the key to purposeful servant leadership, for love can reflect both the passions that drive our involvements, the why behind our roles, as well as the attitudes of agape, the how."
Delegates at the NJSLC had many opportunities to explore both the “why” and the “how” of servant leadership. The conference opened with a keynote from Kerry Cronin, Associate director of the Lonergan Institute at BC, who discussed making the decision to be the “First to Love” in relationships with others. Student and faculty-led educational workshops throughout the conference introduced programs, issues, and ideas from different schools to the rest of the delegates. Workshops allowed delegates to share their projects with the rest of the NJSLC. Spark Sessions, lectures from faculty on everything from “Harry Potter and the Misunderstood Magis” to “The Intellectual Life as Friendship with God,” inspired many conversations. In small group discussions, delegates reflected on “the issues and communities that captivate our hearts,” says Ireland.
For Sabin Pradham, a senior at St. Peter’s University from Kathmandu, Nepal, small group discussions were the most powerful and helpful parts of the conference. During these discussions, Pradham says he “got to meet a number of exceptional student leaders and talk about their campus life” in comparison to his own.
The NJSLC was filled with powerful moments of inspiration and cooperation between students from different schools. Pradham says that the NJSLC helped him realize that “effective leadership encompasses community building among peers that helps synergize results.” Being able to dialogue about similar issues and collectively come up with solutions was powerful for many people who attended. Eddie Tan, a sophomore at the College of the Holy Cross in Worchester, MA, appreciated the “solidarity with other college communities and the chance to collaborate on how we can work towards being men and women for others in our school communities.” A key component of the NJSLC was learning how to work together as members of the Jesuit family to strive for justice and service in all we do.
The conference closed with Mass in Lannon Chapel with Fr. Casey Beaumier, SJ as the celebrant, a keynote from Fr. Michael Himes, a closing banquet, and a dance in Gasson Hall. The NJSLC ended with a night of inspiration, laughter, celebration, and reflection on the previous days well-spent. As the moon rose over Gasson Tower and aspiring servant leaders gathered from across the nation, one could not be anything but optimistic for the future of Jesuit education.
The NJSLC 2015 will be hosted by Canisius College in Buffalo, NY next summer.