Georgetown Magazine: Spring 2023

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SPRING 2023 IMAGINING A NEW WORLD Get to know the Disability Cultural Initiative
Cover Photo: Leslie E. Kossoff; Photo: Phil Humnicky


The Disability Cultural Initiative is the most recent among an expanding number of academic and student programs designed to promote disability access, awareness, and empowerment.



Part of an ever-growing experiential learning ecosystem, the Capitol Applied Learning Labs offers undergraduate students of all majors the opportunity to live and work in downtown DC for a semester. 22


Since its launch 10 years ago, the Initiative on Catholic Social Thought and Public Life has held nearly 150 dialogues, reaching a quarter of a million students, community members, and national and global participants both online and in-person. 26


Students in the Science, Technology, and International Affairs program gain practical skills for careers in a wide range of fields, including environmental science, technology policy, and global health.



This is a special issue of Georgetown Magazine because, in addition to our regular content, we are introducing the university’s campaign to our alumni and friends. Called to Be: The Campaign for Georgetown is our most ambitious campaign to date, with a goal of raising three billion dollars in support of university priorities.

When you read the GUAA Corner (pages 30–31), you’ll see that we’ve been reflecting on the different ways we are called to action. As a professional writer and editor here at Georgetown, I feel called to be a storyteller. I enjoy being able to help our magazine readers feel a connection to the university that has provided them with so many memories, friendships, and formative experiences.

Together with the editorial staff, I try to find and share stories that will be of interest to our broad and diverse Hoya alumni audience. There’s no shortage of them at a university like Georgetown. We are always striving to find new ways to care for students, new ways to teach, new ways to tackle problems, and new ways to bring people together.

The feature stories we’ve chosen for this issue spotlight programs that put these ambitions into practice. They demonstrate that what you may remember as a traditional classroom—an expert lecture followed by a discussion—is only part of a Georgetown education now. Thanks to pedagogical innovations and philanthropic investments, students engage with their coursework and one another in new ways. They are able to customize their experiences much more freely, enabling them to nurture the ideal of cura personalis while discovering how they might serve as people for others in their professional and personal lives.

The educators, students, and alumni highlighted in these pages are pushing our community forward while remaining grounded in Georgetown’s timeless values. I hope they inspire you to think about your own calling and how it connects with your Georgetown experience.

Office of Advancement

R. Bartley Moore (SFS’87)

Vice President for Advancement

Amy Levin

Associate Vice President for Communications

Erin Greene

Assistant Vice President of Creative

Georgetown Magazine Staff

Camille Scarborough, Editorial Team Lead Jane Varner Malhotra (G’21), Features Editor

Elisa Morsch (G’20), Senior Director, Creative Editorial Team

Gabrielle Barone, Karen Doss Bowman, Kate Colwell (G’20), Mariel Jackson, Rosemary Lane, Patti North, Sara Piccini, Bhriana Smith, Joanne Stirrup (C’23)

Design Team

Wanda Felsenhardt, Ethan Jeon, Shikha Savdas

Project Manager

Hilary Koss

University Photographer

Phil Humnicky

Georgetown Magazine

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Address changes: 202-687-1994 or email

Spring 2023, Volume 54, Number 1

Georgetown Magazine (ISSN 1074-8784)

Georgetown Magazine is distributed free of charge to alumni, parents, faculty, and staff. The diverse views in the magazine do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the editors or official policies of the university.

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Georgetown recently named Ed Cooley the new head coach of the men’s basketball program. Formerly of Providence College, Cooley was the 2022 recipient of the Naismith Coach of the Year Award. Photo: Phil Humnicky Cover: Deborah Wey (SFS’24) performs at a Disability Cultural Initiative event held in Riggs Library.

A shared calling

What are you called to do? Who are you called to be? These questions are front and center on campus this spring as Georgetown kicks off its $3 billion university-wide fundraising campaign.

Called to Be: The Campaign for Georgetown is a shared calling to expand our university’s impact in service to the common good. Georgetown’s drive to do its best work, to help meet the world’s most profound needs, has shaped centuries of growth and progress at the university.

Today, the Georgetown community is called to take on challenges that are more complex than ever. To answer, the Called to Be campaign focuses on four areas of great strength—and opportunity—for Georgetown:

Ensuring our student community thrives by meeting each student’s unique needs, through scholarships and support across all dimensions of learning and formation.

Shaping the future of teaching, research, and learning by investing in outstanding scholars and their research, and enriching students’ learning experience.

Advancing the health and security of people and the planet by accelerating the work of students, scholars, and practitioners positioned to create a better human condition, locally and globally.

Building a stronger, more ethical society by driving civic engagement; informing the development of thoughtful policy; and realizing our potential as the premier source of skilled public servants, business leaders, and legal and policy experts. •

Learn more about the Called to Be campaign at

Photo: Paul Jones
“This is the moment for us to imagine anew what is next for Georgetown— the impact we can have, the difference we can make as we realize the university we are called to be.”

Gender Justice and Opportunity Initiative receives landmark support from #StartSmall

The Initiative on Gender Justice & Opportunity at Georgetown Law, which works to advance race and gender equity for girls and gender-expansive youth, has received an $800,000 gift from #StartSmall, Jack Dorsey’s philanthropic initiative for crisis relief, girls’ health and education, and universal basic income. It’s the largest single gift or grant the initiative has received in their decade of work.

Rebecca Epstein, executive director of the initiative and the Georgetown Law Center on Poverty and Inequality, said she is honored by #StartSmall’s unrestricted support to advocate on behalf of marginalized girls.

“It’s a generous testament to their trust in our work,” says Epstein, noting that the initiative is completely donor- and grant-funded. “We appreciate that #StartSmall prioritized the needs of girls who have been so marginalized in law, research, and policy.”

Epstein explains that children face discrimination with little accountability by public systems, with Black girls especially vulnerable to both racial and gender discrimination.

“There’s no more powerful form of social justice than equality for young people, especially those who are pushed to the margin,” says Epstein. “Girls are traditionally both vulnerable and invisible; focusing on them is critical to achieving social justice for all.”

The gift will be used over several years to hire more staff, deepen research, produce more reports and events, expand

the youth advisors program, and establish more crosscampus partnerships, including one with Georgetown’s Racial Justice Institute.

Epstein also plans to develop training opportunities on adultification bias, the phenomenon in which adults view Black girls as less innocent and more adult-like than their white peers. These trainings will be designed for adults with power in public systems—including judges, doctors, and police— who have authority and influence over Black girls’ lives.

“We previously identified this form of bias as a challenge and validated it by talking to women and girls about their life experiences,” says Epstein. “Now we’re turning to solutions, and how we stop this harm to Black girls.”

Mannone Butler (B’94, L’99), who serves as an attorney advisor to the initiative and as a founding leader of the Black Alumni Council, says she thinks the initiative’s gender justice framework is important to improving how the justice system treats Black girls and young women. When designing a system that rehabilitates, she believes restorative justice and understanding of how young people enter the justice system is key.

“The more we understand what contributes to young girls entering the juvenile justice system and the associated dire consequences, the more equipped and motivated we should be to employ prevention and intervention measures that limit their contact with the system,” says Butler. •

Rebecca Epstein (left), director of Georgetown Law’s Center on Poverty and Inequality, with Naomi Wadler, student activist and youth advisor to Georgetown Law’s Center on Poverty and Inequality, enjoy the “Girlhood Interrupted” event at the National Museum of Women in the Arts in 2019. Photo: Ralph Alswang

Reconciliation Fund supports Descendants of enslaved people

Georgetown University has selected its first cohort of grant awardees to support community-based projects with a focus on engaging the Descendants of the men, women, and children enslaved on Jesuit plantations in Maryland.

Inspired by an undergraduate student referendum in 2019, the Reconciliation Fund aims to benefit communities of Descendants, many of whom live in and around Maringouin, Louisiana, where their ancestors were forcibly moved after their sale by the Maryland Province of the Jesuits in 1838. To date, more than 500 alumni have provided financial support for the $400,000 annual fund.

“The Reconciliation Fund is a collective effort—an example of our community’s deep commitment to the possibilities that can emerge when we work in partnership to advance reconciliation,” said Georgetown President John J. DeGioia. “This project is one way the university is reckoning with the legacies of slavery that have shaped our past and to respond by advancing justice and equity in our present.”

The university benefitted from the enslavement of people of African descent through plantations owned by the Maryland Jesuits in the mid-19th century and from the practices of slavery and forced labor that took place on and around Georgetown’s campus.

In partnership with the university, a student committee and an advisory committee of Descendants developed the biannual grant application and selection process. “In order for us to grow as a society, we need to acknowledge and right the wrongs of the past,” says Zac Colon (G’26), vice chair of the Student Awards Committee. •

Georgetown student runs nonprofit focused on education and empowerment

In 2019, during her first year of college, Bahar Ghandehari (C’23) watched protests across the Middle East and realized she needed to bring people together. “I saw a lack of solidarity within the Middle Eastern community, especially in the diaspora, even though our liberation movements are very interconnected,” she says.

human rights advocacy and campaigning,” says Ghandehari. “Today’s youth are more socially and politically aware than ever. We are extremely tech savvy and know how to connect with people across the world. Yet, young people are rarely given a platform or included in the decision-making processes that impact their future.”

She started a nonprofit called Middle East Matters that has since grown to over 250K followers on Instagram. The organization covers news in English “so that the wider international community can learn about current events,” Ghandehari explains.

Another important aspect is empowering youth activists. “Young people need more space to get involved in

Driven by a desire to act as a unifying force, Ghandehari has been running Middle East Matters from her dorm room throughout her time at Georgetown. “It can be difficult to juggle my academics and the nonprofit, especially during crises, but I try to use my courses as a source of information for my advocacy efforts. At the same time, the different people I’ve met through school have brought so many new perspectives and added value to my work.”

What’s next? Ghandehari wants to expand Middle East Matters to work with more local activists and journalists. She also plans to attend law school. •

—Camille Scarborough
Photo: Rafael Suanes Descendants of the more than 270 enslaved individuals sold by the Maryland Province of Jesuits in 1838 to benefit Georgetown University stand in front of Isaac Hawkins Hall after the April 2017 building dedication ceremony.
“Young people need more space to get involved in human rights advocacy and campaigning.” —BAHAR GHANDEHARI (C’23)

research methods respect subjects as Knowers’

Georgetown Magazine spoke with Shelbi Nahwilet Meissner, an assistant professor of philosophy at Georgetown University of Luiseño (La Jolla) and Cupeño descent who specializes in American Indian and Indigenous philosophy, feminist epistemology, and philosophy of language. Meissner has taught a range of courses during her three years at Georgetown, including Introduction to Indigenous Philosophy, Philosophy of Language, Indigenous Epistemologies in Higher Education, and Topics in Anti-Colonialism.

