In 2010, Fr. Adolfo Nicolas, S.J., then Superior General of the Jesuits, posed the following provocative questions in Mexico City to delegates from over 200 Jesuit institutions of higher learning from around the world:
“Can we not go beyond the loose family relationships we now have as institutions, and re-imagine and re-organize ourselves so that, in this globalized world, we can more effectively realize the universality which has always been part of Ignatius’ vision of the Society?” “If each university, working by itself as a proyecto social [social project], is able to accomplish so much good in society, how much more can we increase the scope of our service to the world if all the Jesuit institutions of higher education become, as it were, a single global proyecto social”?
Fr. Nicolas challenged Jesuit institutions to go beyond mere networking and explore deeper ways to collaborate, including sharing knowledge, faculty, and libraries. It was at this conference that an agreement was signed between Regis University, Jesuit Commons and Jesuit Refugee Service to deliver higher education to forcibly displaced persons. From this emerged Jesuit Commons: Higher Education at the Margins, presently known as Jesuit Worldwide Learning (JWL). From its inception, JWL was conceived as a Jesuit educational vehicle to capitalize on its vocation to universality.
Since 2010, over 5.000 forcibly displaced and marginalized people have studied in JWL’s programs, 50% of whom are women. During an initial three-year pilot period, JWL pioneered the offering of an on-line Diploma in Liberal Studies to refugees and host community members in Dzaleka refugee camp in Malawi, Kakuma refugee camp in north-west Kenya, and in the city of Amman, Jordan. In addition, JWL has enabled refugees and host community members to study 25 different Professional Certificate Programs, which are classroom-based courses at all three pilot sites and in Aleppo, Syria, Afghanistan, Thailand and Chad. These courses serve the needs of the community in areas such as teacher education, counseling, English as a foreign language, child protection, special needs, and community health. JWL is presently in 14 countries and with 31 community learning centers.
JWL Believes that tertiary learning and the formation of a global community of learners addresses the root causes of poverty, isolation, despair, conflict and displacement in order to build a more peaceful and humane world. JWL knows education fosters hope.
Jesuit Worldwide Learning: Higher Education at the Margins (JWL) is a collaborative global partnership comprised of organizations, institutions, companies and, above all, people, to provide tertiary education to those who would otherwise not have access to higher learning opportunities. It draws on the rich and centuries long Jesuit tradition of higher education and through a blended on-site and on-line approach mobilizes the resources of Jesuit and other worldwide networks of educational institutions.
JWL’s motto seeks to foster a community of global learners committed to “Learning Together to Transform the World”. JWL’s cornerstones focus on four key concepts: global thinking, strategic partnerships, Ignatian experience and “best” for the “least” at moderate costs.
The countries with a low human development Index (UNDP), which is below 0.7 out of 1 are shown in the map presented. The people in these many countries are not just suffering from a low per-capita income, from a low life expectancy and from a low average number of years in school. But many of these countries do suffer from great political volatility, dictatorship and repression and conflicts.
The strategy of JWL is to make higher education accessible to those who are losing out on it and who have a deep interest and motivation to bring about changes, to transform the world into a more peaceful and humane space.