Monday Meditation: Vocation

The first Cortina Formation Time of the year focused on the topic of vocation. Freshmen and sophomores were split into separate rooms to hear from members of the Creighton and Omaha communities who shared their vocational journey and gave advice to students as they find their own vocation.

Our panelists were: Kyle O’Reilly, video editor at West Corporation; Scott McClure, Vice President of the Magis Program at Creighton; Dr. Andy Gustafson, Associate Professor of Business Ethics and Society at Creighton; Dr. Corey Guenther, Assistant Professor of Psychology at Creighton; Becky Nickerson, Assistant Director for Leadership and Retention in Creighton’s Office of Multicultural Affairs; Amanda Drapcho, Director of the Lieben Center for Women at Creighton; and Kate McKillip, an internal and pediatric resident at UNMC. We thank them so much for taking the time to spend their Sunday evening with us!

As you begin to reflect and meditate on your passions and career calling, here are some great resources to help you continue thinking about vocation:

“Something’s your vocation if it keeps making more of you.” — Gail Godwin, Evensong

What does vocation mean to you? How do you see your time at Creighton informing your vocation? What can you do/are you doing to make your time here meaningful? How do you balance your inner voice and the demands of society/college culture when it comes to discerning your vocation?

Coca-Cola Super Bowl Ad Sparks Debate on American Diversity

In the midst of what is being considered a rather tame evening of advertising, one 2014 Super Bowl ad is receiving a great deal of attention.

Coca-Cola’s “It’s Beautiful” ad shows diverse scenes of American life with the song “America the Beautiful” playing in the background. In the aftermath of its airing, viewers took to social media to both praise and object to the ad.

Why the controversy?

First, the song is sung in various languages, including Spanish, French, Arabic, Mandarin, and Hebrew. In addition, the ad features a gay family, which according to GLAAD is a first in Super Bowl advertising.

Some say the ad celebrates the diversity of our country and truly reflects what makes America beautiful. Others are calling the ad unpatriotic and are criticizing a classic American song being sung in different languages.

Katie Bayne, president of Coca-Cola North America, said in a statement, “We hope the ad gets people talking and thinking about what it means to be proud to be American.”

An extended version of the ad is expected to air during the Opening Ceremony of the Winter Olympics on Friday.

What do you think of the Coca-Cola ad and the controversy surrounding it? Do you think it was the right choice to have “America the Beautiful” sung in different languages? What other Super Bowl ads caught your attention Sunday night because of their depiction of American life?

Monday Meditation: On Vulnerability

Life is full of little phases, phases we have to go through as we shape our character and find who we really are. This past semester has been an interesting journey in the process of finding who I was. I thought the answer was clear every morning when I looked at my self in the mirror. Yet I realized I was answering a different question. For the longest time I have being answering the question “Who I was taught to be”. I started my journey by questioning, questioning everything. I realized that I needed to find who I really was but do this by myself. This process takes courage and vulnerability.

But what does it really means to be vulnerable? Most people believe that vulnerability has a negative connotation. I have seen definitions from “capable of being physically or emotionally wounded” to “open to attack or damage.” Yet vulnerability goes far beyond that. It is a human characteristic that is not value as much anymore but is essential for personal growth. Being vulnerable is the ability to break open and let yourself be touch by the words of others. It is about letting our self-ego a side and with lots of humility understand where do others are coming from. Believe that we know what the right answer is and that we know what others are trying to say is one of human’s main limitations. This attitude prevents us from expanding our horizons and being able to be expose to someone else’s world. Being vulnerable is about finding our weaknesses and strengths and to be open to share those with others.  Vulnerability provides us with the hope of developing relationships, which will help us to shape our character and grow as individuals.

Be vulnerable. I encourage you to break open, to question life, to be change and to find who you really are. This is an ongoing process we have to take as individuals. Don’t be afraid to start the journey. It is a process that helps us to understand the world from a unique perspective. Your own perspective of life!

How would you characterize the “phase” you are currently in? How does your current phase fit in with the timeline of your life? Who were you taught to be? What is scary about questioning what you have been taught and who you have been taught to be? What does it mean to be vulnerable? With yourself? With others? With God? What are your weaknesses? What are your strengths? What is your “perspective” and where did that come from?

-Majo Sandi, Senior, Cortina Formation Co-Chair

Monday Meditation: On Spring Break Sabbathing

People respond differently to the opportunity to take time off for Spring Break. Some love it. Some hate it. Some want to come back. Some want to stay away as long as possible. Whatever the case, taking a rest or a break from our normal productive activity create a situation in which we have to value ourselves differently–outside of our accomplishments.

