Markkula Center of Applied Ethics

Student Reflection Leaders

When the Santa Clara University Board of Regents met in February to discuss the vision of St. Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuit order that established the University, they broke into small groups led by SCU students.
[At the Center]
Through a new program offered by the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics and the Center for Student Leadership, these students were trained to facilitate groups as diverse as regents, faculty, and other students engaged in reflection on a wide range of personal experiences.

"The discussions are designed to help participants draw meaning from these experiences-emotionally, cognitively, ethically, and spiritually," said Markkula Center for Applied Ethics Director Thomas Shanks, S.J. "The program draws on the University's goal to encourage reflective engagement with society."

According to University Provost Stephen Privett, S.J., the reflection leaders "got rave reviews, not just as nice people but as having done a really good job." Privett has also booked the reflection leaders to be panelists and facilitators for a new-faculty orientation program this spring, "What We Want in a Faculty Member."

Reflection leaders are also meeting with fellow students. They led discussions with volunteers who spent their spring break with Habitat for Humanity, building houses for the needy. They also facilitated groups planning to study abroad and others participating in a campus conference on hunger and homelessness. In addition, a team of reflection leaders met regularly with students enrolled in a new Ethics in Psychology course, offered by Associate Professor of Psychology Thomas Plante.

[Reflection Group]
Photo by Bryan Stofferahn

"I wanted to have students experience the ethical questions and challenges in social service organizations," said Plante, "for example, in managed-care situations where services can't be rendered because the patient is uninsured."

Such ethical quandaries can be difficult for students without some guidance. Often, said Jeanne Rosenberger, associate director of the Center for Student Leadership, that help is best offered by peers. "A student can make the connection with another student," she said. "There's a comfort level, an openness and honesty, that can come from groups that are peer-led."

Rosenberger worked with Shanks to develop a training program for the reflection leaders that was funded by Leaders for a Just World, a project sponsored by the James Irvine Foundation.

The Student Reflection Program uses a model that begins with experienceÑsome encounter that may have made a person uncomfortable with previously held ideas or values. The reflection process helps participants articulate what happened and, according to Rosenberger, "start to make sense of the experience and how it fits into their overall life."

Tom‡s Jim³nez, an SCU junior, is currently enrolled in the program. As part of the training, he's already led several mock groups. "I'm kind of a novice; but I found, in just employing some of the tactics and asking some of the questions we were taught, the group I led did come to a higher level of understanding," he said.