Examen for Working with Marginalized Students

college students walking with professor

The Examen is a traditional method of prayerful awareness that is a bedrock in Ignatian spirituality and Jesuit education. It’s a short, easy way to reflect on your day and become more mindful about where you are experiencing grace or goodness and where there is room in your actions and life for growth.

What people don’t often realize is that the Examen is exceptionally flexible and adaptive. It can be used to review your day or it can be adapted to hone in on a specific issue or focus. For instance, here at Loyola University Chicago, the Examen has been adapted by the Alternative Break Immersion program to focus on how people use their resources, how they spend their time, how sustainability shows up in their lives, and even how they interact with individuals experiencing homelessness.

It can be easy to think of our Jesuit mission as a sort of “bookend”—something that opens or closes events—or an add-on to the work we do. We on the Jesuit Education Team firmly believe that the Jesuit mission and spirituality give us tools to use in our everyday work. As a result, we’ve adapted an Examen to focus specifically on how we as student affairs professionals interact with students from marginalized populations. I invite you to take the next few minutes to reflect on this.

Take a moment to settle. Take a deep breath. Get comfortable in your seat. Close your eyes. Like a rock settling on the bottom of a lake after it’s thrown in, let yourself settle.

1. Ask for light and insight as you prepare to review the semester. For some that light may come in the form of a sense of the Divine. For others it’s from a deep sense of your true self. Take a moment and ask for light as you begin to examine how you’ve interacted with students from marginalized populations.

2. As you begin the process of thinking over your interactions with marginalized students over the past semester, it may be helpful first to think of a specific student who is on your mind or your heart.

Picture that person in your mind. Take a moment to be grateful for him or her. What identities do you share with this student? How do your identities differ? What perspectives do you share in common? Where do your perspectives differ?

3. Note the emotions you feel when you think of this person without judging or overanalyzing. Simply acknowledge the person and pay attention.

Walk through the last semester in your mind, paying attention in particular to your interactions with marginalized students. Pay attention to your emotions.

Where did you feel like you served students? Where did you feel you let them down?

Where did you feel peace, joy, and a sense of integrity?
Where did you feel frustrated, dissonant, and fragmented?
Where were you aware of your own privilege? Where did you make false assumptions?

Where did you feel that you connected and were heard? Where did you feel disconnected from (the organization) and not listened to?

Are there things you said or actions you took that you would do over if you could? Are there things you said or actions you took that you are proud of?

In your imagination, allow the student to speak to you about the events of the semester—perhaps with affirmation, perhaps with challenge, perhaps with a revealing silence. How do you feel about what she or he may be saying to you?

4. As feelings and memories of moments surface, pick one that seems important, significant, or is manifesting itself the strongest. Pause and reflect on where you’re being invited to grow from that moment. If you are a person of faith, take a moment to pray with it.

5. Call again to mind the image of that one student. What is one thing that you would like to resolve to do in this next semester so that you can better serve and care for this student? What do you need to help make this resolution a reality?

Take a deep breath, and when you are ready, open your eyes and return to this space.

About Susan Haarman 1 Article
Susan Haarman is the Faith and Justice Campus Minister at Loyola University Chicago. She’s been connected to an Ignatian apostolate as an employee or a student since 2000, and has a Masters in Divinity from the Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley and a graduate certificate in spiritual direction with a focus on the Spiritual Exercises.

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