Tell me about your course, Introduction to Indigenous Philosophy, which is so popular that it often fills up within minutes of registration launch.

That class is my absolute favorite. We do a deep dive on five key threshold concepts in Indigenous philosophy: land, sovereignty, Indigenous feminism, decolonization, and cultural reclamation. I wish that there were more classes like this offered more often at Georgetown just because there are obviously so many students interested in taking them.

Are you offering any new classes in 2023 that you’re excited about?

This spring, I am teaching Indigenous and Non-Western Aesthetics, in which we have conversations about Indigenous artists and their contributions to the world, philosophically. One thing I’m known for as a teacher is my insistence that we use crafts in our classrooms. I have a literal craft wagon: a big wagon that I bring around campus with me that’s full of craft supplies. Through crafts we can really get into more physical and hands-on ways of creating meaning.

Before you came to Georgetown, you taught elders in tribal colleges and universities. What educational techniques have you brought from tribal colleges to the Hilltop?

At tribal colleges we dispersed power, assigning responsibility to everyone in the room to make meaning together. At Georgetown, the students in my Topics in Anti-Colonialism course stay in groups for the whole semester to form strong relationships, learn from each other, and hold each other emotionally accountable as they move through very difficult material, such as stories of violence and genocide.

You’ve spoken about how some tribal communities view western research practices as harmful. How do Indigenous research methods offer an alternative model?

Research has been weaponized against Indigenous communities for so long. There is a colonial, western way of pursuing knowledge that can oftentimes be extractive, but there are also all of these other creative modes of research. So reciprocity is something I like to bake into research ethics all the way through the curriculum. Indigenous research methods respect subjects as Knowers to whom we have a responsibility.

How do you and your students demonstrate respect for subjects of Indigenous cultural research?

We embrace the ethic of reciprocity when we collaborate with Indigenous communities in many ways, but gifting plays an important role in our research. My Intro to Indigenous Philosophy course culminates in a student research project with community engagement. Students have done podcast transcription work for Indigenous communities, made beautiful posters to honor missing and murdered Indigenous women, and shared information about the colonial context of Indigenous spaces through a campus tour. The students that find their way to my classes are amazingly compassionate and interested and curious. •


On Friday, October 13, 1972, around 300 Georgetown students and staff—including Jesuits—worked as extras on the set of The Exorcist. Visit the Lauinger Library website for a special exhibit marking the 50th anniversary.

Professor Shelbi Nahwilet Meissner weaves Indigenous methods into her teaching and scholarship Photo: Courtesy of Shelbi Nahwilet Meissner

 In its early years, the band wore military regalia, which included blue and gray jackets, trousers, and waist-high capes. Yearbook and Hoya articles reported that, in 1926, the band traded in military wear for “snappy uniforms” of white ducks, blue sweaters, and sailor hats, however temporarily. The photo below, from 1947, shows the group on the steps of White-Gravenor Hall. By the 1960s, according to yearbook photos, the ensemble adopted more formal attire before switching to its current blue and gray striped shirt in the late 1970s.

 The Georgetown Band was often called upon to play at local events. In this photo, they are performing at the Army Day parade in downtown DC in 1933. They even reportedly played for the world premiere of 2001: A Space Odyssey in 1968 in DC, which was attended by director Stanley Kubrick.

 The ensemble, which started as a 30-piece military band, has grown into a 61-member student-run band that drums up school spirit at basketball, football, soccer and, for the first time last spring, lacrosse games.

Georgetown Pep Band turns 100

Since 1922, the pep band has played for U.S. presidents, in DC parades, and at hundreds of Hoya games and school functions, rousing crowds with its “Hoya Saxa!” chant and the Georgetown Fight Song.

“There is nothing that builds campus spirit as well as a band can,” says Ron Lignelli, a former pep band director, advisor, and conductor who recently retired as administrative director of Georgetown’s Department of Performing Arts after a 37-year career.

Last October, Richard Fiesta (C’79, L’82, G’82), a former band president, and other alumni launched the Ronald J. Lignelli Band Endowed Fund to provide ongoing support for the band’s instrument purchase and maintenance. •



Anniversary of Jack Crew highlights campus spirit, connection

To become a member, students are asked to have experience with animals, be comfortable facilitating a variety of interpersonal interactions, and be able to show evidence of school spirit.

Jack the Bulldog makes frequent appearances at Hilltop events and is even known for such tricks as skateboarding during basketball halftimes. Father Christopher Steck, S.J., began caring for him in 2003. Eventually, Father Steck created the Jack Crew to take over Jack’s care and public appearances.

Marie Champagne, who worked at the university from 2008 to 2016, first saw flyers for Jack Crew applications around 2009 and decided to apply. “I wanted to feel that Georgetown spirit, and be part of something special,” says Champagne.

For John Kenchelian (C’12, G’15, ’18), joining Jack Crew also had an impact on his education.

“I knew I wanted to walk Jack before I got to campus,” says Kenchelian, so he took the popular Problem of God course with Father Steck to make his acquaintance.

Kenchelian enjoyed the class so much that he eventually minored in theology.

In addition to taking Jack on walks, the Jack Crew members drive him around in his custom golf cart, sit with him in a special area at games, and spend time with Jack.

Champagne encourages those interested in joining the Jack Crew to apply. “It is such a deep and meaningful connection with Georgetown and also a lot of fun.”

Even after leaving, the connections with students and fellow staff have served her well.

“We meet for lunches, including an annual Christmas brunch,” says Champagne. “We have this real bond over this dog we love.”

Being on the Jack Crew allowed her to see the dog’s comforting effect on others as well. One day during a walk, Champagne ran into a woman who had come from New York to Washington, DC for cancer treatment.

She was excited to meet Jack and asked if she could come along on the walk, and eventually “Jack just cuddled right into her, which is not like him when he’s working,” says Champagne. “It was as though he knew she was somebody who needed comfort.” •

It takes a village to take care of Georgetown’s beloved mascot, Jack the Bulldog, who is a popular guest at many athletic and social events. 2023 marks the 20th anniversary of the Jack Crew, a group of students who volunteer to take care of Georgetown’s beloved mascot. Photo: Paul Jones Photo: Courtesy of Cory Peterson

A life-saving moment inspires students’ award-winning Public Policy Challenge proposal

On a routine trip to the grocery store, Georgetown University School of Medicine students Kira Chandran (M’23), Chloe Wang (M’23), and Ruth Watson (M’23), active members of the Hoya Drug Overdose Prevention & Education Project (Hoya DOPE), were unexpectedly called to put their substance use, addiction, and overdose education to the test.

From their car window, they saw a man being carried across the pavement. He looked visibly blue, and without hesitation, they veered off onto a one-way street to help. Wang and Watson jumped out of the car, armed with the opioid reversal medication naloxone, commonly known as NARCAN, and approached the man. The medical students called 911 and immediately began the overdose intervention protocol, administering a first and then a second dose of the reversal medication.

“If we didn’t have naloxone on hand, the man we responded to may not have survived 10 minutes of waiting for EMTs to arrive,” says Wang. “Saving his life was a really impactful moment for all of us.”

Responding to a near-fatal overdose in their own backyard inspired Chandran, Wang, Watson, and their classmate PeiYing Kobres (M’23) to develop a harm-reduction strategy to

make opioid reversal medication more accessible to DC residents.

“At the height of the pandemic, emergency departments saw a significant increase in opioid overdoses,” says Wang. “It can be an emotional burden on health care workers and can take a toll on our hospital system.”

The medical students devised a plan to install NaloxBox, a weather-proof opioid rescue kit that includes naloxone, at bus stops around DC. Their proposal, “ Within Reach: Ending Opioid-Related Deaths in the District,” was recognized by the annual Georgetown Public Policy Challenge as the most outstanding innovative policy solution to help address a challenge in the DC community. The Challenge, which is hosted by the McCourt School of Public Policy, is now in its eighth year.

“Our shared goal is to shorten the time between an overdose and administering naloxone,” says Watson. “NaloxBox has deployed 1,800 rescue kits nationally, and we believe it could be successfully implemented in DC.”

Chandran, Wang, Watson, and Kobres are actively working with DC stakeholders to implement a pilot project based on their proposal and, along with fellow Hoya DOPE members, continue to host community education sessions on opioid overdose and training. They hope to play a pivotal role in combating substance use, addiction, and overdose as future doctors. •

Georgetown has more than doubled its tuition benefits for military-connected students, an expansion that will cover the annual cost of full-time undergraduate tuition for eligible students.

From left to right: Kira Chandran (M’23), Chloe Wang (M’23), Ruth Watson (M’23), Pei-Ying Kobres (M’23) are trying to deploy more opioid rescue kits in DC. Photo: Michael F. Watson Photo: Courtesy of YELLOW RIBBON PROGRAM Photo: Courtesy of Amy Kenny Photo: Courtesy of Tiffany Yu (B’10) Photo: Courtesy of Dominic DeRamo (C’23) Clockwise from top: Amy Kenny, the inaugural associate director of the university’s Disability Cultural Initiative and author of My Body Is Not a Prayer Request ; Tiffany Yu (B’10), founder of the student group Diversability, now a nationwide community network; and Dominic DeRamo (C’23), student advocate and member of the Georgetown Disability Alliance.

Toward a more accessible, inclusive Georgetown

The plaza at the heart of Georgetown’s main campus, known as Red Square, is typically jammed with students advocating for a variety of causes. Capturing the attention of passersby can often be challenging.

One day last October, Briana Valle (C’23) arrived at Red Square and set up a table with an eyecatching feature—containers of colorful Legos.

As the student academic assistant for Georgetown’s new Disability Cultural Initiative, Valle was promoting the initiative’s “Ramping Up Access” by inviting community members to help build a Lego ramp. “We were handing out sheets with recommendations on how to make your office, club, and classroom more accessible,” says Valle. “People saw those large buckets of Legos and were super excited to stop by.”

“The ramp is now on tour across campus—it has visited the president’s office, the library, the Leavey Center, and Cawley Career Center, among other sites,” says Amy Kenny, who leads the initiative as inaugural associate director. “It’s a way of celebrating the disability community and generating awareness about our brand-new Disability Cultural Initiative.

“The ramp itself is a beautiful mosaic of colors and shapes and sizes,” says Kenny, who was the first to give the ramp a test-drive in her mobility scooter. “I think that’s a perfect metaphor for what access looks like in practice—

that we all get to come together and create access for our co-flourishing.”

