As more University of San Francisco students head abroad each year for study and immersion trips, a group of university administrators, trustees, and benefactors followed suit during the summer, taking a break from the boardroom for their own immersion to El Salvador.
The weeklong tour of the city of San Salvador—where USF has organized study and immersions trips with various social justice programs supporting the poorest of the poor since 1998—was intended to highlight the role foreign travel plays in expanding students’ worldview and cultural appreciation. The group, led by USF President Stephen A. Privett, S.J., met with elected officials and leaders of the University of Central America, and heard a lecture at the Hospitalito La Devian Providencia, where Archbishop Oscar Romero of San Salvador was assassinated in 1980. Archbishop Romero, after whom a USF student leadership award is named, was well known for speaking out against economic injustice and military repression in El Salvador.
The itinerary for the June trip included meeting El Salvador Supreme Court Justice Victoria de Aviles, El Salvador National Assembly member Hector Dada, and factory workers, as well as a tour of a hospital, a Catholic school, and a shantytown.
The visit was similar in purpose to one taken a year ago by USF vice presidents and deans to Nicaragua. That trip was meant to focus USF’s top administrators on the university’s mission of educating students to create a more humane and just world by introducing them to one of the poorest countries in the Western hemisphere. El Salvador, with its history of civil war and repression and its legacy of Jesuit martyrs who spoke the truth despite adverse consequences, offered trustees and benefactors “a unique context for fresh thinking and moral reflection on the mission of a Jesuit university today,” said Anne-Marie Devine, USF director of media relations.
“This trip is an opportunity for key partners of the university to experience first hand the transformational power that immersion experiences have for many of our students,” Fr. Privett said. “These programs that aim to expose and educate us to the realities of the global village are oftentimes the catalyst for students to rethink how and who they want to be in the world. We hope they will have a similar impact on our trustees and alums.”
For Claudio Chiuchiarelli, chairman of the USF Board of Trustees, traveling to San Salvador had just that impact. “This (trip) gave me an even greater conviction of a Jesuit education, and reinforced our absolute need to provide global perspective,” Chiuchiarelli said. “(Immersion) highly differentiates the USF experience and squares up with everything we stand for and many of the qualities we value.”
The trip was sponsored by the Office of the President and the Joan and Ralph Lane Center for Catholic Studies and Social Thought.