Watch this video by The Work of the People to reflect on the role of Sabbathing in our lives:

Do you like to Sabbath? Where do you find your value as you rest or take breaks from your day to day activities? How can you plan in weekly Sabbathing as a reminder of who you are outside of what you do? How do you experience death and life during rest periods?

Monday Meditation: On Sseko Designs

During our Community Time yesterday, Kara began a discussion on Social Entrepreneurship, that is, ways that businesses can be resources for community development–and still be good businesses!

One of my friends, Liz, started the sandal company Sseko Designs with her husband, Ben. See below for an excerpt from the Sseko website to help us understand how their business plan emerged and how it attempts to use business to address deep needs in a society.

Sseko Designs uses fashion to provide employment and scholarship opportunities to women pursuing their dreams and overcoming poverty. 

Issue #1: Female students, due to a lack of economic opportunity, are not able to continue on to university and pursue leadership positions in society.

Solution #1: Sseko Designs provides employment during the 9 month gap between high school and university where high potential young women are able to earn and save enough money to pay for college tuition. 50% of their salary  each month goes into a savings account that is not accessible until tuition is due. This ensures that their income goes towards education. This also protects the women in our program from the social pressure they often feel from their families to give away the money the are earning which can perpetuate the cycle of poverty. At the end of each term, Sseko Designs grants university scholarships that match up to 100% of the savings each woman has made during her 9 month session with Sseko.


Issue #2: In a patriarchal and male dominated society, women are not afforded the same employment and economic opportunities as their male counterparts. We know that for every dollar a women in a developing economy earns, she will reinvest 90% of it into her family. We also know that although 66% of the world’s labor is done by women, we own less than 1% of the world’s assets. As long as women are not afforded educational and professional equality, extreme poverty will continue to exist. 

Solution #2: In addition to providing employment to women working their way towards university, Sseko partners with women from all walks for life. Sseko employs university graduates who comprise the upper level management team. These are women that use their education, experience and voice to help shape our company. Sseko also works to provide employment for women who have aged out of the education system and have no other form of income generation. We also partner with a local non-profit in Uganda that works with young women who have recently come out of the commercial sex industry. Providing stable, dignifying and fair wage employment is a key component to keeping women from entering back into prostitution. We believe that every woman has the capacity to end the cycle of poverty and that it can be done in a way that is fair, dignifying, honoring and life-giving.


Issue #3: Although charities and non-profits play a vital and necessary role in all societies, sometimes charity and aid can play a negative role by enabling dependencies and damaging the local economies.  Like us, our African friends need and desire opportunity, dignity, job creation and empowerment. 

Solution #3: Instead of treating the symptoms, we aim to address the deeper, underlying issues of extreme poverty. Although Sseko Designs has been built for the purpose of impacting a specific social sector, we have chosen very intentionally to use a sustainable, self-sufficient business model to do this. Our hope is to help create industry and fair-trade with the belief that a large component of economic development lies in the business sector. We believe in the power of responsible consumerism. Instead of competing for limited donor dollars, we hope consumers think about the story behind their “stuff.” If we considered the impact that each product we consume has on the lives of those who produced that product and chose to see consumerism as a force and opportunity for positive social change, we believe the world would be filled with beautiful products with even more beautiful stories.


How often do businesses seem to take this approach to their work? What kind of ethical potential do businesses have? Do you see any injustices that might be solved by business or the creation of new markets? What injustices can be created by business? How can we re-train our minds to creatively think about how to use all tools in our cultural tool box, including business, to act on behalf of justice?


Monday Meditation: On The Listening Project

What I love about the listening project is that we are taking ownership in the beginning steps of effecting change in the community. We haven’t actually met anyone from the community that we are serving yet; everything that we are doing is behind the scenes. It is unlike any service that I have done before but I think it is getting at what service is really meant to be about. Although we may be growing from this experience and learning from each other through the process, we are really trying to do what is best for the community without being preoccupied by our own agenda. -Olivia M.

Being apart of the tLP has been inspiring. We’re able to be with people who want to make an impact on the community in Omaha. This project will work and continue to progress with the new generations of Cortina to come. We hope to one day look back on inCommon’s Park Avenue community and be proud of what we see. But this isn’t just a one time application of listening. It should be everyone’s goal at the beginning of Cortina to become a better listener and utilize these newfound skills to become more active off of Creighton’s campus. I encourage anyone who is interested in this sort of service to join this project and make a difference. -Ray S.

