Manresa’s Finest: Nicole Benevento

Over the past four years, Nicole Benevento, FCRH 2017, has been an integral part of the Manresa community. She entered the Program as a freshman participant, served as its Intern as a sophomore and junior, and as live-in Tutor her senior year. Our community has truly benefited from her positive energy, dedication to student success, and Ignatian grit and kindness.

Benevento aspires to a career in the publishing industry following her internships with America Media, Fordham University Press, and Penguin Random House. She’ll take the skills and lessons learned from ManDSC_0004.JPGresa. Nicole notes that “Manresa helped me to feel comfortable and confident in my own skin, and I plan on having that newly-found confidence exude in my interviews and during meetings and interactions throughout my publishing career.”

Amid countless Manresa programs, she notes NYC Urban Immersion as her most memorable. The experience of volunteering at nearby soup kitchens and with homeless youth, and staying at Fordham Bedford Housing in the Bronx, ignited her passion for bridging the gap between rich and poor. In true Ignatian spirit, Nicole became bothered by inequality. “It was such an incredible experience because we were not only reflecting on the injustice in the world, but also witnessing it firsthand. It set something off inside me…it was the first time I really understood how privileged I am compared to others, and it didn’t sit well with me,” said Benevento.

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Benevento turns to the famous Babe Ruth quote for inspiration: “Never let the fear of striking out keep you from playing the game.” Nicole earned a double major in English and Italian and minored in Marketing, and served in Campus Ministry and on the boards of the Fordham Club and as vice president of Fordham’s chapter of the National Jesuit Honor Society Alpha Sigma Nu. “You will meet amazing people, form lifelong friendships, and create lasting memories if you take the initiative. College may seem overwhelming, but trust me, in the end each moment is so worth it,” said Benevento.

The Manresa Community wishes Benevento the best. Thank you, Nicole, for your service to Fordham. We look forward to having you back to share your experiences and wisdom with future Manresa Scholars.

Anja Asato, FCRH 2018
Manresa Programming and Marketing Fellow, 2016-2017

A Memorable Spring Semester

The 2016-2017 Manresa Scholars have officially completed their freshman year as Fordham Rams. This year has been filled with rigorous academics, engaged service-learning, and dedication to the Manresa-Loyola Hall community. As Scholars embark on new adventures as upperclassmen, we are confident that the lessons they’ve learned with Manresa will serve them well.

Fordham’s President, Fr. McShane, spent an evening speaking with Manresa Scholars on the topic of “Love” and the “Fordham Family.” A personal conversation with Fr. McShane is a special Fordham experience that Scholars will reminisce about throughout their time at Fordham and after graduation.

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During the NYC Urban Immersion Spring Break Service Project, a group of Manresa Scholars took part in service-learning projects and explored issues such as economic inequality, while practicing simple living for a meaningful and reflective experience.

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Manresa Scholars visited Bartow-Pell Park in the Bronx twice this semester, once to clean up the park grounds and again to help facilitate their annual Easter Egg Hunt.

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Manresa professors concluded the year’s dinner-colloquium series with a “Last Lecture.” Each professor shared their most valued piece of wisdom with Manresa Scholars before they embark on new journeys as upperclassmen.

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Scholars took a break from finals to celebrate the end-of-the-year on the Manresa patio to enjoy burritos and the warm weather.

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Dignity: What Does It Mean?

According to many understandings of human rights, all people are born free and with dignity. We often speak of dignity as something that should be protected and respected. However, when prompted, you’ll be hard-pressed to come up with a true definition of dignity. What is dignity? Does everyone have the same amount of dignity? Can someone ever do something to lose their dignity?

These are just a few of the difficult questions that students tackled during last week’s Keyword Colloquium on “Dignity” led by Dr. Bryan Pilkington, interdisciplinary philosopher and Director of Academic Programs at Fordham’s Center for Ethics Education.

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Dr. Pilkington (2nd from left) leads an engaging colloquium on “Dignity” with Manresa Scholars.

Dr. Pilkington described the hypothetical case of a patient suffering from cardiac issues who is then also diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease. Without taking these medications, the patient would almost certainly suffer a fatal cardiac event soon after stopping them.

