Loyola University Chicago

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The School of Communication Hosts the 2022 AJCU Communication Conference

Loyola University Chicago’s School of Communication recently hosted 66 participants at the 33rd annual Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities (AJCU) Communication Faculty Conference

 

Since its founding in 1989, the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities (AJCU) Communication Faculty Conference has gathered facultycommitted to communication, communication studies, journalism, media studies, film, video and other similar academic areas to explore issues of Jesuit and Catholic identity. 

The School of Communication hosted this year's gathering from July 13 through July 16. The event was organized as a cross-collaborative effort by the organizing committee, including Ela Lozano (Director, Communication Studies and Advocacy and Social Change, SoC), Genevieve Buthod (Events Coordinator, SoC), Hong Cheng (former SOC dean, 2019-2022), the Rev. Paul Soukup, S.J. (Santa Clara University), Mary Ann Danielson (Creighton University), and Carolyn Cunningham (Chair, Communication and Leadership Studies, Gonzaga University).  

The 2022 conference was exceptional for two reasons. First, the committee made the conference international for the first time by including participants from Europe and Latin America. Among the schools in attendance were Universidad Pontificia Comillas (Madrid, Spain), Vilnius Tech (Lithuania), Pontificia Universidad Javeriana Bogotá, Loyola Marymount University, Gonzaga University, Scranton University, Creighton University, Boston College, and Ohio University. 

Adding poignancy to the 2022 conference was the fact that it was held in honor of our beloved colleague Bren Murphy, Professor Emerita of Communication and Women’s and Gender Studies at Loyola Chicago, who left us too soon. The theme of the conference and the issues discussed were dear to her heart. 

Engaged participants spanned from graduate and undergraduate students to senior faculty members alike. Additionally, the Rev. Michael Garanzini, S.J., the current President of both the International Association of Jesuit Universities and the US-based Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities, was also present, and delivered a timely and highly interactive closing address. Garanzini served as the twenty-third President of Loyola University Chicago from 2001 until 2015 and provided closing remarks for the event’s end. 

AJCU participants delivered presentations on their current research, and this year’s theme, Jesuit Vision and Communication Imagination: Rethinking Curriculum. Spirited discussions were held during the many roundtables and virtual breakout sessions. Attendees broke communal bread with one another while sharing their experiences, philosophies, and thoughts on multiple aspects of social justice and engaged curricula. Discussion topics ranged from digital literacy and editing to the future of communication curriculum and robotics, intradepartmental collaboration, the use of apps in education, the place of ethics, and small group collaboration. 

Beyond the presentations and conversations, what truly made the gathering memorable was the opportunity to connect and grow. When attendees were asked why they chose to attend the international conference, embracing and investing back into their community of peers stood at the top of the list. “I was offered a space to talk about something I am passionate about,” Ashley Parks, a student from Loyola Chicago’s School of Communication shared during a survey about her experience Tuesday. “It was awesome to hear from professors from all over the world.” 

The Rev. Paul Soukup, S.J., echoed Parks’ sentiments by pinpointing the opportunity to stay connected with colleagues and discuss “key ideas and issues common to us” as inspirations for joining in this year’s dialogue. Others were motivated by the rich opportunity to advance Jesuit education initiatives in communication. In the words of Dr. Almudena González del Valle-Brena, “I thought it would enlighten my experience as lecturer at a Jesuit communication school... [I am] interested in the Jesuit mission and identity and [learning] how to transmit that to students while teaching.” 

Speakers expressed that the ideas, concepts, and information shared during the conference will have a lasting impact on how they approach engaging their students, research, and work. “I enjoyed the breakout room exercises and talking in small groups,” Dr. González del Valle-Brena shared after the event ended. She added, “I took note of the books in transformative communication. This is something I am greatly [invested] in and particularly touched in this year of synodality. Also, ethics and sustainability. All the topics connected and the conversations I attended were especially useful.”  

When it comes to lingering impact, Kim Pavlick, Assistant Professor at the University of Scranton, shared her reflections on the gathering: “I have many takeaways from this conference, particularly for my Women's and Gender Studies courses. I really enjoyed the candid discussions from students.” Even though the conference was online (save for the hybrid ice cream social), attendees praised the hospitality of Loyola Chicago’s faculty and staff and the facilities of the School of Communication: “I've been to Loyola and Chicago before and love it!” Associate Professor Colleen McMahon of Gonzaga University exclaimed. Algis Mickunas, Professor at Rafael Landivar University, summarized it best in the simple statement, “Magnificent facilities and generous faculty!” 

Assistant Professor Elizabeth Richard of Saint Louis University also chimed in with weighty sentiments on the conference and the significance of communication and ethics in a Jesuit education context, saying, “It is good to be mindful of when tradition becomes dogma. Flexibility is vital.” As we faculty begin preparations for the 2022 fall semester, there is no doubt that the innovative concepts exchanged during the 2022 Communication Conference will continue to prove rewarding in the weeks to come.