How do we measure the success of a college education? Fordham students say engaging with and serving the community has given them a broader sense of what it means to do well in the world and a good foundation for how to succeed.
The Jesuit concept of cura personalis, care for the whole person, informs Fordham students’ approach to service. Their work in the community is about far more than an impressive line on a resume. It’s about becoming men or women for others.
Marc Alibrandi, a senior majoring in political science and theology, has been active in Campus Ministry activities since he started his Fordham career.
When his own family in Long Island was without power for several days after Hurricane Sandy, he said he felt helpless. He responded by becoming involved with Sandy recovery projects in New York’s Rockaway neighborhood, helping other families who had suffered far more devastation than his own.
Alibrandi said serving others has helped him learn more about who he is and what he wants to do.
“In everything Fordham does, they want to incorporate all parts of who you are. The faculty and staff care about us, and care as much about how we grow as people as we do academically,” he said.
“It’s the type of environment where you want to be your best self.”
For Michelle Spotts, a senior studying international political economy and Spanish, service opportunities at Fordham have helped her consider the primary goals of her college education.
“I’ve seen a lot of other students go to colleges where the main point of their education is to launch them into a very successful career, success defined by what our society considers success. While that’s not inherently wrong, I’m grateful that Fordham attempts to challenge us to something more, something deeper,” she said.
Spotts has been active in service opportunities through the Pedro Arrupe Faith and Justice Community, a part of Campus Ministry that combines direct volunteer work in the local Bronx community with reflection.
She leads a group that volunteers at St. Rita’s Immigration Center in the Bronx, helping immigrants connect to resources to start a new life. She said the experience has had a deep impact on her, opening her eyes to the challenges faced and courage demonstrated by migrants.
Her service at St. Rita’s has also influenced her academic career. She is writing her thesis on the experience of migrant women and their financial contributions to the economy.
“The University’s mission to have a center outside itself, not just to preach something or teach, but to learn from the community what we should be focusing on in research, has been significant for me,” Spotts said.
“Fordham’s way of being in our community opened up an opportunity for me to find faith and God in the classroom and bring those lessons outside.”
Alibrandi also said his service work and involvement in Campus Ministry have changed the way he will pursue his career goals. His ultimate goal has remained the same: to join the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
But while he imagined a route to the job through politics and potentially law school, the self-discovery he’s experienced through an education rooted in cura personalis has changed his thinking.
“Fordham has done a good job of helping me get to know myself better and realize what my actual passions are,” he said.
As the holidays approach, students involved in service work have an opportunity to reflect on what it means to give back.
Bernadette Colbert, a junior majoring in economics, manages a Toy Drive through Fordham Big Brothers and Big Sisters, inviting fellow students to connect with the local community by donating.
“I encourage people by telling them that if they donate, they could change a little boy or girl’s Christmas,” Colbert said. “This has been an eye opening experience for me as to how grateful I should be for my life.”