The patient could potentially stop taking his or her heart medicine to avoid living an “undignified” life with dementia. Dr. Pilkington got Manresa Scholars thinking by posing the question — is it morally acceptable to seek your own death, and by doing so are you acting with or without dignity?

He discussed the three viewpoints. The first view is that someone should stop taking the heart medicine and seek death to avoid falling into an “undignified” dementia. The second view is that one should continue to take the heart medicine because seeking your own death is a violation of dignity. The third group provides what Dr. Pilkington considered the best answer: allow the patient to make his or her own decision about what they feel is right for their life and body; that is, “dignity” is relative to individual patients.

Manresa Scholars split into small groups to discuss similar cases and attempt to create a working definition of “dignity.” Some Scholars suggested that people can never lose their dignity while others argued that dignity can be taken away by outside circumstances outside of one’s control.

While there were no definitive conclusions by the end of the dinner-colloquium, Manresa Scholars grappled with some difficult questions and utilized the critical thinking skills they’ve been developing all year.

Anja Asato, FCRH 2018
Manresa Programming & Marketing Fellow, 2016-2017

NYC Urban Immersion Service Project

Manresa Scholars hold the values of service, learning, community, and reflection to high regard, and this doesn’t change when classes let out for vacation. The annual NYC Urban Immersion Spring Break is a unique opportunity for Manresa Scholars to take part in a 2-day program focusing on service and living in the Jesuit tradition.

Program highlights included volunteering within the Bronx community, a visit to St. Nicholas of Tollentine Church and Parish Center, and morning prayer walk through the New York Botanical Garden. The program was co-led by Dean Parmach and Manresa Tutor Nicole Benevento. Loyola Resident Director, Matt Dishman, shares his experience below.



As the Resident Director to Loyola Hall, I had the pleasure of observing eight freshman students sacrifice the start of their Spring Break to participate in an immersion experience that intentionally made them feel uncomfortable. These students signed up for the annual Manresa Scholars Urban Immersion experience, not knowing what they were getting themselves into.

On the first night, these eight students learned they were going to have to, “live simply.” This included only taking one shower, sleeping on the floor, eating just enough, and carrying the same bottle of water for an entire weekend. Dean Parmach, who facilitated our weekend, stated the goal was to experience dissonance in “our heads, hearts, and hands” – and that’s just what we did.

The goal of living simply was to reflect the thousands of New Yorkers who are less privileged than the typical Fordham college student. Throughout Urban Immersion we explored this idea through community service, spiritual engagement, personal experience, reflection, discussion, etc.

One of the most unexpected yet impactful moments of the weekend came when walking the High Line. Our team had just watched a meaningful documentary on the Chelsea area and the topic of gentrification. On our final morning, we found ourselves walking where the documentary was filmed (which was not a part of our original schedule). To see the contrasting socioeconomic neighborhoods featured in the documentary firsthand left an evident impact on me and the students of our group. Below is a photo of our team in said neighborhood and on the High Line:

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We walked away from the weekend cold and exhausted, all very excited for a typical Spring Break.

Integrated Learning Community Spotlight: West Wing

The Manresa Scholars program is not the only Integrated Learning Community (ILC) on campus that engages the academic, spiritual, and social components of students’ lives. The West Wing ILC for Ignatian Leadership and Civic Service is a program for sophomores, many of whom were in the Manresa Program as freshmen. Learn more about an exciting service opportunity that West Wing Scholars took part in this semester.


A group of West Wing Scholars headed to St. Francis Xavier Parish Mission recently in search of a meaningful opportunity to learn and serve the Manhattan homeless community. We arrived on site to help Xavier with one of its most important outreach programs– their Sunday meal.

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Image source: XavierMission.org

Throughout the afternoon, the Fordham group was separated and placed into different stations. Some of us greeted guests at the door, handed out trays with meals, or helped clean. When asked about his experience, West Wing Scholar (and former Manresa Scholar) Neil Joyce said, “Serving meals at St. Francis Xavier was a humbling, humanizing experience. It is an experience that teaches one to be forever grateful of the countless liberties they have, while also serving as a call to action to volunteer and serve for and with others.”

