Building Bridges: The Manresa Program
Nearly every day Jeffry Matteo ’19 ponders this question: What will I do with the rest of my life? There is a lot to consider, including what his greatest areas of interest are, where he wants to leave his mark in the world, and how he wants to contribute to his community outside of his professional life. But for Matteo – a criminology major who is leaning toward a career as a federal detective – the answer to that question has become clearer since enrolling in Le Moyne’s Manresa Program. Named for the city in Spain where Saint Ignatius wrote the Spiritual Exercises and discovered his purpose and calling, the Manresa Program takes a holistic look at discerning a vocation as well as career development. Rooted in some fundamental aspects of Ignatian spirituality, in particular self-awareness, it has helped Matteo better understand himself and, by extension, what he needs to do to achieve his vision for the future.
“Manresa has taught me to be self-reflective, and I use that as a way to stay focused,” he said. “It has helped me to cultivate my humanity, and to think about what I expect of myself.”
Launched in January 2015 with a pilot group of 63 students, the Manresa Program is a key pillar of the College’s strategic plan, Sempre Avanti. This four-year program is intentionally designed to help students develop the critical understanding, values and purpose that will serve as the foundation for fulfilling careers and meaningful lives. Participants take part in semester-long Manresa seminars and other activities that lead them on a journey of personal, professional and spiritual growth. As they grow throughout their time at Le Moyne, these young men and women achieve greater clarity about their values, discover how they may most effectively put those values into action, and cultivate a sense of success as a way of living built around ongoing self-development and service to the world around them.
“The Manresa Program helps students to see and forge connections among academic pursuits, professional pursuits and spiritual pursuits,” said Steven Affeldt, Ph.D., director of the McDevitt Center, who, along with David McCallum ’90, S.J., vice president for mission integration and development, is leading a team of faculty, staff and administrators responsible for developing the program. “It helps them interweave these important aspects of their lives so that each part strengthens the other.”
Students enrolled in the program, who are known as Manresa Fellows, spent the first year as part of the community reflecting on the theme of “Become You” – working in small groups of eight to nine fellow students and two faculty, staff or administrator Manresa Mentors learning to think more concretely and deeply about themselves. It was in these sessions, and through specifically designed exercises, guided conversations and reflective journaling, that they began to take a deep dive into questions such as: Who are you and how can you discover yourself? What do you love and why do you love it? How can you see yourself developing and what are your next steps?
These lines of critical inquiry led the students not just to greater self-awareness, but also to greater trust in one another, noted Bennie Williams, director of multicultural affairs, who also served as a Manresa Mentor. The students grew more comfortable discussing not just which major they should choose, but deeply personal issues such as how the community in which they were raised has shaped them and what role they expect their faith to play in their professional lives. Manresa Fellow Sierra Williams ’19 credited her peers in the program with helping her to think through one of her primary goals for the future – to build a life that is “a balance of faith, career and family.”
In addition to building bridges between members of the Le Moyne community, the Manresa Program was designed to unfold over a student’s time at the College in a way that is appropriate for his or her development. To that end, as the program moves into its second year, known as “Values In Action,” more emphasis is being placed on helping students discover how their passions and interests can best serve their communities. The third and fourth years of the program will be more concretely centered on professional development and are known respectively as “Think Forward” and “Meaningful Success.” It is that natural progression that make the program so effective, said Thomas Brockelman, Ph.D., professor of philosophy, who supported the creation of the program in his role as interim provost.
“As an institution of higher learning in the Jesuit tradition, we have a responsibility to encourage our students think not just about how they will support themselves, but how they will spend the rest of their lives,” he said. “That is perhaps what we do best at Le Moyne, and that is the kind of critical thinking and immersion that Manresa is designed to support.”
Jeffry Matteo did not zero in on a career as a federal detective solely because of the Manresa Program. He has long been interested in the science of criminology and moved by what he witnessed growing up on Syracuse’s West Side. However, the program helped to teach him how to grow within himself, to hold himself to a high standard, and to think of himself as a part of a larger community, and ultimately that has helped him to set the course for the rest of his life. As he put it, “I just want to make the world a better place to live in—one neighborhood at a time.”
The development of the Manresa Program is taking place through the Network for Vocation in Undergraduate Education (NetVUE), a nationwide network of colleges and universities formed to enrich the intellectual and theological exploration of vocation among undergraduate students. NetVUE is administered by the Council of Independent Colleges and is supported by a grant from the Lilly Endowment Inc. and members’ dues.
The purposes of NetVUE are to:
• Deepen the understanding of the intellectual and theological dimensions of vocational exploration;
• Examine the role of vocational exploration in a variety of institutional contexts;
• Share knowledge, best practices, and reflection on experiences across participating campuses;
• Develop a network for sustaining an extended program in the intellectual and theological exploration of vocation; and
• Facilitate the incorporation of additional colleges and universities into this enterprise.
Source: Council of Independent Colleges and Universities.