‘Students have led the way’

The Disability Cultural Initiative, established in Fall 2022, is the most recent among an expanding number of programs at Georgetown designed to promote disability access, awareness, and empowerment, including student groups such as the Georgetown Disability Alliance on the main campus and its law school counterpart, Active Minds, and GU Signs, created in 2013 by Deaf and allied advocates Timothy Loh (SFS’15, G’16) and Nia Lazarus (C’16).

In 2021, Tiffany Yu (B’10)—founder of Diversability, the first disability student group at Georgetown and now a thriving national network—provided seed money to establish the Disability Empowerment Endowment Fund. As the endowment continues to grow over the coming years, it will serve as a catalyst for additional disability initiatives across the university.

On the academic side, the multidisciplinary Program in Disability Studies, led by philosophy professor and ethicist Quill Kukla, comprises 75 to 80 undergraduate minors each year. In addition, graduate students can take coursework leading to an MA or Ph.D. certificate in Disability Studies. The program has also co-sponsored a number of scholar/ activists in residence with the Disability Cultural Initiative, as well as a student fellowship focused on mental illness and disability justice.

‘Disability is a creative force that imagines a new world’

“Georgetown students have led the way in the call for this work,” Kenny emphasizes. In 2014, for example, students joined with English professor Libbie Rifkin and other faculty members to begin advocating for the formal creation of the disability studies program. Among other efforts, the Georgetown University Student Association (GUSA) launched a petition drive in 2016 that garnered more than a thousand signatures. The program was launched the following year with Rifkin serving as the founding director, succeeded by Jennifer Natalya Fink, a professor of English at Georgetown College of Arts & Sciences.

“The program became a site for mentoring and networking for students, and the Georgetown Disability Alliance grew up in the aftermath,” Rifkin says.

“Disability culture is now very alive at Georgetown,” says Rifkin, who now serves as the first special advisor to the vice president of diversity, equity, and inclusion for disability.

Students also spearheaded the campaign to establish the Disability Cultural Initiative—a critical move toward the ultimate goal of a full-fledged center— reviving a 2012 proposal written by then-undergraduate Lydia X. Z. Brown (C’15).

“Something that I’ve been very pleased about is knowing that I have been part of multiple generations of people working to challenge and transform conditions at Georgetown. That work has just continued to grow,” says Brown, a prominent disability advocate who returned to Georgetown in 2020 as a member of the disability studies faculty.

‘Proud and inclusive’

According to Kenny, 14 percent of undergraduate students and 10 percent of graduate and professional students at Georgetown currently identify as disabled.

In promoting disability empowerment, she and other activists call for a definition of disability based on gain rather than loss—“the notion that disability is tragic or burdensome or pitiable,” as Kenny puts it.

“I think of disability as a culture and an embodied experience that contributes to society and that nondisabled people can learn from,” says Kenny. “The world is not made for us or with us, so disability is a creative force that imagines a new world.” She notes that everything from the electric toothbrush to the touch screen was created by and for disabled people.

“Disability is diverse, intersectional, proud, and inclusive,” adds Kenny. “It includes both apparent and non-apparent disabilities, and many of us have both of those.”

Rifkin has found that Georgetown students often come to understand they have a disability after enrolling in a disability studies course. “Students who take our classes do it as part of their formation, and that has been a really amazing thing to be able to participate in,” she says.

Dominic DeRamo (C’23), a campus disability activist, traveled on that journey when he enrolled in a disability course in the fall semester of his first year.

“I knew I had a chronic illness, but I never really saw disability as an identity and as a culture. I joined the Georgetown Disability Alliance, and I found that there were so many people who could put words to experiences that were very similar to ones I had when I was younger.”

Briana Valle, who like DeRamo is a disability studies minor, singles out their Introduction to Disability course with Professor Mimi Khúc as particularly impactful.

“She focused quite a bit on mental health, and it was so helpful to see how that can intersect with disability, because most people tend to exclude it,” says Valle, who experiences depression. Valle hopes to eventually apply the insight they’ve gained by working as a family counselor.

“Professor Khúc also really understood the reality of being a student here, and how we tend to see our productivity as our value, which should not be the case.”

“I joined the Georgetown Disability Alliance, and I found that there were so many people who could put words to experiences that were very similar to ones I had when I was younger.”
—Dominic DeRamo (C’23)

Understanding ableism

As Valle notes, Georgetown’s fast-paced academic and social environment presents challenges to every student. Having a disability compounds these challenges. Even something as simple as an elevator being out of order adds additional stress for a physically disabled student rushing to get to class on time. This is something the Disability Cultural Initiative is working with campus partners to change. Requesting special classroom accommodations, such as extra time for tests, is often stressful, Valle says. “It can be a little traumatic—you have to overshare a lot of your experiences for them to begin the process of accepting your accommodation.”

To address some of these issues, disability studies faculty members Brown and Khúc teamed up to develop the course Disability Justice at GU. The course confronts the reality of what is termed ableism: discrimination and prejudice against people with disabilities based on the belief that typical abilities are superior.

“There’s a drive to constantly try to earn one’s worth through achieving certain grades, or landing prestigious opportunities, or performing a certain job,” says Brown. “It reinforces the belief that you are not a valuable person, that you don’t deserve respect, if you are unable to sufficiently justify your existence based on these arbitrarily determined standards.”

“The course was created as a way to offer students a chance to re-examine what ways they’ve internalized and perpetuated ableist values in relationship to their own needs and in relationship to their work,” says Brown. “It provides opportunities to invite practices of care into their lives.”

Initiatives like Brown’s class, originated for students with disabilities, have the potential to benefit every student at Georgetown—disabled and non-disabled alike. “We’re in a university setting where there are all of these pressures on us to constantly be producing, constantly be performing,” says DeRamo. “Nondisabled students also feel these expectations and the inaccessibility of meeting them.”

Top: Briana Valle (C’23), student academic assistant for the Disability Cultural Initiative and a disability studies minor; Bottom: In October 2022, students from across campus joined in building a colorful Lego ramp as part of the DCI’s “Ramping Up Access” initiative. The construction project and DCI associate director Amy Kenny’s initial test drive of the ramp is featured on Georgetown’s Instagram page. Photo: Rebecca Zhu/The Hoya Photo: Jane Varner Malhotra

The Disability Cultural Initiative is working with campus partners to provide a culture of access inside and outside the classroom, from consulting with faculty on inclusive pedagogy, to creating a Disability Employee Resource Group for faculty and staff, to working with a team that launched a new accessibility website to educate and enhance awareness about disability resources and community on campus.

Capturing the moment

The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 further raised awareness of access needs for all students on campus. Working to meet those needs, and inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, DeRamo and a group of other student activists— including Nesreen Shahrour (H’23) and Gwyneth Murphy (SFS’23)—embraced the moment.

“With everyone’s concern for social justice, and people’s growing understanding of accessibility and accommodation, we found ourselves wanting to take on a very big effort, something that was really going to have a permanent impact on the university,” DeRamo says.

“Nesreen, in going through old archives, found Lydia Brown’s proposal for a Disability Cultural Center. And so we revamped the proposal,” he continues. The students then met with a group of activist alumni to get feedback and improve their presentation, including Brown, Tiffany Yu, and longtime disability rights advocate John Kemp (C’71).

“I was in my dorm last spring when I got the email that the university had officially committed to hiring a director for a new Disability Cultural Initiative. It happened much more quickly than we expected,” says DeRamo.

“One of the absolute most special moments was when I had a new student tell me how much it meant to her that all these initiatives were going on,” he says. “I think that’s what’s so important about what the university is committing to.”

A vote of confidence

The alumni call organized by Rifkin sparked another special moment—Tiffany Yu’s announcement that she would provide $50,000 towards the $100,000 required to establish a university endowment, to be called the Disability Empowerment Endowment Fund.

“I remember keeping my mouth closed to keep my jaw from dropping. We were all just absolutely blown away,” says DeRamo.

Plans are for the endowment to support existing and new disability initiatives, from speaker series and conferences to student and faculty research projects.

Yu sees her donation as both a means of empowerment and a tribute to the role Georgetown played in her own development. “One of the things that really guides my work is how I can use whatever power and privilege I have to fight for more disability equity and justice,” she says. “And being in a situation where I feel financially stable, I wanted to contribute back to the place where my advocacy career had started.”

Professor of English Libbie Rifkin helped to pioneer the Disability Studies program. “I have a now 19-year-old son Joseph who was born with cerebral palsy and intellectual disability. It made me think very differently about our positioning in the world.” Photo: Courtesy of Libbie Rifkin

She was also inspired by funding she received as an undergraduate to start the student group Diversability, a Reimagine Georgetown grant sponsored by The Corp. “My entire advocacy career began with a $500 grant that I received from my peers. I will never forget it—it wasn’t really about the $500, it was about the fact that someone believed in me, and me internalizing that message.”

At age 9, Yu was involved in a car accident that killed her father and left her right arm permanently paralyzed. “I think about all the other 9-year-old Tiffanys who feel so alone in their experience. This endowment can provide a little bit of a vote of confidence in you and whatever you’re trying to do with your life.”

Ramping up

“Disability is an identity that cuts across all other identities,” Libbie Rifkin emphasizes. “So it can be a bridge and connector for people with a whole variety of experiences.”

In leading the new Disability Cultural Initiative, Amy Kenny is particularly focused on making these connections with affinity groups across campus, sponsoring coffee clubs, art nights, chaplains’ teas, and more.

“We’ve hosted events with the South Asian Society, Casa Latina, Queer Space and others, and have developed relationships with Center for New Designs in Learning and Scholarship, the Center for Research and Fellowships, the Center for Social Justice, the Office of Global Education, Mission & Ministry, and Cawley Career Center,” says Kenny. DCI is part of OSEI, the Office of Student Equity and Inclusion, and promotes intersectionality in programming and support for students.

Briana Valle was especially excited for DCI to organize a zine-making workshop during the fall semester with disabled Afro-Latina artist Jennifer WhiteJohnson, which attracted a diverse group of students.

“I’ve found as a Latinx person, disability is not really spoken about,” says Valle. “It was really amazing to hear how she’s embraced it.”

Spring events included a gaming arcade, a collaboration with Queer Space and the Maker Hub to create stim bracelets and fidget spinners, and a showcase of student art in various mediums, held at Riggs Library. The initiative also plans to hold the first-ever “DisCO Grad” in May 2023, a special commencement ceremony for students with disabilities.

“A lot of this work is helping to invite the community to imagine disability as a culture and an identity, and to continue the work our students have advocated for,” adds Kenny. “I’m thrilled to work alongside them.”

Agents of change Georgetown is among just a handful of universities to sponsor a disability cultural initiative, and Kenny’s hope is that Georgetown can be a leader nationwide in this area, enriched by its Jesuit mission.

