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Service learning project at Saint Xavier to raise awareness about injustices against women

University president one of five to receive McCormick leadership grant

Chicago (April 20, 2005) – Saint Xavier President Judith A. Dwyer was one of five university presidents recently selected to receive a McCormick Presidential Civic Leader Fellowship grant on behalf of the university.

The $5,000 grant is funded through the Illinois Campus Compact program to engage public work projects through university and community partnerships that address issues and solutions and build citizenship and democracy.

The grant will fund a service learning project under the direction of the university’s Women and Gender Studies Program to address the educational, health care and spiritual needs of women in the local community who face difficult and unique obstacles, such as women of different ethnicities or women who are victims of domestic violence.

“This project will raise the profile of marginalized women so that their needs can be better addressed in our social and public policies,” Dwyer said. “Moreover, the project will engage marginalized women in conversations that will help them come together and empower them to participate in social and political processes that affect them.”

Faculty, staff and students of the university will partner with civic, religious and community leaders and representatives of an area high school that currently serves women who have become marginalized because of various problems. This partnership will then seek to foster an ongoing dialogue with women who are victims of “injustices,” Dwyer said.

The hope, she added, is that participants will define the issues they face and possible solutions and allow the university to complement their efforts through further awareness campaigns. These discussion opportunities will address issues such as financial and cultural constraints of health care access, educational opportunities, parenting needs socio-cultural problems. 

A number of activities to raise awareness and to promote greater dialogue will be planned, Dwyer said. Those activities include lectures, brown bag discussions and reading groups, seminars, and films. The project will conclude with a retreat for the participants at which they will chronicle how their emotional, spiritual and cultural lives have been enriched by participating in the project.

“The project will challenge members of various communities, defined by culture, ethnicity, age or religion to understand the differences that divide us and work toward maximizing the common bonds we share,” said Gina Rossetti, director of Saint Xavier’s Women and Gender Studies program. “In this manner, we will help to bring about the vision of the founder of the Sisters of Mercy, Mother Catherine McAuley, that impels us to work toward social, economic and religious equality.”

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