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ECP Newsletter - Dean's Message

February 5, 2018

Dear Students, Faculty, Alumni, and Friends of Education and Counseling Psychology:

I hope your year is off to a wonderful start. We are deep into our Winter Quarter here at SCU. We recently held the practicum fair for Counseling Psychology students who are ready to begin their practicum next fall, and many of our students in teacher education are beginning to do more independent teaching in the placements. We have two district cohorts in Educational Leadership getting ready to graduate this June. This is always an exciting time as students begin to see themselves as the amazing educators, therapists, and leaders they are becoming.

I began this year with a moving and important experience in my life. I participated in a week-long immersion trip to Nogales, Arizona (US) and Nogales, Sonora (Mexico) as part of the Ignition Colleagues Program, an endeavor of the American Jesuit Colleges and Universities (AJCU) to ensure our faculty and senior leadership know and understand what it means to be a Jesuit institution. In this trip, our purpose was to learn about the border — which literally as well as figuratively cuts across this city. Partnered with the Kino Border Initiative (KBI), a Jesuit project at the border, we were there to humanize and complicate the border and issues of immigration while also “accompanying” those who had very recently been deported from the US to Mexico. The Kino Border Initiative runs a “comedor” (dining room) for those recently reported from the US, where migrants are fed, provided with basic medical care, an opportunity to call family or friends, basic supplies, and shelter. As those who work at KBI state, the purpose is to ensure that those who have been deported are received and welcomed in Mexico with dignity and respect, and to accompany them as they begin to take their next steps.

Accompaniment as a Jesuit idea is something I have been learning and studying this year in this Ignition Colleagues Program, as it has resonated with me in many ways. In accompanying someone, we know that we cannot “solve” their problems or “fix” everything, and that – for example - in serving them food, we are alleviating but a tiny and a temporally-bounded portion of their suffering. The purpose is not to fix their problems (we can’t), and it’s not to feed the migrants (though that’s nice). The purpose is to receive the migrants with dignity, to acknowledge their suffering, and to listen to their stories.  We can accompany them in their time of suffering, walk beside them for a time, and in doing this, we can listen to their story and appreciate and acknowledge them in their full dignity as human beings making their way in a complex and sometimes painful world.

This trip provided me with many opportunities to listen and learn about the stories and experiences of those living with and in the suffering caused by families separated by a border. I met many men who were deported from the US after living their 10, 20, 30 years and who were then separated from their US born American children. Some left behind everyone they knew in the US. Others lived divided lives, with family in the US and families in Mexico or Central America and no way to bridge that divide, even for a visit. Some young adults had spent their lives in the US but felt called to visit a grandfather or grandmother before his or her death – only to find they have not been able to make it back to the US and the rest of their family. Still others – many others – were leaving violence or economic devastation in their home villages for the uncertain hope that “America” represented. 

These “border stories” have much to say to those of us in Education and Counseling Psychology. They speak to the experiences of family and friends of the students we serve in schools and the clients we might meet in different therapeutic settings. For every father who was missing his children and devastated by the fear of when he might be able to get back to them, there are American children here whose father was taken from them, or wives, siblings and parents whose husband, brother or son was taken from them. When we encounter these children or families in our schools or clinics, we need to practice accompaniment on this side of the border as well. Whatever your ideas about immigration, the tearing apart of families and the profound suffering and loss that results must be acknowledged and heard. It is a painful story.

I am so proud of the work we do in ECP, but never prouder of the faculty who teach and students who learn in our Latinx Counseling and Bilingual Education programs, or of our SEMILLA fellows, who commit to working in schools with the Latinx community than I was on this trip. We have much to offer the children and families we work with as they grapple, often silently, with the border, even though it is 600 miles away. Listening and accompanying them is a start.

I look forward to our next Latino Education Summit where these issues will undoubtedly emerge again: Mark your calendars for April 21, 2018 for the 3rd Annual Silicon Valley Latino Education Summit.

All my best wishes,


Sabrina Zirkel