“Accessibility is much more than ramps—it’s a practice and an ethos and a way of caring for one another,” says Kenny. “It’s creating an inclusive space that acknowledges that all of us have access needs, and that we as a community get to meet those access needs as part of our commitment to cura personalis, or care of the whole person.

“I think our Jesuit values really offer a grounding and depth of this work that allow us to be agents of change, by pursuing justice and calling others to do the same.” •

The Disability Cultural Initiative is one of the many ways Georgetown is ensuring that our student community thrives and becomes the university we are called to be. Learn more at

“Accessiblity is much more than ramps—it’s a practice and an ethos and a way of caring for one another.” Amy Kenny


One semester at Georgetown’s immersive innovation hub downtown can make all the difference

When Thais Borges (C’22) participated in Georgetown’s Capitol Applied Learning Labs (CALL) program during the fall of her senior year, she was still trying to figure out what path her career could take. With pre-law ambitions in mind, she signed up for a class entitled U.S. Law Theory and Practice taught by Andrew Caffey, an adjunct professor and practicing attorney in Maryland.

“Professor Caffey provided us with a lens into the legal experience by connecting our class with both practicing attorneys and others with law degrees,” she says. “Being able to speak with them and learn from their experiences allowed me to reassess my academic journey.”

Meeting these professionals helped Borges release some of the pressure she had put on herself about next steps after completing her bachelor’s degree.

“I started to breathe a little better when I realized I could have a successful law career without going to law school immediately after graduation,” she recalls.

Like many CALL students, Borges came away empowered to make different choices than the ones she had planned. She also learned more about how her identity and values are formed in part by her surroundings.

CALL students participate in local activities and classroom discussions that explore the city as a community. Photo: Phil Humnicky

a new perspective

One of the things that sets Georgetown apart is the university’s location in the nation’s capital. In Washington, DC, there are numerous opportunities to observe, learn from, and even participate in federal and local governments, as well as organizations focused on issues ranging from social conflict to global health to the future of the planet.

Yet for some students, the logistics of an internship can be challenging. Many of the positions are unpaid, occur during standard class times, and are difficult to reach from the Hilltop via public transportation.

Aligned with a longstanding commitment to removing the barriers to education, Georgetown launched the trailblazing CALL program in Fall 2019. A local immersion program akin to a study abroad experience, CALL offers undergraduate students the opportunity to

live and work in downtown DC for a semester. Open to all majors, it is a unique way to integrate traditional and applied learning.

Students spend 20-30 hours per week in carefully selected internships based on their field of interest. To complement their work experience, students spend 10 hours a week in a combination of classroom learning and group activities that explore the city as a community. Because the students live together on one floor of a new Georgetown dormitory downtown, they get to know each other as a cohort, too.

“DC is the only place where you can be a citizen on both the local and national level,” notes Abigail Lewis, founding director of the CALL. “We want students to think about what it means to be a citizen, to engage with a city or town, and take that ideology to wherever they go after Georgetown.”

The program is designed to serve students of all socioeconomic backgrounds, especially those who might not otherwise be able to participate in an off-campus learning experience.
Photo: Georgetown University

By integrating internship experiences and professional development courses into academic work, the CALL offers Georgetown’s undergraduates something they can’t find elsewhere.

“One of the ways to assist students in their transition from life as a student to life as a working professional is with professional experience,” says Lewis. The program is part of an ever-growing experiential learning ecosystem, challenging students to delve deeper into the idea of cura personalis —care of the whole person— not just as a Georgetown student, but also as members of a broader community.

Every semester CALL students explore different themes. The Spring 2023 semester has four, in addition to a student-customized option: social impact and activism; environment and sustainability; pre-law; and community organizing through the Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and the Working Poor, an initiative that develops creative strategies and innovative public policy to improve workers’ lives.

Coursework is structured to adhere to the themes. This semester, there is an interdisciplinary course called Food, Farming, and Technology that explores global food insecurity, and another course called DC Latinx History that analyzes the impact of changing U.S. immigration policy on immigrants in the local area.

In addition to the courses, workshops are offered in practical topics, like Life Negotiations and Professional Writing. Some take on more weighty subjects, such as a workshop that explores the question Why Is the Healthcare System so Hard to Fix?

the value of applied learning

The idea for the CALL was born in 2018 at the Red House, Georgetown’s incubator for curriculum transformation. Led by Randy Bass, the university’s vice president for strategic education initiatives, the Red House works to expand high-impact educational practices at Georgetown, confront systemic injustice, and ensure cura personalis is prioritized in students’ educational experiences.

Susannah McGowan, director of curriculum transformation initiatives at the Red House, meets frequently with university stakeholders to determine needs for innovation and curriculum change.

“We are really trying to define what an experiential undergraduate education looks like,” notes McGowan. “In our work with the CALL, we are learning how to leverage DC’s resources to connect students with what’s happening in the city and around the world.”

McGowan and Lewis collaborate to map out the CALL’s course offerings, including working with instructors on various types of assessments to support student learning.

“We’re going beyond the typical classroom essay here,” says McGowan. “We focus on assessments that help students demonstrate what they’ve learned, and what impact that learning might have on their next choices—either in their academic career or their professional one.”

The program works with the Cawley Career Education Center to help secure and maximize DC-area internships. Each student is required to participate in a four-credit internship. Add in the extra seminars, and most students end up with 12-15 credits for the semester.

Margaret Wu (C’24) completed her internship at the White House’s Office of Management and Administration, but for her, the experience in CALL’s classrooms was just as valuable. She was able to connect with other students, which deepened both learning and the sense of community.

“Because CALL has small classes, I was really able to engage with my classmates and hear their personal stories,” she notes. “I learned what their internships were like, what they believe in, and what is important to them.” McGowan notes that the program’s partners in the Cawley Center offer coaching to help students shape their professional goals around what they value.

“Part of experiential learning involves understanding the questions you need to ask yourself periodically about your purpose.”
—Susannah McGowan

“Part of experiential learning involves understanding the questions you need to ask yourself periodically about your purpose,” McGowan adds.

‘out and about in the city’

During their time in the program, students are encouraged to explore the city as their personal classroom, allowing them to engage with DC in new and exciting ways. The experience is different for each student. One may intern for a private consulting firm, another at an educational technology organization, still another at the White House, but at the end of the day, they all come together to share their experiences and learn from one another.

The CALL courses are usually taught downtown— either at 500 First Street NW or at the School for Continuing Studies—but some students opt to take a class on the Hilltop.

“It’s really impactful for the students to navigate between downtown and main campus,” McGowan notes. “You learn so much when you’re out and about in the city.”

This past year, the CALL—which has expanded from six students in its initial cohort to more than 75 students in the 2022-2023 academic year—opened its new student dormitory at 55 H Street NW. The building, centrally located in downtown DC near Georgetown’s Capitol Campus, features state-of-the-art study and lounge areas, along with indoor and outdoor classrooms. The CALL undergrads share the dormitory space with Georgetown graduate and law students.

“Being in-person downtown taught me how to immerse in a new community,” shares Ashly Paulino (C’20, G’21), a first-generation college student who was also a part of Georgetown’s Community Scholars Program. Before participating in the CALL, she rarely had reason to travel beyond the Hilltop.

CALL students live in Georgetown’s new building right in the heart of the city at 55 H Street in NW Washington. Apartments include single occupancy bedrooms with kitchens and in-unit washers and dryers. There’s even a penthouse-level fitness and community center. Photos: Sam Levitan

For Paulino and others, the CALL has been a gamechanger. The program is designed to serve students of all socioeconomic backgrounds, especially those who might not otherwise be able to participate in an off-campus learning experience. An ongoing partnership with the Georgetown Scholars Program (GSP) has helped the program’s visibility and growth. Through the CALL, GSP students, many of whom are first-generation college students, are able to accept unpaid internships without incurring financial hardship.

Philanthropy has also had an impact. Thanks to a gift from John Idol, father of Christina Idol (C’14) and former member of the Board of Directors, Board of Regents,

and College Board of Advisors, the Idol Family Summer Fellowship Program helps students with limited financial means receive housing and other stipends, enabling them to accept unpaid internships—even during the COVID-19 crisis. The program supports 16 new students each summer, reinforcing the idea that an internship during college should be available to all, not a privilege for a few.

innovation and collaboration

The CALL curriculum challenges students’ understanding of the world by encouraging them to take what they know and apply it to field work.

Students live together as a cohort, getting to know each other as they explore downtown DC. The new Georgetown buildings include student residences as well as classroom and meeting spaces. Photos: Sam Levitan

“We take the best practices of how humans learn,” notes McGowan. “Interaction plays a major role in learning, but so does understanding who you are and where you are in a given moment.”

Along with its internship focus, the CALL highlights practical applications. For example, the program’s How to Frame a Legal Argument course is taught using an active case in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit. Partnerships with other university programs offer additional experiential learning opportunities for students. The Prisons and Justice Initiative (PJI), led by founding director Marc Howard, is one of the CALL’s earliest established partnerships. Through this collaboration, CALL students participate in the Prisons and Punishments course, where undergraduate and incarcerated students learn together.

“Sharing a classroom with incarcerated students and hearing stories directly from them emphasized the importance of putting justice-impacted people at the center of conversations regarding the criminal justice system,” says Borges.

The Prisons and Punishment class, like all courses under the CALL umbrella, encourages students to challenge their perceptions of societal issues and the roles they play in them.

In addition to the PJI partnership, the CALL recently launched a collaboration with Georgetown’s Earth Commons Institute for students eager to explore the

environment and sustainability field. Students learn about the local and global ecosystem, develop insight into environmental policy and changemaking, and network with DC-based environmental organizations.

making an impact

Borges’ experience downtown during her time in the CALL made her think about what role she wanted to play in her own community upon graduation.

“I learned to look at social injustices on a wider scale— a national level,” says Borges, who remembers a feeling of heaviness when seeing an encampment of unhoused people on her commute to her internship. “I was busy being a student while they were busy trying to survive.”

Borges entered the CALL with law school ambitions, but left the program with a desire to serve her home community of Bronx, New York. She is currently working for a nonprofit in New York City, with plans to attend law school in the future.

“It’s one thing to know something is a problem—it’s another to see it,” she says. “CALL gave me an unexpected paradigm shift.” •

The Capitol Applied Learning Labs (CALL) is one of the many ways Georgetown is shaping the future of teaching, research, and learning, and becoming the university we are called to be. Learn more at

“DC is the only place where you can be a citizen on both the local and national level.... We want students to think about what it means to be a citizen, to engage with a city or town, and take that ideology to wherever they go after Georgetown.”
—Abigail Lewis

10 years of challenging conversations with the Initiative for Catholic Social Thought and Public Life


On a balmy Tuesday evening in September 2018, crowds of people made their way up the steps into Healy Hall, following signs to an event hosted by Georgetown’s Initiative for Catholic Social Thought and Public Life. Undergraduate and graduate students, alumni, faculty, staff, and others from the broader Washington, DC, community gathered to join a difficult but important conversation on the Catholic clergy sexual abuse crisis.

