Fordham to Host National Humanitarian Workshop

Students from 12 Jesuit Universities to Participate


Published: January 31, 2008

FORDHAM—America’s Jesuit universities are coming together to address the needs of the suffering in a collaborative humanitarian effort. Fordham is one of 12 Jesuit universities taking part in the Jesuit Universities Humanitarian Action Network (JUHAN), which in the Jesuit tradition of educating the whole person, is seeking to provide opportunities for members of these universities to “learn the tools, theories and practices of the emerging field of Humanitarian Action,” according to a summary of the program provided by the Institute of International Humanitarian Affairs (IIHA).

This June, JUHAN will be holding its first national workshop, Engaging Students in Humanitarian Action, to be held by Fordham at its Rose Hill campus. The weekend workshop, running from June 20 to 22, will bring together roughly 10 undergraduates, typically in their sophomore and junior years, from each Jesuit school, as well as a handful of staff and faculty.

The program lineup, while still in its planning stages, boasts topics including “Disaster Management—Challenges for the 21st Century,” “Organizing Effective Response” and “Humanitarian Hotspots.” The expert speakers who will be presenting on these topics have not yet been finalized.

The program is aimed at sophomores and juniors because “they can bring their information back to campus and have time to start initiatives,” said Nilshan Fonseka, programs officer of IIHA. The goal is to have this program be bi-annual, with each session bringing new students committed to humanitarian works, and traveling to different locations each time.

The Rev. Robert R. Grimes, S.J., dean of Fordham College at Lincoln Center (FCLC), echoed Fonseka’s remarks, saying, “We are looking at people who have studied international affairs, people who will be back at Fordham next year because we’re hoping that something might happen here, that this experience can be of value to the whole university.”

Fonseka said that the students who will be selected are very likely those who want a career in the field of humanitarianism and those who have taken part in activities such as Global Outreach. “We don’t have a specific application,” he said, “we just get recommendations from staff members of who they think should participate in the conference.” Nine students have already been selected from Fordham College at Rose Hill (FCRH), and it is anticipated that five to 10 more will be selected from FCLC in the next couple of weeks, Grimes said.

As the conference grows nearer, Fordham students who will be participating will be taking part in mock conferences so that they will have a basic knowledge of what’s to come. “We would like to form a Fordham team and have them meet monthly before the meeting in June so that they’re prepared,” Grimes said. Students will meet together during the school year, but at the actual conference, they will be split up, with only one Fordham student per group.

The workshop was organized by Fordham with the help of Fairfield University and Georgetown University, who comprise the organizing committee that meets once a month to plan this event.

JUHAN, which was developed by the IIHA at Fordham, currently consists of 12 Jesuit universities and colleges, but it has conducted surveys of all 28 Jesuit institutes of higher learning across the country and is opening future events to the schools not part of the original coalition. IIHA’s Web site stated goals for JUHAN of “exchanging ideas, resources, and increasing the effectiveness of individual efforts among all Jesuit universities.”