Becoming a Giraffe

Giraffe! | Flickr User Daniel Ramirez | Flickr Creative Commons

Giraffe! | Flickr User Daniel Ramirez | Flickr Creative Commons

The goal of Jesuit education is to become a giraffe.

Or at least that’s what Fr. Adolfo Nicolas, Superior General of the Society of Jesus, tells students at Jesuit schools.

The reason?  Giraffes have big hearts and a broad, far-seeing perspective of the world.  Those are two of the key characteristics that he hopes graduates of Jesuit schools form during their education.

In the last few weeks, Jesuit schools have launched some pretty exciting new projects that emphasize these key characteristics:

Educate Magis is a network for educators at Jesuit schools around the world to connect with each other, share resources, and learn more about each others’ schools.  For fellow geography nerds out there, the homepage also features an awesome map of all of the Jesuit secondary schools in the world.

Edujesuit is an advocacy effort to connect the Jesuit educational community with those promoting and supporting the right of each and every person in the world to quality education.  The goal is to get people engaged in their own particular communities and political systems to make universal education a reality.

Jesuit Networking is also an international network aiming to facilitate collaboration and sharing of resources. It extends beyond the strictly educational to include any field where Jesuits and their collaborators are engaged.  The focus is communication, research, and collaboration.

A key motivation behind each of these projects is connection.  Not connection for the sake of having more “friends” on your newsfeed, sharing adorable Corgi videos, or learning about an awesome new series on Netflix even though I’m just about to start finals (thanks for that one, Eric).  Instead, this call for connection recognizes the abundant opportunities provided by technology.  Within the context of Jesuit education, these projects emphasize the importance of sharing questions, ideas, goals, and best practices with fellow members of the Ignatian education family.

While it would be possible, perhaps even easier, for individual schools or educators to keep doing the same old thing, these networks show that we can strive for more.  Although any one particular school might already be doing great work on its own, the decision to exchange ideas, resources, and techniques shows that we’re at our best when we stand together.

This seems particularly relevant to students preparing to graduate.  As you’re facing that scary prospect of moving on to whatever it is that comes next, keep in mind the networks that you’re already part of or could join.  This means friends, classmates, mentors, or people you haven’t even met yet.  Whether you know exactly how to do your next job or have no idea what that might be, the connections we have with each other offer rich opportunities to grow, to help, to be helped, and to engage our lives not as isolated individuals but as dynamically connected, mutually-committed people.

So, my fellow giraffes, I encourage you to keep striving for big hearts open to others, for a perspective that lets you see much of the world, and for connections where we both offer and receive support.

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