The event that night was titled Confronting a Moral Catastrophe: Lay Leadership, Catholic Social Teaching, and the Sexual Abuse Crisis, and it came in the immediate wake of the release of the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report, which chronicled hundreds of cases of clerical abuse in the state. The initiative sought to provide a forum for dialogue on this difficult and timely issue, and Gaston Hall was packed.

John Carr, the initiative’s founding director who worked for many years at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, opened the dialogue, explaining that the

program would look at the ways Catholic social teaching could help people navigate the crisis, take action to support the abused, and address the tendencies of clericalism and institutional protection that magnify the problems.

The first presenter was a middle-aged lawyer whose voice trembled as he spoke. As a young child, he said, he had been repeatedly sexually assaulted by a priest. When he told his parents, his mother beat him with a strap. He spoke of internalizing the shame in the years to come, thinking something was bad about himself. He struggled with depression, addiction, broken relationships, and lost jobs. In recent years, at the advice of a priest, he chose to tell his story as part of his healing work. The initiative offered him a forum to begin that journey, a supportive space for him to share both his anger and his hope. His testimony changed the room that night, and the ensuing honest and open dialogue among the panelists and all gathered put important issues on the table that would lay the groundwork for continued change and healing.

The initiative’s events draw people from the Georgetown community and beyond to participate in dialogues on Catholic social teaching, including this event in Gaston Hall.
Photo: Rafael Suanes

Common themes of Catholic social teaching


The pursuit of justice and peace, loving our neighbor as one human family

Option for the poor and vulnerable

Putting the needs and voices of the most vulnerable first

Life and dignity of the human person

Human life and dignity are the foundation of a moral society

Call to family, community, and participation

Participating in society to advance the common good of all

Care for creation

A fundamental moral call to be stewards of creation

Dignity of work and the rights of workers

The economy must serve people

Rights and responsibilities

Shared responsibility to protect human rights and the dignity of all

A decade of dialogue

This is just one example of the compelling conversations shared in the 10 years since the Initiative for Catholic Social Thought and Public Life was established at Georgetown. Launched the year the first Jesuit pope began his papacy with an event called The Francis Factor, the program has since held nearly 150 dialogues on a range of important topics, reaching a quarter of a million students, Georgetown and DC-area community members, and national and global participants both online and in-person.

The diverse participants range from President Barack Obama on poverty, to Vatican leaders on Pope Francis’s mission, to Georgetown DACA students telling their stories, to a Salvadoran restaurant owner on the impacts of COVID-19 on her community and business. The initiative lifts up the voices of women and Latine, Black, and emerging leaders who are often neglected in discussions in the Catholic Church and in Washington.

“The idea at the heart of Georgetown University, at the heart of our initiative, at the heart of Catholic social teaching is the common good,” says Carr, who is transitioning to his new role as founder this year. “At a time of such great polarization and division in society, Catholic social teaching gives you a different way of looking at the world—a moral vocabulary.”

“The Catholic social thought tradition informs the way the church engages with the world,” explains Kim Daniels, who took over from Carr as the initiative’s director in January 2023. She also serves as a member of the Vatican Dicastery for Communications and as part of the communications commission for the synod, the Catholic Church’s global listening session now underway. “At the Initiative for Catholic Social Thought and Public Life, we try to bring Gospel teachings to public life—Jesus’s call for us to love our neighbor and to serve ‘the least of these.’ We ask how we can put this into action to help address the problems we face today.”

To engage people with these challenges, the initiative puts the focus on dialogue. They draw leaders with diverse viewpoints to speak with one another and resist binaries often portrayed in the media. Building on Georgetown’s Washington, DC, location and Jesuit values, the initiative lifts up the principles of Catholic social teaching through civil discourse to build bridges across political, religious, and ideological divides. It’s a role the university is uniquely positioned to fill.

“We encourage young leaders to see Catholic social teaching and their faith in general as an asset in their personal and professional lives, so they understand that this can be a part of how they approach the world, something they take from Georgetown into their lives,” says Daniels. “That’s really the center of our mission.”

Cardinal Wilton Gregory, archbishop of Washington, who has been a speaker on several panels over the years, views the work of the initiative as critical to shaping institutions, policies, and people through dialogue.

“The essential work of the initiative provides an expanded view of Catholic social teaching for all people committed to living our faith boldly in communities both global and local,” says Cardinal Gregory. “I have been pleased to participate in many of their rich dialogues, and I greatly appreciate the initiative’s dedication to the issues and concerns with which we contend in our daily lives.

I am grateful to Georgetown University and John Carr specifically for his extraordinary vision to found and grow the Initiative on Catholic Social Thought and Public Life these past 10 years.

“The initiative has a distinct mission to encourage and prepare an exceptional new generation of leaders for equally exceptional lives of service,” he adds.


“Under the proven leadership of Kim Daniels, I am confident the initiative will continue to deepen and broaden its important work. The initiative’s notable mission is good for Georgetown, vital for the Church, and more important than ever in Washington, DC.”

Opening doors to understanding

In a given year, the initiative takes on an astonishing breadth of issues. Recent examples include Faith and the Faithful in the 2022 Midterm Elections; What is the Good Life Now?; After Buffalo, After Uvalde: Broken Hearts, Broken Nation, Faithful Action; The Consistent Ethic of Life After Dobbs; Neglected Voices in the Clergy Sexual Abuse Crisis; and Young Catholics and Climate Change.

In January Kim Mazyck (SFS’90) joined the initiative as the new associate director. Prior to that, Mazyck ran the Africa campaign for Catholic Relief Services for many years and has more recently worked with Catholic Charities USA and the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur. She has previously participated as a panelist with the initiative, and looks forward to helping expand and enrich their work going forward.

“Culturally, Americans are very polite,” she notes, adding that this can cause avoidance of important topics that make people uncomfortable, like racism or immigration. “If we don’t have the honest conversations, we’re at a loss. What’s happening at the border? How do we welcome the stranger? How do we feed the hungry and clothe the naked, those corporal works of mercy? We can’t be afraid to have the conversation, even if it’s messy sometimes.”

Mazyck hopes to continue engaging students in these formative discussions. “How do we influence dialogue in the dorm?

Beyond the classroom, how do we help shape and form their social circumstances so they learn how to relate to each other and think more broadly about moving forward?”

In-person events are followed by a reception, where conversations among panelists and attendees can continue.

“A lot of the stuff we do is not at all visible,” says Carr, who will continue to assist Daniels, the initiative, and Georgetown over the next three years. “People with different perspectives have a glass of wine and a slider and talk.”

These encounters can soften rhetoric and hearts, opening doors to understanding.

During the pandemic, the initiative pivoted to online dialogues and drew even wider international audiences to their events. Topics followed the pulse of the world, such as the June 5, 2020, panel on Racism in Our Streets and in Our Structures, which has drawn more than 33,000 views to date. All events are recorded and available on the university website, a treasure trove for viewers who continue to watch the events around the world.

“The Catholic Church is the most multicultural and multilingual institution in the world,” adds Daniels. “How do we lean into that and embrace it? At the initiative we bring something to the table by bringing principles of Catholic social thought to these important conversations that shape public life.” •

The Initiative on Catholic Social Thought and Public Life is one of the many ways Georgetown is building a stronger, more ethical society and becoming the university we are called to be. Learn more at

“We can’t be afraid to have the conversation, even if it’s messy sometimes.”
Left photo: Policy analyst Alfonso Aguilar engages with attendees at a reception following the 2017 panel on Refugees and Immigrants: Welcoming the Stranger in Tough Times; Right photo: In 2022, award-winning youth minister Ogechi Akalegbere speaks on the life and teachings of Servant of God Sister Thea Bowman, along with Cardinal Wilton Gregory, archbishop of Washington. Photos: Rafael Suanes


Interdisciplinary major explores science and technology issues in global affairs

For Isabella Turilli (SFS’22), textbook theory became reality when the coronavirus pandemic emerged in March 2020. At the time, Turilli was a sophomore at Georgetown, taking global health courses and researching the impact of pandemics.

During the previous fall semester, Turilli participated in a classroom project that involved applying international health regulations to pandemic simulations. Students worked in teams to represent different countries and devise potential responses to a worldwide disease outbreak.

“When we were working on these projects, the pandemic just seemed like a hypothetical scenario,” recalls Turilli, a research associate for the Council on Foreign Relations’ Global Health Policy Program. “In class, we simulated disease outbreaks that were truly global in scale and would shut everything down. And then that’s what happened when the coronavirus pandemic came on the scene. So I was already engaged in studying pandemics, but then suddenly the hypothetical felt horrifically applicable as it unfolded in real time.”

Photo: Georgetown University Above: As part of the STIA Centennial Lab course called Problem Solving in a Destabilized Arctic, SFS students headed to Anchorage, Whittier, Seward, Utqiaġvik (Barrow), and Fairbanks, to visit some of Alaska’s remaining glaciers and tour important marine and atmospheric research facilities.

Turilli took the course as part of her major in science, technology, and international affairs (STIA). The academic program, housed in Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service (SFS), offers an interdisciplinary approach incorporating a wide range of academic fields structured around global challenges, including global health, climate change, interplanetary science, cybersecurity, cryptocurrency, and emerging technologies. Courses within the major explore the technological and scientific issues at the heart of modern international affairs.

“We’re developing within our students a scientific and technical literacy, integrated with proficiency in the liberal arts, ethics, languages, and international affairs, to help them become more informed policy makers and problem solvers,” says Joanna Lewis, Provost’s Distinguished Associate Professor and director of the STIA Program. “Georgetown’s STIA program is the only one of its kind at the undergraduate level within a foreign affairs school. But it fills a critical role for students interested in international affairs education because the key global challenges of our time have shifted such that many of them require proficiency with science and technical issues.”

A pioneering program

The SFS established the STIA program in 1982, and the first SFS student earning the STIA certificate graduated the following year. STIA became an academic major in the SFS undergraduate program during the early 1990s. Since then, it has become the SFS’s second largest academic program, with about 80 majors each year. Additionally, more than 100 students from

across the university enroll in the STIA gateway course each year, and the STIA minor is open to undergraduates from all schools at Georgetown.

A large percentage of Georgetown’s prestigious award recipients come out of the STIA program. Turilli and Georgetown STIA major Atharv Gupta (SFS’23) received the 2023 Rhodes Scholarship, the world’s oldest and most competitive international scholarship. They are among only 32 recipients nationwide. This is the first time in over 20 years that two scholars have been selected from Georgetown in the same year.

