Given the distance between them, it’s not too often that students attending the three Vincentian universities in North America have an opportunity to convene and talk about the issues of poverty, social justice and human rights.
Yet such a meeting took place April 12-14, as the Institute for Civic Engagement at Niagara University, in conjunction with St. John’s and DePaul universities, hosted the first-ever Vincentian Student Consortium.
The goal of the consortium was to connect the Vincentian schools and work toward developing a coordinated approach to alleviate poverty and social injustice, particularly within the contexts of homelessness, hunger, healthcare and education.
Highlights of the consortium included a service project, a prayer service in the university’s Alumni Chapel, an alternative career fair, and panel presentations conducted by several students.
Saturday’s keynote speaker was Ann Marie Zon, founder of the Nicaragua Mission Project, who spoke to the students about the meaning of service and how service does not always have to be conducted in faraway places, but can begin in our own families and neighborhoods.
On Sunday, Dr. Robert Bull Jr. shared his experiences offering medical service work in Chiapas, Mexico. For almost 20 years, Dr. Bull has made regular trips to provide medical care to the people of the village of Palenque. In his most recent trip, Dr. Bull treated 450 people in 10 days.
A key feature of the conference was the poster sessions, during which students from each university posted their presentations describing service and research projects that they had undertaken. Eight Niagara University students participated in the poster presentations.
“Prior to this event, there really wasn’t a forum for students from Niagara, DePaul and St. John’s to engage each other on a regular basis,” said Dr. David Taylor, director of the Institute for Civic Engagement. “Moving forward, the hope is to have the Vincentian Student Consortium take place each spring, with its location shifting annually among the institutions.”