As a white, straight, Christian male, I pretty much constantly second-guess every action I take that has to do with “doing something for others.” I always question if I am selflessly serving or if I am just using my unearned power to help people and make myself feel good. When I learned the listening project was run largely by white, straight, Christian males, I immediately feared it would be another example of those in power telling others what they needed. I have never been so happy to be wrong. The listening project defies every stereotype of the imperialistic, ignorant “helper.” Calvin and his team refuse to tell the Park Avenue community what they need, and they refuse to stop asking. The new community development center is going to be focused entirely by members of the community. Working with the Listening Project has shown me that I really can serve others without fear of being pious or imperialistic. -Westin M.

Being a senior and having done service with many organizations throughout my four years, there has never been a time when I felt like my service could really make a difference for a community. (That’s not to undersell my other experiences, because I do think that the relationships I have built have been transformative – hopefully on both ends). By participating in tLP, I think we are really, and hopefully, going to help inCOMMON better serve the people of the Park Avenue neighborhood by getting to know them. Over the past few months, in anticipation of graduation, I have been thinking about what a community center would look like if I were able to participate in the creation from the get-go. But, when Calvin explained the vision of the Park Avenue Commons, I got to hear and see the plans for so many of the dreams I had for a community center. I really feel like I am participating in something that will change a community for the better. -Elizabeth S.

You guys get what tLP is all about now, but something I realized tonight in community time is how applicable this project is to our daily lives. I know I have experienced the frustration of not feeling listened to or valued. Learning some tools on how to better my own listening abilities gives me hope that we can have better dialogue. I thought it was inevitable, people won’t listen; in retaliation, I would refuse to listen to them. Let me tell you I have made and kept lots of friends that way! In case you couldn’t detect my intense sarcasm, this type of scenario never helped any of my relationships. I can honestly say that by employing the type of empathetic, engaged, and, as Nico so eloquently put it, active listening we can begin to really hear people and change our attitudes, views, and, potentially, our lives. -Madi F.

In what ways can you deepen the listening in your own life? What resources lie just behind a door down the hall? How will you know? How often do you find yourself asking open-ended questions and really caring about the answer? How can you develop a posture of interest? How will that benefit you and the community?

Monday Meditation: On The Proper Education of All

“Above all the education of youth from every social background has to be undertaken, so that there can be produced not only men and women of refined talents, but those great-souled persons who are so desperately required by our times.”- Gaudium Et Spes

What cultural skills and requirements make it difficult for students of all social backgrounds to succeed in an educational setting? How can we reform systems, processes, and classrooms to make learning environments that produce not only “refined talents” but also “great souls”? How can we engage in Education as community development work?

Our speaker yesterday, James McDermott (Holy Name School), shared some illustrative clips from the Wire. Watch and ponder the above questions.

Monday Meditation: On Good Education as Problem-Posing

“Banking education resists dialogue; problem-posing education regards dialogue as indispensable to the act of cognition which unveils reality. Banking education treats students as objects of assistance; problem-posing education makes them critical thinkers. Banking education inhibits creativity and domesticates (although it cannot completely destroy) the intentionality of consciousness by isolating consciousness from the world, thereby denying men their ontological and historical vocation of becoming more fully human. Problem posting education bases itself on creativity and stimulates true reflection and action upon reality, thereby responding to the vocation of men as beings who are authentic only when engaged in inquiry and transformation.” -Paulo Freire Pedagogy of the Oppressed

How do you regard your education? Do you sit in the class room and participate in the banking model? Are you annoyed when problems are posed and solutions are not given? How does what you learn affect how you live? How is your education, and your submission to it, liberating you to become more fully human by inquiry and transformation? Is it?

Monday Meditation: On Peace in Belonging

BE GENTLE WITH YOURSELF. You are a child of the Universe no less than the trees and the stars. You have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be. And whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul. With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world.  -Cassie Cromwell

Who has God been to me? When have I known that I belong? That I am loved? That I am meant to be here? That the world is full of meaning and beauty? What do those realizations mean for me? How can I respond?

“We Shall Overcome”

In honor of Martin Luther King, Jr–it is hard to even know what to say. May we have the courage to see where we have, and have not, done the work necessary to bring about justice for all in our world. And, may we all remember that he was just a man, and all men and women have the capacity to leave such a legacy.

“The arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice.”