The STIA program continues to expand its offerings. Last year, the SFS launched the master of science in foreign service with a concentration in STIA. The program also oversees the SFS Science for All courses that are available to all Georgetown students and fulfill a science requirement for the core curriculum.

Building on Georgetown’s commitment to advance environmental sustainability and justice, STIA has partnered with the university’s Earth Commons Institute, a hub for environmental and sustainability innovation. One of these collaborations is the hiring of two faculty members who divide their time between both programs. Lewis, who serves on the Earth Commons’ faculty advisory committee, says plans are underway to create a joint graduate program between the SFS and the Earth Commons.

“It’s exciting to think of the possibilities that can emerge from leveraging the strengths of the Earth Commons and the STIA program,” says Lewis, a global climate change scholar. “These efforts really put Georgetown on the map in terms of what the university is doing to support environmentally focused research and education. STIA’s interdisciplinary faculty, with grounding

Photo: Georgetown University
“I appreciated having access to this magnificent network of people to really shepherd me through my studies. And in my job, I get to apply what I learned about global health as an undergrad on a day-to-day basis. That’s pretty thrilling!”
—isabella turilli (sfs’22)

in both the hard sciences and the social sciences, have become a connector between many other units across campus.”

Classroom lessons brought to life

Experiential learning is a STIA cornerstone. Most courses offer opportunities for students to apply textbook theory to realworld scenarios.

Centennial Labs, for example, are SFS classes built around an issue, idea, problem, or challenge within a real community. In these courses, students work with one or more professors across disciplines to learn the theories critical to understanding the situation. They develop practical approaches or solutions and share them with the community beyond the classroom.

Lewis is one of two faculty members who co-led the SFS Centennial Lab Course, Problem Solving in a Destabilized Arctic, which included a trip to Alaska last summer. Students studied the effects of Arctic climate change while visiting some of Alaska’s remaining glaciers, such as Exit Glacier, and toured important marine and atmospheric research facilities, such as the Alutiiq Pride Marine Institute, the Trans-Alaska Pipeline, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Atmospheric Observatory. They also caught a glimpse of a polar bear in the wild.

“We had the opportunity to talk with the people who would be impacted by the policies we were researching,” says Turilli, who took the course. “That was an eye-opening experience.”

Assistant professor Megan Lickley, who joined Georgetown last August as a joint faculty member for STIA and the Earth Commons, currently is teaching Sea Level Change and Coastal Adaptation. Students taking the course learn to use climate models and observational data to quantify the likely impacts of climate change. They use the information they gather to develop adaptation policies and plans.

“It’s exciting for students to put the science behind climate change into effect—to see how we use our understanding about the rates of sea level change and various risks to develop adaptation plans,” Lickley says. “It’s important to help students understand these science policy issues when we’re thinking about how our world is transitioning rapidly under climate change, which will require us to adapt and to change our energy systems quickly.”

Despite the global challenges caused by climate change, Lickley strives to instill a sense of optimism in her students and help them feel empowered to make a difference.

“I want to teach my students how to understand and interpret uncertainty in climate changes and how we plan in the face of uncertainty,” she says. “I hope they come away with a sense of hope in how they can contribute to positive change when it comes to climate change.”

Beyond our home planet

The STIA major also offers students an opportunity to explore biosignatures—or signs of life—on other planets. Sarah Stewart Johnson, a Provost’s Distinguished Associate Professor in STIA, is a planetary scientist focused on understanding the limits of life in extreme environments and how to detect life in places where it’s hard to find. She’s conducted research in “otherworldly places,” such as Antarctica, the Australian Outback, and the Atacama Desert. She finds it fulfilling to work with students in the lab and in the field, “devising new ways to hunt for signs of life, past and present.”

Planetary science, especially space exploration, is “inherently political in nature,” explains Johnson, who often conducts research at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland. Not only does it require public support, but it also must consider the concerns of national and international stakeholders. Much of her work has been deeply centered in science policy and advocacy.

“We’re developing within our students a scientific and technical literacy, integrated with proficiency in the liberal arts, ethics, language, and international affairs, to make them informed policy makers and problem solvers.”
—joanna lewis
Photo: Lisa Helfert

“I feel like planetary scientists have the best job on Earth,” Johnson says. “We get to ask deep questions about the nature of existence, and then send probes made by human hands out into the vastness of space to uncover the answers.”

Hoyas changing the world

The son of two software developers from Fairfax, Virginia, Gupta—one of Georgetown’s 2023 Rhodes Scholars—grew up immersed in technology. He’s optimistic about its power to change lives for the better. Passionate about international development, Gupta wants to build a career helping entrepreneurs in emerging markets scale their technologies to those who need it most.

During a visit to his grandparents’ home in Rishikesh, India, he witnessed the power of technology to drive change. On an outing to a local market, he noticed his grandfather paying for vegetables using a popular app on his smartphone—not cash, as he would expect from someone of an older generation.

“That app has really taken off to the point where it’s giving so much power to these little vegetable vendors in India,” says Gupta, who is completing a concentration in business growth and development, as well as minors in Chinese and computer science. “That’s just an example of how technology creates options where there previously weren’t any.”

After leaving the Hilltop, STIA graduates have become successful entrepreneurs, scholars, and policymakers. Sheila Gulati (SFS’98), founder and managing director of Tola Capital, relies on lessons learned from her Georgetown education every day in her career as a venture capitalist.

“STIA is a unique degree because it is so multifaceted. You gain an incredible view of what’s happening in the world mixed with what’s happening from a technology lens,” says Gulati,

who recently came back to Georgetown to speak to current STIA students. “Global affairs are inextricably linked with technology. Technology shifts influence how countries work together and how citizens engage with both their governments and with one another.

“STIA and SFS programs have great prediction capability on how trends will change how we use technology as individuals, and how it will change society,” she adds. “I think Georgetown has always been interested in creating students who become leaders and create better societies. And I think that that’s a huge part of what STIA graduates have to offer the world.”

As Turilli prepares to continue her studies in global health at Oxford next year, she’s grateful for the opportunity to apply knowledge she gained in STIA courses to her work at the Council on Foreign Relations. Much of her work is focused on disease tracking and policy efficacy for global health emergencies—areas of great interest to her.

“I feel incredibly lucky that I’ve landed in this role because it really feels like an appropriate continuation of my undergrad studies, developing my skills in a different setting while keeping my topical interests,” says Turilli, who hopes to eventually pursue work in academia. “I’m thankful to have a career in which I’m learning every day about how I can contribute to improving people’s health through actions and policies.” •

The Science, Technology, and International Affairs Program in the School of Foreign Service is one of the many ways Georgetown is promoting the health and security of people and the planet, and becoming the university we are called to be. Learn more at

Photo: Georgetown University
“That app has really taken off to the point where it’s giving so much power to these little vegetable vendors in India. That’s just an example of how technology creates options where there previously weren’t any.”
—atharv gupta (sfs’23)


The launch of the Called to Be campaign provided the opportunity for Julia Farr, executive director of the Georgetown University Alumni Association (GUAA), and GUAA President Kelly Mulvoy Mangan to sit down with Bart Moore, vice president of Georgetown’s Office of Advancement, to discuss the university’s mission and priorities.

[ KELLY ] This campaign is Georgetown’s most ambitious following the Third Century and For Generations to Come campaigns. How was the name Called to Be selected?

[ BART ] President DeGioia often speaks extemporaneously about his ambition to ensure that Georgetown becomes the university that it is called to be. And the concept of calling is so resonant with our Catholic and Jesuit traditions, and the sense of mission and purpose that we have at Georgetown.

The Jesuit part of our tradition requires a certain, deliberate approach. We should never be too content with what we are or what we’re doing. The concept of magis calls us to do more, to be reflective and discerning and then active in pursuing more expansive and meaningful ways to fulfill our mission.

So the name Called to Be invokes the traditions on which we were built and the foundation from which we draw all of our current strengths, while also focusing our attention on what we imagine for ourselves in the future.

[ JULIE ] The Called to Be campaign’s goal is $3 billion, twice the goal of For Generations to Come . Why is this the right time to put such an ambitious stake in the ground and what kind of impact will it have on the university’s future?

[ BART ] Well, I guess this is the right time because we think we’re ready to do it. We think our community will support it. We’ve demonstrated our capacity to respond to both challenge and opportunity, to grow as a university and magnify our

tradition calls us to do more’
From left to right: Kelly Mulvoy Mangan (SFS’91), R. Bartley Moore (SFS’87), and Julia Farr (C’88, Parent’19, ’21, ’24) in the library room of the Robert and Bernice Wagner Alumni House Photo: Phil Humnicky

impact. And we have a really compelling set of ambitions for what we’ll build and do with the benefit of this very significant investment of philanthropy.

The $3 billion is made up of scores and scores of discrete investments we want to make in people and programs all across the university, starting with financial aid for our undergraduate and graduate students. There’s no higher commitment at Georgetown than making the university affordable and accessible to all students who are admitted. We intend to raise at a minimum a half a billion dollars for student financial aid and scholarships.

But nothing happens—at any great university—without philanthropy. Great universities are built on the foundation and ongoing investment capital of great philanthropy, and we feel confident that we have good use and purpose for every penny of $3 billion dollars.

[ KELLY ] When talking about the importance of philanthropy in a campaign of this size, how important is it that Georgetown’s alumni be involved? What kind of a difference can they make at any level of giving?

[ BART ] Alumni are the core of everything that we do in fundraising for Georgetown. Without them, we would not be or have the Georgetown that we all know today and that, frankly, I think we’re all so proud of. One of the things I’ve loved about being an alumnus is that every single year since I enrolled and graduated, regard for the university has grown in the public eye. Our reputation is a direct result of the quality of the students that we attract and enroll. And that’s because we work to make it affordable for the students we admit to choose Georgetown, regardless of their financial circumstances.

Every gift makes a difference and every donor has an impact. We receive thousands of gifts every year in individual amounts of two and three figures. Many of those gifts go to the Georgetown Fund, which benefits undergraduate financial aid. In total this year, individual gifts in amounts under $1,000 are funding an incredible 400 undergraduate scholarships.

Nothing is possible without the willingness of alumni to make the university a priority in their philanthropy. Having said that, I want all of our hardworking and generous alumni to know we don’t stop there. Like most universities we are increasingly reaching out to foundations, corporations, and others. We now routinely talk with people with no prior affiliation with Georgetown, but we know, or think, they care about something that we’re really good at here, like Parkinson’s research and care or degree completion for first-generation college goers. Campaigns depend first and mostly on alumni, but it’s not their job alone.

[ JULIE ] The campaign is capacious, with so many extra–ordinary ambitions to support. You mentioned some of those ambitions, but I wonder what you would answer if someone asked you where their giving would have the most impact?

