Alumni Voices | Vanessa Rotondo (Fordham ‘19)

My relationship with Jesuit education began at Fordham University, when I started my undergraduate degree in political science. Through the opportunities afforded through the Office of Campus Ministry, Jesuit education began to shape my self-understanding in a tangible and critical way - so much so in fact that I switched graduate programs from Elections and Campaign Management to Catholic Education. Being able to study education at the master’s level and now the doctoral level, I have been fortunate beyond measure to engage critically and intentionally daily with the three pillars of Alpha Sigma Nu: loyalty, scholarship, and service. For me, these three focal points infuse my work within Fordham’s Center for Community Engaged Learning and serve to provide me with a framework for being a proud alumna of Fordham.

Our Center for Community Engaged Learning (CCEL) seeks to connect our community leaders with our faculty leaders, so those two constituencies together can train our student leaders. Our office runs the community engaged learning courses, a pre-orientation program that seeks to introduce first-year students to our Bronx and Manhattan communities, and the traditional cultural and service immersion program that offers eighteen opportunities on three different cycles (winter, spring, and summer recesses) for students to engage with communities both on the domestic front and internationally.

The bulk of my work within CCEL is to train student leaders in rich awareness of our Jesuit tradition and grounding their leadership skills in Ignatian spirituality. In preparing our leaders, ensuring that they are well versed in our rich history and tradition is important to me. As someone who served as a student leader at Fordham, being able to understand my experiences as part of the Jesuit identity of my institution was powerful; understanding what leadership meant for me as a Jesuit educated student was powerful.

Using the defining charism of Ignatian spirituality of “mindfulness,” I encourage students to integrate critical self-reflection into their lives, both in and out of the classroom. A good Jesuit education seeks to help students not only do something - but understand why, while helping them critically unpack who they are in the context of the world. I have accompanied students to many different parts of the world - Ecuador, El Salvador, Mississippi, all over NYC in service - and being able to share in their transformation when they begin to understand in an active way our history has been a privilege unrivaled. More than just doing, taking the initiative to apply whatever they have learned in an experiential way and connecting these learnings to scholarship has also been a joy of mine at work. Loyalty to the Jesuit mission, a commitment to service, and a desire for conscientious and sustainable scholarship is more than just a hope for Jesuit educated students -- it is the lifeblood that carries the mission.