This past summer, Fordham launched an initiative asking people a simple question: Can you take a minute to reflect?

In short, self-recorded videos—most are about two minutes long—respondents discuss how they live Fordham’s mission in their careers and personal lives, how it inspires them to engage with the issues of our time, and more.

 Cultivating Connection and Community

In the first episode, Donna Rapaccioli, Ph.D., dean of the Gabelli School of Business and a 1983 Gabelli School graduate, said her Fordham education taught her to look for God in everyone.

“This search to find God in all things has helped me see beauty and wisdom in unusual places, including mistakes I have made and losses that I have experienced,” Rapaccioli said. “It’s also helped me lead difficult conversations and to humanize my colleagues who have goals that don’t seem to align with my goals, by stepping back and reflecting on the profound premise that God is in everyone.”

Other respondents, such as Daniel Groff, a 2020 Gabelli School graduate, have reflected on the lasting friendships they fostered while studying at Fordham.

“These aren’t surface-level friendships where it’s just people I hang out with on the weekends,” Groff said. “I’m so grateful that Fordham provided that type of community that allowed these friendships to grow and continue to grow after my time at Fordham … and I’m excited, as I enter this next stage of my life, to continue growing those relationships.”

Finding Inspiration in and out of the Classroom

In her reflection, Nina Heyden, FCRH ’17, credited Fordham’s Urban Plunge and Global Outreach programs for helping her connect with people beyond the Fordham community, sharing in their stories and experiences in a way that profoundly influenced her career trajectory.

During an event Fordham hosted when she was an undergraduate, Heyden had an opportunity to speak with the caterer, a local restaurant owner who “shared a really tough story” of how she and her family were facing “displacement due to the gentrification that was going on in the Bronx.”

“That got me thinking of all of the others who must be going through this systemic injustice as well, and was one of the motivating factors for me to turn to a research career and go into data science and statistics, to be able to provide concrete truths through numbers and take stock of all the people going through injustices,” Heyden said. “I feel really lucky to be able to do that.”

Loreen Ruiz, a Fordham College at Lincoln Center senior and the president of United Student Government at Lincoln Center, shared how she decided to major in theology despite identifying as agnostic.

“I’ve always had a complicated relationship with religion,” Ruiz said. “I was disappointed to find that theology classes were required as part of the core curriculum. I’d been avoiding religion and going to church for the past few years—this time, I had no way out.”

Ruiz said that, contrary to her expectations, the core classes offered her an opportunity to delve into and unpack the difficult religious questions about which she’d always wondered. “I quickly realized that these classes’ purpose was to teach critical thinking, and to examine religion from a historical and philosophical angle,” she said. “I began to lean into class discussions. … I found them so interesting that I declared my major in theology and never looked back.”

She added that, thanks to Fordham, she’s been better able to connect with her religious family and understand their perspectives because she treats “religion with respect, not disdain.”

Seeking Social Justice

Gregory Louis, LAW ’09, shared how he has used his Fordham Law education to work toward greater social justice, both through community lawyering and as a professor at the City University of New York’s School of Law.

“The motto of my current school … is the ennobling ‘Law in the Service of Human Needs,’” Louis said. “My Fordham Law education prepared me to join in this mission as a Catholic because it instilled in me the ideal of faith in the service of humanity.”

He added: “The zeal generated in the classroom drives you out into the world and, in my case, to the clinical program at Fordham Law and then to the community, lawyering out on the streets of New York. This happened because Fordham instilled in me a sense that … legal knowledge means absolutely nothing if it’s not immediately employed to and invested in the struggle for justice.”

In an interview, Louis added that he hopes his and other Magis Minute videos will invite some deeper reflection on “what it means to be a Jesuit university and, most importantly, how this engages with this broad question of schools that are having to think through their complicity in not advancing the rights of others.”

Sowing the Seeds for Reflection

Julie Fissinger, executive director of the President’s Council, is one of the organizers of the Magis Minute project. She said that as the dual pandemics of COVID-19 and racism wore on over the summer, she was looking for ways to foster a sense of social connection to unite people at Fordham despite the need for physical distancing.

“One of the most consistent things you hear [from students and alumni]is about the [value of the]Jesuit education that people receive at the University,” Fissinger said. She started thinking about how Fordham has its own “internal gems of resources,” and she wanted to hear from people “about their own experiences and how it’s impacted their lives.”

She teamed up with Matthew Burns, associate director for young alumni and student engagement; Kathryn Mandalakis, assistant director of the Fordham Fund; and Blain Bradley, leadership annual giving officer; along with Erin Hoffman, associate director of Campus Ministry, director of Ignatian Initiatives, and resident minister.

“I hope they can help be a positive and unifying moment for members of our community at a time when we face so many challenges in the world and are separated from one another in so many ways,” Hoffman said, adding that she hopes the series “can create enthusiasm about Fordham and showcase the numerous ways people connect with Fordham and grow during their time here.”

Engaging a Wider Community

According to Burns, “the goal is to make this as diverse as possible—students, parents, faculty, alumni, followers of non-Christian faiths (or none at all).” Fissinger added that project organizers would love to hear from staff who work in facilities, the cafeteria, and other areas of the University. “They’re not faculty, they’re not students, but I think they’re touched by the culture of the institution as well.”

Fissinger also said she hopes to engage community partners as well. In a more typical year, students are heavily involved in service projects around the city and in the local Bronx community. Bronx nonprofit leaders who meet Fordham students through programs like Urban Plunge, for example, could be invited to “talk about that relationship with the University and the students,” she said, “and the impact of that kind of programming on local communities.”

Hoffman added that she and her colleagues “take seriously our hope that the series reflects voices from a wide variety of perspectives within the Fordham community, and we seek to be attentive to diversity of many types when we invite people to participate.”

The Magis Minute team is always looking for nominations and volunteers. Email Blain Bradley at [email protected] to nominate the next Magis Minute respondent. New videos are posted every Thursday on the alumni website, Forever Fordham, and on social media.