[ BART ] When speaking to donors, I start by asking them to identify an important part of their Georgetown experience. If it was important to you, it’s very likely that it’s important to someone who’s here right now. And that department or program will benefit from your support.

If a prospective donor is completely open to suggestions though, I talk about scholarships. Our undergraduate meet-full-need commitment, which is now 45 years old, is even more important today given the rising cost of a college education. The truth is that more and more students need some help in affording Georgetown, or any university for that matter. Forty percent of our students receive university-funded financial aid. That would not be possible if it were not for the extraordinary level of donor support for financial aid in the last 15 years in particular.

[ KELLY ] For this conversation, I found myself reflecting on what I am called to be. What are you called to be, Bart?

[ BART ] I love that question. We do hope that the name of the campaign will prompt every member of our community to pause and reflect on their calling. There’s no right answer to that question, but the Jesuit tradition reminds us to ask the question, continually, and to hold ourselves to meaningful standards.

I think I’m doing what I should be doing. I love this university. The total experience I’ve had here, both in my four years as a student and after, has given me things of more value and benefit than I could ever possibly repay. And I feel at least in a professional way right now that I’m called to be one of the cheerleaders for this extraordinary place. I believe it’s an extraordinary place to do the work of personal formation, no matter where you are in your life or career. I mean, it’s a great job. And I get to meet or re-meet nice people who love Georgetown. Julie, what are you called to be?

[ JULIE ] I believe that I’m called to be a bridge builder. I have the privilege of connecting our alumni together through meaningful experiences, and I have the opportunity to create pathways for them to come back to our alma mater for the mutual benefit of Georgetown and her alumni. Personally, that gives extraordinary meaning to my life. How about you, Kelly?

[ KELLY ] I think a lot about my education and the values that I developed at Georgetown. They became central to my life while I was here and then I’ve expanded on them through the years. I try to take them into every aspect of my life: as a parent, school board leader, and president of the Alumni Association. I feel that I’m called to be a leader who makes the Alumni Association a home for everyone, a place that helps people feel connected to the university and to the experience that they had here as a student. •

Learn more about the Called to Be campaign at


Trailblazing Georgetown alumnus joins SEC leadership

Mark Uyeda (B’92) was sworn in as a commissioner of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission last June, the first person of Asian descent to hold the role.

When nominated, Uyeda began receiving messages from Asian Americans who wanted to express what this meant to them. “Hearing from some of these Asian American groups and the symbolic part of how important that was to them, it’s something that I’ve come to appreciate greatly,” says Uyeda.

During the confirmation process, the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association, the Association of Asian American Investment Managers, the Asian Pacific American Bar Association of the Greater Washington, DC Area, and the Japanese American Bar Association each submitted letters to the U.S. Senate on his behalf.

In his role, Uyeda hopes to focus on capital formation and creating more investment opportunities for mainstream investors.

Uyeda encourages current students interested in the finance and business field to “make sure you’ve got a good fundamental understanding of the basic building blocks of finance.” He became a business major in part to take the upper-level

courses only offered to students in the major, and he also appreciated the access he had to coursework in international relations and government.

“I wanted this combination of understanding business and international relations,” says Uyeda. Today Georgetown students explore these two fields through the Dikran Izmirlian Program in Business and Global Affairs (BGA).

Recalling the business major’s yearlong statistics requirement, he now finds this knowledge helpful when talking to economists about topics like standard deviations and confidence levels.

“I think one of the most important lessons [from Georgetown] was learning to be able to relate and interact with a lot of different people,” shares Uyeda.

His recent appointment also prompted reconnection with old Georgetown acquaintances, including government professor Anthony Arend, and business ethics professor John Hasnas.

“Having those relationships three decades later is really special.” •

—Gabrielle Barone
Mark Uyeda (B’92) majored in business and also took classes in government and international affairs. Now he combines all three interests in his role at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Photo: Securities and Exchange Commission Staff Photographer

Deans discuss health disparities at Black Alumni Summit

What changes are needed to address racism in medicine and health care? On October 21, 2022, during the 2022 Black Alumni Summit—the biennial celebration of the professional and personal achievements of Georgetown’s Black alumni community—Georgetown convened a panel to discuss this important topic.

President John J. DeGioia led the discussion on The Future of Health and Medicine on the Hilltop with three of Georgetown’s deans: Christopher J. King, dean of the School of Health; Roberta Waite, dean of the School of Nursing; and Lee Jones, dean for medical education.

Alongside other diversity efforts at Georgetown, the deans are working to foster an inclusive environment in health and medicine studies.

The first step begins in the classroom. Antiracism curricula are vital tools that can be used to change medical care today and health services tomorrow. Dean Jones shared how the School of Medicine has worked to challenge racism in medicine by diversifying the pool of simulated patients and the case studies that prepare students for their clinical experiences. Moreover, a new bias reporting system allows medical students to anonymously report concerning material they’ve uncovered in a textbook or course.

Incorporating context into the curriculum is just the beginning. During the discussion, the deans explained the importance of teaching students the myriad ways health is shaped by historical discrimination, ongoing stereotypes, and societal living conditions today.

Dean Waite emphasized the need to explore the role of racism, rather than race, in health disparities.

“There might be a higher predisposition for hypertension [among Black patients] because of stress, lack of resources, food choices, and other structural impediments,” Waite said. “It’s not just because the people who are racialized as Black in these studies have high blood pressure.”

All three deans have a commitment to diversity and a collective agenda to educate the next generation of leaders to be forward-thinking doctors, nurses, and health advocates.

“What’s going to distinguish [Georgetown’s School of Health] is our commitment to health equity and anti-racism,” said Dean King. “It will be embedded in everything that we do, because this is key to eradicating health disparities and improving the health of the nation and improving the health of the globe.” •

Top photo (from left to right): President DeGioia, Dean Jones, Dean Waite, Dean King. Bottom photo: Attendees at the Black Alumni Summit took advantage of panel discussions, networking, and camaraderie. Photo: Leslie E. Kossoff Photo: Leslie E. Kossoff


Aaron Davis (C’99), investigative reporter for The Washington Post, has shared in winning the Pulitzer Prize twice, and been a finalist three times, in 2014, 2019, and 2020. He was a lead reporter and writer on a series of stories awarded the top prize, the 2022 Pulitzer for Public Service. Davis wrote or co-wrote five of the articles, including an investigative series on the causes, costs, and aftermath of the attack on the Capitol on January 6, 2021. The 36,000-word series was one of the longest articles ever published by The Post, and was based on hundreds of interviews and thousands of pages of documents.

In 2018, he shared the Pulitzer for Investigative Reporting as a member of the reporting team that revealed allegations of sexual harassment of teenage girls by Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore.

“It’s incredibly inspiring to be among the other winners: poets, musicians, and writers,” he says about the Pulitzer awards ceremony, “until someone inevitably says ‘Congratulations on now knowing how the first line of your obituary will read.’”

“I credit Georgetown for giving me the flexibility to figure out what my calling would be—I changed majors a few times,” he says. Eventually, a friend invited him to write for The Hoya . The rest of his Georgetown career was spent taking every journalism course offered, and

logging almost full-time hours as an intern at ABC News and USA Today, while making up coursework during the summer. “I somehow managed to graduate in four years,” he laughs. Before joining The Post, Davis reported for the Associated Press, the San Jose Mercury News, Florida Today, and USA Today. He has reported from Iraq, India, and eight other countries.

“I love investigative reporting,” says Davis. “It’s a job where you can wake up and think ‘What’s the most important question we can answer for the country?’” But it’s not just big, national stories that can drive public service. “Early on I was writing obituaries and came across a 3-year-old who had choked to death on an imported, cone-shaped candy,” he recalls. “On a hunch, I called the medical examiners in the area and found that in the last four months two other children had died choking on the same candy and another was on life support.” Within two weeks of his reporting, federal marshals had seized all of the supply and its importation was banned.

“But I also know that something I write might cost someone their job or be the thing that everyone remembers about them,” he notes. “I take that in a very serious and human way. I respect my sources, while building trust and rapport. It’s not just a story for them.” •

Photo: Bill O’Leary From left to right: Philip Rucker, Rosalind Helderman, Amy Gardner, and Aaron Davis, The Washington Post’s four lead writers and reporters on the investigative series, “The Attack,” along with National Editor Matea Gold, arrive at the Pulitzer Prize award ceremony at Columbia University on Oct. 20, 2022.


Even before founding The Center for the Rights of Abused Children, an organization to protect and advocate for children, Darcy Olsen (SFS’93) was working for social change.

While her family was reading the comics and sports, Olsen was searching the newspaper for the op-ed pages. “I knew that I wanted to be in public policy to make things better and to do my part for social change,” says Olsen, “and then it was just really a question of what shape that would take over the years.”

In college, Olsen was part of the District Action Project, a service-minded housing option in Copley Hall, and volunteered for the Coalition for the Homeless.

“At Georgetown, there were just endless opportunities for service all around,” says Olsen, who embraces the biblical concept, “Love never fails.”

“Love can take the shape of buying an extra sleeping bag and donating it to a local shelter where they need it,” she says. “It can take the shape of being an advocate for somebody who doesn’t have an attorney in the courtroom. It can even take the shape of changing laws.”

This became apparent when Olsen adopted her four children, and realized she, the adoptive parent, wasn’t asked about the child until the end of the courtroom proceedings. She realized the child, “who should be the most important part of the proceeding… has no voice at all.”

Inspired by that moment, Olsen founded The Center for the Rights of Abused Children, formerly Gen Justice, in 2017 while raising her family.

“Foster care is nothing but a system of laws,” says Olsen. “If you don’t have someone to enforce those laws on your behalf, they’re essentially meaningless.”

The center estimates they’ve helped 500,000 foster children. They have been involved with enacting Arizona state and federal legislation to provide foster children with free photo identification, establishing guidelines so children’s family members can more quickly be reunified, limiting delays in foster children’s court cases, and appointing an attorney to every child in foster care.

The Arizona Capitol Times named Olsen a 2022 Leader of the Year in Public Policy for Social Services, and she was awarded the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Adoption Excellence Award in 2020. The Center was recently awarded $1 million from the Arizona Governor’s office to provide pro bono legal support for children in need.

Eventually, Olsen wants to address missing persons and foster-child trafficking, and the foster care aging-out pitfall. “If we can stop that, every child will get a family before their childhood is over.” •

Photo: Sandra Tenuto Darcy Olsen, pictured here with her family, started an organization that has helped 500,000 children.

Alumnus documents origins of the renewables industry

In writing a book about industry leaders, Tom Weirich (SFS’02) hopes his experiences can serve as a connection point for others wanting to join the growing renewables field.

