With a core curriculum focused on Justice Matters, Cabrini students do not realize the resources they have at their fingertips. Catholic Relief Services (CRS) is an organization that Cabrini has a great partnership with thanks to the help of Joan Neal, the vice president of institutional planning and effectiveness, a newly-created position at Cabrini.
Neal served as executive vice president, U.S Operations, before leaving CRS in 2008. During her six years there, she led the development of the CRS college and university partnership program. Subsequently, she served on the Cabrini Board of Trustees for two years before stepping down at the request of President George to take her new position with the college.
The trips and memories Neal experienced in her time with CRS allow her to share her compassion with others and inspire them to work towards justice. Neal’s first trip was to the Congo, which also was her first trip to the African continent and the developing world.
After the tsunami in India in 2005, Neal made a trip to the country immediately after the storm.
“I had never seen such destruction and had no idea that water could do so much damage,” Neal said in an email interview. Neal returned to India a year later in 2006 and said it was encouraging to see the progress that had been made.
“In both India and the Congo, the ‘tenacity of spirit’ that I observed among the people was a special blessing and I am eternally grateful for these and all of the other experiences I was privileged to have overseas,” Neal said.
Not all of Neal’s memorable experiences with CRS have occurred overseas. She opened six regional offices around the country, the first office being in Radnor.
After establishing the work of CRS in the United States, representing the U.S. in 99 countries around the world in efforts that continue today and opening CRS offices across the country, Neal will always have a special and meaningful place for CRS in her life.
“I feel truly blessed to have had the opportunity to travels overseas, to visit programming, to see issues up close and to meet and interact with so many people all over the world who are dealing with the big challenges but who still manage to keep their sense of dignity, hope and faith alive,” Neal said.
Retiring early from CRS, Neal continues to be engaged and remains in touch with many of her former colleagues and staff members including CRS President Ken Hackett.
As vice president of institutional planning and effectiveness, Neal is the chief planning officer for Cabrini. Her focus is to insure the strategic processes (academic, student services, financial, technological, human resources and master planning) are all integrated with each other. Her goal is to insure strategic alignment so that students, faculty and staff are all working towards accomplishing the three focuses in our mission statement: academic excellence, leadership development and commitment to social justice.
“I am not aware of any other college or university that focuses on social justice the way Cabrini does,” Neal said. “That commitment, to work for justice in the world and to form students who will share that commitment, is at the heart of this institution and is clearly reflected in the mission statement.”
The focus of Neal’s work is the issues that face the school today and in the future. She deals with many different issues by applying her numerous years of experience with strategic planning, particularly with non-profit organizations. Acting as the principal liaison with the Missionary Sisters, Neal also hopes to apply her vast knowledge of international social justice issues to deepen the college’s partnership with its founding order.