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Creighton Stonecatchers program wins JASPA medal for diversity and inclusion

JASPA LogoCreighton University’s Stonecatchers Diversity and Inclusion Training Program has won the Ignatian Medal for Outstanding Commitment to Diversity and Social Justice, presented by the Jesuit Association of Student Personnel Administrators (JASPA).

The award, according to the JASPA, is given annually to a program or initiative “that is aimed at an individual or a group of persons who demonstrate a strong commitment to issues of diversity and social justice in Jesuit higher education.”

“Being acknowledged by peers within the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities (AJCU) network is affirming that we as a Jesuit student affairs profession lift up diversity and inclusion work as sacred,” says Michele Bogard, PhD, associate vice provost for student engagement. “Creating an inclusive and welcoming community is everyone’s work, especially as members of the Creighton community, which calls us to respect and promote the dignity of all people. Stonecatchers helps empower people with skills to help do the work of creating inclusive communities.”

Creighton’s Stonecatchers program, an initiative of the Division of Student Life, trains students, faculty and staff on how to intervene appropriately in incidents of hate and bias. The training is based on the Jesuit ideal of “men and women for and with others.” The name of the program comes from John 8:7: “He who is without sin shall cast the first stone.”

Each Stonecatchers program session begins with a recap of current events, with the aim of providing context for the recommended intervention strategies. Strategies and skills are reviewed in detail, and participants discuss examples and work to apply the strategies to specific situations, often in recent, real-life, on-campus scenarios.

At the end of each session, participants receive small stones on which they write messages that convey their commitments to taking an active role in future incidents of bias and hate. The stone is meant to be a reminder of their commitment to standing up for the marginalized and also a conversation starter for anyone who sees it displayed.

The curriculum was developed and is presented by Bogard and Becky Nickerson, MS, director of the Creighton Intercultural Center. The pair have trained other departments and student organizations on campus, including resident advisors, fraternity and sorority life executives, new student orientation leaders and others. Based on the initiative’s popularity, a second version, Stonecatchers 2.0, was developed as a more personal and reflective effort to examine the role individuals play in incidents of bias and hate.

“Stonecatchers was created as an institutional response to injustices and hateful acts in the world and to teach skills for each of us to actively live out our core values of honoring the inalienable worth of each individual and appreciation of ethnic and cultural diversity,” Nickerson says. “These aren’t just words. We need to put them into action.”

Donna Shahbazi, BS’20, Creighton Students Union President in 2019, participated in the Stonecatchers program for the first time as a member of Creighton’s Freshman Leadership Program.

“My stone sat on my desk all four years of college and read ‘Be the light.’ The effectiveness of this program is unmatched in comparison to a great number of presentations I received as a student for four years,” she wrote in a letter to the JASPA selection team. “In light of the recent news regarding the tragic death of George Floyd, I thought through possible reactions, and the Stonecatchers presentation came into that thought process — reminding myself that I can take a stand against racial injustices by sharing Christ’s love and light with others.”

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