We Took The Risk: The Stories Behind the Early Risk Takers in the U.S. Renewable Energy Industry and the Leadership Traits that Made Them a Success originally began as an op-ed piece that Weirich wrote as a tribute to his industry mentor, Lt. Col. Bill Holmberg. He was later encouraged to write a book about his experiences alongside the origins and growth of the U.S. renewables industry.

“It was almost like an industry reunion of sorts in that I got to reconnect with so many mentors during COVID-19,” says Weirich. “[The lockdown] gave me the gift of access. Everyone was home, everyone was virtual, and everyone wanted to connect to talk about the next evolution of U.S. renewables.”

Weirich worked to compile the interviews and identify the key messages. His book was published in October 2022.

We Took The Risk was created to help the average reader learn about the origins of the renewables industry. It also served to reinvigorate those early founders and remind them of the importance of taking risks.

“We say we’re not afraid to fail until we’re in that situation,” says Weirich. “Well, learn from it. There’s a failure story in every single one of those chapters, but stay persistent. And in doing so, you find out you’re a lot stronger and more resilient than you think you are.”

Weirich, marketing head at EDP Renewables North America —and former COO and senior vice president of the American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE), which he helped build along with Jodie Roussell (C’01)—agreed that the time was right.

He spent the COVID-19 lockdown interviewing 100 industry connections, then identified a signature character trait each embodied.

While he wrote the book as a tribute, Weirich also hopes it will inspire the Georgetown community to become more interested in renewables, and offers himself up as a mentor and resource. He hopes the 25 featured leaders and the Renewables Resources list in the book will help people make the connections needed to begin their own renewables career.

“I think that’s the most important lesson in this journey: reach out to others and they will support you.” •

“Everyone was home, everyone was virtual, and everyone wanted to connect to talk about the next evolution of U.S. renewables.”
To celebrate the launch of his book, Tom Weirich (SFS’02) went on a national book tour in 2022, including stops in Houston, San Francisco, and Washington, DC. Photo: Courtesy of Tom Weirich

Amal Ghandour (SFS’83) grew up in a home filled with books about Middle Eastern politics. Now, Ghandour can add her second work, This Arab Life: A Generation’s Journey into Silence, to her family library.

A memoir of the generation that came of political age in the 1980s—along with her own insights and political knowledge—This Arab Life examines the varied political and social structures in the Middle East and the upheavals of recent decades. She picked up her interest in the subject from her father, a revolutionary who was sentenced to death by the Lebanese state in 1962 and had to flee to Jordan in exile.

“When you grow up in a house that’s very much involved in politics, you tend to acquire certain skills and insights,” says Ghandour.

While she was already well-acquainted with the Middle Eastern region’s turbulent and chaotic geopolitical history, Ghandour found the mining of her personal history— growing up in and coming to understand the realities of living in a politically strained area and time—to be a more complex goal.

“When you are asking yourself very difficult questions, your natural defenses emerge,” says Ghandour. “I had to be very aware of my defense mechanisms. I had to understand and appreciate [what I was learning] and finally commit to a very honest story.”

She also found the writing process to be therapeutic. “With my books, I write for clarity. I don’t achieve clarity and then sit and write; I actually achieve clarity through the act of writing.”

Ghandour’s first book, About This Man Called Ali: The Purple Life of an Arab Artist, is a historical narrative of the East Mediterranean through the life and art of artist Ali al Jabri.

Ghandour hopes her latest book will offer an intimate historical context to the complex area—“beautiful and painful, hopeful and hopeless”—to members of the younger generation.

“It’s always very painful for me, and I suspect for anyone of my generation, when they look at me and say ‘We don’t recognize this place you’re talking about,’” says Ghandour.

She also hopes that the book will appeal to all, whether they’re familiar with the topic or newly learning.

“[I want it to speak to] those who don’t know the Arab world or are always asking themselves, ‘Why is it this way?’ It’s an intimate story. Bookstores are just jam-packed with some wonderful books about the Arab world and, of course, the Middle East, but very few books offer a personal history, something very close to the heart.” •

—Gabrielle Barone
Alumna’s memoir analyzes political instability, social impact
“With my books, I write for clarity. I don’t achieve clarity and then sit and write; I actually achieve clarity through the act of writing.”
Amal Ghandour (SFS’83) ded–icated her memoir, This Arab Life, to her mother and father. Photo: Cherine Jokhdar

Lives Well Lived honors a few alumni who have recently passed away. We share with you these portraits of alumni who have made an indelible impact living day to day as people for others. Memories collected by Patti North.

You can find a more complete list at

James Duggan

James E. Duggan (C’64, L’69), retired New Hampshire Supreme Court Justice, public defender, and law professor, died on August 13, 2022, at his home in Amherst, New Hampshire.

He graduated from Georgetown with his undergraduate degree in 1964 and spent two years in the Peace Corps in Togo, West Africa. He returned to the U.S. to go to Georgetown University Law Center, graduating in 1969. Duggan served as a staff attorney for the District of Columbia’s Public Defender Service, where he had worked as an investigator during law school. He opened the first public defender office in Manchester, New Hampshire, in 1974, began teaching at Franklin Pierce Law Center in Concord, Massachusetts, in 1977, and helped expand the public defender’s office statewide. He was appointed to the New Hampshire Supreme Court in 2001 and served as associate justice until 2011.

Duggan was an avid reader, gardener, golfer, and artist. He is survived by his wife, Helen Hartman, who said, “Jim will be remembered for his unwavering devotion to his family, his friends, and his pursuit of fairness and integrity within our judicial system.” Two sons, Brian and Brendan Duggan, and sister Jane Duggan Ogle also survive him.

Marion Mann, M.D.,

Retired Brigadier General Marion Mann (MS’59, R’60, G’61, HON’79), former dean of the Howard University College of Medicine, passed away in Washington, DC, on August 20, 2022. He was 102 years old. He graduated with honors from Tuskegee Institute in 1940 and began a career in the armed services before marrying Ruth Maurine Reagin in 1943.

Dr. Mann graduated as president of his class from Howard University Medical School in 1954. He earned his M.S. from Georgetown in 1959 and his Ph.D. in 1961. The university awarded him an honorary doctorate in 1979.

He was selected dean of the Howard University School of Medicine in 1970, while establishing the Sickle Cell Disease Center and Cancer Research Center. He retired as dean in 1980, returning to the university in 1988 as associate vice president for research.

He is survived by his son Marion Nicholas Mann, daughter Judith Mann Walk, six grandchildren, and 15 great-grandchildren.

His daughter Judy recalls, “Despite growing up in a single-parent family with five brothers during the depression, segregation, and racism of the Jim Crow South, he rose through the top ranks of academia and the military. He expected excellence from everyone, especially himself. But what really endures for us is his gentle smile, kind eyes, big hugs, love for family, gentle guidance, and wisdom.”

Photo: Courtesy of the Moorland-Spingarn Research Center, Howard University Archives

Julia Wershing, M.D.

Julia Martha Wershing (M’58, R’59, HON’84), passed away at the age of 89 in Madison, Nebraska. She was born in New York City, and received a degree in chemistry from the University of Missouri in 1950. Applying to Georgetown School of Medicine in the early 1950s, she was told she was rejected because she “would marry and waste her education.” When a male student canceled at the last minute, she was admitted—one of three women in her class—and graduated in 1958. She interned and was a resident in Georgetown University Hospital’s pediatric unit, and then became a cardiology fellow at Colorado Medical Center in Denver, where she was a pediatrics instructor researching heart-lung machines for premature infants.

In 1963, she became clinical director of the new Children’s Clinic in Nassau, Bahamas—the only such clinic in the country, serving a predominantly low-income population. During her 29 years running the clinic, where she was known as “Dr. Julie,” she saw more than 23,000 patients, whom she referred to as “my kids.” When she started, vaccination rates in the Bahamas were near zero. By the time she left, they were higher than in the U.S.

Simultaneously, she served as Georgetown University professor of pediatrics, with hundreds of medical students receiving clinical pediatric instruction under her supervision. She was awarded an honorary doctorate of science in 1984 by the school for her work with these students. Her research on childhood parasites and disease was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. In 1992, she was made a Member of the Order of the British Empire in recognition of her service to the Bahamian people.

She returned to the United States and briefly served the children of military families in the Charleston, South Carolina, area, until cancer forced her retirement. Her Nassau memorial mass was conducted by 22 priests, including the archbishop—all former patients. She is survived by her sister, Mary Ann Flack; nine nieces and nephews; and 11 great-nieces and great-nephews.

Her niece and namesake, Julie Wong, recalled, “Aunt Julie inspired great loyalty and dedication. She remained in touch with many of her former patients, Georgetown students, and former colleagues. She retired and moved to Nebraska to be near her sister, and even living in a remote part of the country, several of her former colleagues would still trek out to visit her in the nursing home every year.” •


On academic life

One thing I love about teaching is getting to know people. Currently I teach a course for seniors. It’s a wonderful group. When seniors sign up for Catholic theology, they want to be there.

Theology addresses utterly fundamental matters, touches the meaning of everything.

Today students are much busier. They’re under more pressure to succeed and do well and prepare for jobs. Their life is much faster. It’s not just this place— it’s cultural.

On pandemic teaching

The last few years have been tough because of the pandemic. So much of college life is about people. In many ways that’s the most formative part of the experience— the fish you’re swimming with. This crowd lost about a year of that. Many seniors were in the area so we’d get Wisey’s sandwiches and have the quadrangle to ourselves.

In virtual classes I liked having their faces very clear on the computer screen, but my students told me it’s tough being on camera under everyone’s eyes all the time. Sometimes the technology was bonding: I’d run into trouble and the students are geniuses so they’d help me.

On campus faith life

I first came to Georgetown in the 1960s as a seminarian. Back then every Catholic had to make a yearly

weekend retreat, take four courses in theology and six in philosophy, no electives. It was basically watereddown seminary.

Today the university is Catholic in another way. One cannot be on campus very long without noticing the attention given to matters of social justice. And the number and variety of spiritual retreats is extensive. But participation, as it should be in such matters, is voluntary. You have to want to do it.

We have chaplains from many different faiths, and that pluralism is important to all we do.

On God, and retirement

A Catholic believes that God is a loving Creator who sustains and enables all created reality. To use a crude image, God is not another player in the cosmos but the one who creates and sustains and enables it, the means to grace with love.

Catholics believe that God decisively reveals the embrace of love and identifies with humankind in the person of Jesus Christ. So Catholic faith is, if you will, an earthy faith.

As for retiring, some Jesuits do but it depends. We tend to be pretty active, maybe slowing down because of the limitations of aging. •

Otto Hentz, S.J., theology professor since 1973, on his calling to serve students
Photo: Phil Humnicky
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