College receives award for civic engagement

By Gianna Shikitino
October 22, 2009

Shannon Keough

Cabrini College was one of five universities to receive a prestigious award that approximately 70 colleges and universities applied for.

The first annual award, titled the Higher Education Civic Engagement Award, was presented by The Washington Center for Internships and Academic Seminars on Oct. 19.

Jane Margaret O’Brien, former president of both Hollins College and St. Mary’s College of Maryland, presented the award to Cabrini president, Dr. Marie Angelella George.

O’Brien commented on the college motto, “service beyond one’s self,” saying that “it says so much and confirms so much of Cabrini’s powerful commitment to social engagement.” O’Brien noted that social justice was the central unifying concept and experience for students at Cabrini.

During the acceptance speech, George spoke of the new core curriculum launched this year known as Justice Matters. The curriculum educates students about the root causes of injustice in the world and empowers students to work for lasting change.

“Every student, not just some, not just those who are engaged in service learning courses but every student will be exposed to a developmentally linked series of seminars that exposes them to themselves, their concepts, beliefs and to the world so that they can then begin to identify some of the systemic issues and then go and change the world,” George said.

“The commitment to social justice education has been a part of our history in providing a Catholic, Cabrinian education, but now it is gaining wider recognition,” George said. “It was exciting to travel to Washington, D.C. with students, faculty members and Wolfington Center staff to accept this prestigious award. I am so proud for Cabrini that we received this honor in recognition of our new core curriculum, Justice Matters.”

George accepted the award held at the National Press Club in Washington D.C.

Two students were recognized during George’s speech, Shannon Keough, senior English and communication major, and Beth Briggs, senior psychology and sociology major, for their outstanding involvement in social justice.

“I think that it’s important for students to become involved in social justice issues because the world needs more voices to advocate for change,” Keough said. “Social justice isn’t something that you do just in college; it’s something that can affect the rest of your life as well.”

The Cabrini education incorporates social justice into the college curriculum to show that students can change the world by applying their knowledge and first-hand experience from civic engagement.

The other four colleges acknowledged for enhancing student learning through civic engagement were Elon University, Tennessee State University, Villanova University and Wartburg College. These colleges and univeristies serve as models for the nation’s colleges and universities by involving students in civic engagement and community service, according to the Washington Center.

The event had an attendance of 500 people and raised an estimated $400,000, for The Washington Center for Internships and Academic Seminars. These funds will contribute in placing students from around the world and the United States in internships throughout Washington.

The Washington Center has placed approximately 45,000 students in civic engagement internships. Cabrini students have been granted internships through it, including an internship in the White House. Students interested in the Washington Center should contact Dr. James Hedtke, professor of history and political science.

“The Washington Center recognized that Cabrini’s curriculum is groundbreaking because we are trying to reach every single student to develop critical thinking, so that our students can address the root causes of injustice in the world,” Dr. Jerry Zurek, chair of the communication department, said.

“Social justice affects many aspects of my life, including the way I think and the choices I make,” Keough said.

“I think that spreading social justice messages are extremely important and I try to spread those messages to my family, friends, classmates and co-workers.”

Gianna Shikitino

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