Cabrini launches activist program

By Christine Graf
March 27, 2008

A college president who is a national leader in putting his university at the service of the poor neighborhoods of his city has come to Cabrini to advise the college on its partnership with Norristown.

Tuesday, March 25, marked the arrival of Brother Raymond Fitz, former president of University of Dayton in Ohio where he is currently a professor of social justice. Cabrini College invited Fitz with hopes of exchanging knowledge in Catholic social teaching, most notably learning from his experiences with community partnerships.

Fitz led the University of Dayton for 23 years. He is nationally known for connecting Catholic social teaching to the surrounding community of Dayton. Like The University of Dayton, Cabrini College has been working in a community partnership with Norristown, a local urban area. The Cabrini College Wolfington Center feels that this similar connection the two institutions share will bring much insight for growth in new general curriculum and engagement in the common good course sequence.

The partnership between the institutions and their surrounding areas are not only beneficial to the community they partner with, but also gives valuable experience to students, faculty and staff, Fitz believes.

Fitz talked about how students gain real life experience in participating in a community partnership by dealing with a diverse group of people that one might not encounter otherwise.

“Students can read something in a book and can think about social justice issues but when they go out and sit down at a coffee table with a single-parent-mother who works a couple jobs to keep her kids in school, and get to know this person as a friend they will never think about poor people as they did before,” Fitz said.

“Students get introduced to the complexity of how difficult poverty is to overcome. Once they see all the problems and issues that one must deal with living in poverty, they can overcome the stereotypes of being poor.”

Fitz’s arrival began the Cabrini College Wolfington Center’s first annual Scholar-Activist-in-Residence program that will end March 29. The purpose of this program is to educate faculty and staff to fully integrate the meaning of Mother Cabrini’s motto, “education of the heart,” into the classroom.

Dr. Nicholas Rademacher, assistant professor of religion at Cabrini College, gave a response to the opening presentation and stresses the importance of having guest speakers like Fitz.

“The Scholar-Activist-in-Residence program is very beneficial in terms of making it possible for faculty and students to learn more about what we are doing in terms of our partnership in the community,” Rademacher said.

“The program also provides information and knowledge about how to put together a curriculum that actually does get Cabrini students more involved in the community based research.”

Fitz expresses community partnerships as engaging in “good conversation” with the community in order to understand their agenda and assets and then combining them with the institution accordingly.

During Fitz’s visit he will get to explore Cabrini’s partnership of Norristown, have dinner with students involved in the Norristown partnership, visit classrooms of Catholic social teaching, and engage in Cabrini’s Common Good Symposium.

Christine Graf

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