WW Scholar Rosalyn Kutsch echoed these sentiments by saying that “Volunteering at Xavier was a startling and valuable reminder of the importance of stepping outside of the comfort we make for ourselves and engaging with the unfamiliar. Most importantly, this work serves to remind use that at the end of the day, we are all humans who all need a little extra help sometimes.”

WW Scholar Brian Daaleman (another former Manresa Scholar) added that those he interacted with “served to remind [him] that those trapped in the cycle of homelessness each have their own unique story and are not just another statistic. Our service also provided a physical representation of the immediacy and gravity of this issue that sadly is often neglected.”

Each job we were given and interaction we experienced was full of meaning and purpose, bringing us closer to the Jesuit tradition of serving those in need as men and women for and with others.

Monica Olveira, FCRH 2018
West Wing ILC Intern, 2016-2017

Emily Mohri, FCRH 2017
West Wing ILC Resident Assistant, 2016-2017


Learning as a Community: A Reflection

Discussion is one of the most powerful components of the Manresa Scholars Program. It is emphasized in the Manresa Dinner Colloquia, where professors and guest speakers challenge Scholars to think about ethical and societal issues, in the Manresa Seminars, where students utilize their eloquentia perfecta skills in presentations and debates, and in the Manresa Study Commons, where Scholars collaborate on projects and coursework.

Manresa Scholar Alexandra Berndt shares her thoughts on the participatory nature of the Manresa Program, and the importance of participation as both a speaker and an active listener.


In a community such as the Manresa Scholars Program, there is often an emphasis placed on leadership as engagement: always offering up your thoughts and contributing so that you and your peers can grow together into greater versions of yourselves. However, engagement and community is not exclusively about voicing your opinions. A large— and arguably more important— aspect of participation is listening.

What I have contributed to Manresa so far is just that— listening. As a freshman in college, surrounded by professors and peers of the highest caliber, I have no grand illusions of superiority. Learning and growing requires humility. I have used my time so far here at Fordham and within Manresa to absorb all that my surroundings have to offer.

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At the end-of-semester Scholars Showcase evening, Alexandra Berndt (top row, 4th from right) presented this reflection.

If only I listen, I can use the valuable intellect that my peers and professors provide as the foundation upon which I can become the person worth listening to. I firmly believe that having a perspective worth listening to is the result only of first being willing to listen to the perspectives of others.

I have contributed the often-overlooked half of engagement, and thus minimized the pattern of speaking without really listening (and therefore speaking without really knowing much of anything). Ending ignorance and increasing intellect demands that I allow others to share rather than talking over each other with our fingers in our ears.


 

Reflecting on an Ethical Dilemma

Fordham’s President, Fr. McShane, says that Fordham students are bothered by the world around them. Manresa Scholars share this trait, and are challenged to question their beliefs and the world around them, struggling with ethical and moral dilemmas. Manresa Scholar Emma Budd, who took “Representations of China & the West” as her Manresa Seminar, shares how a Reflecting program offered in collaboration with Fordham’s Campus Ministry helped her to resolve an ethical dilemma.


Among the Manresa programs that I attended this semester, I can definitively say that Dean Parmach and Fr. Lito’s “Unpacking the Millenial Digitized Mind” colloquium ethically bothered me the most. This colloquium was centered on the concept of the millennial generation – what we are known for, both the good and the bad. Millennials are commonly recognized as lazy, technology-obsessed, and self-absorbed. I attended this colloquium expecting it to assert those very ideas – that as a generation, we need to improve ourselves. Although I do not entirely disagree with the conclusion that my generation is more self-absorbed than some of our predecessors’, I think it is incredibly unfair for other generations to assume that nothing good can come of us.

Thus, I was pleasantly surprised when Fr. Lito addressed the positive attributes of the millennial generation by stating that we have logged far more volunteer hours than other generations, showing that millennials have a prominent interest in charity work. Hearing this was refreshing, and I was excited about it until my peer raised her hand and brought up the following point: millennials may be logging more volunteer hours simply because we need them now more than ever for the college application process.

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Manresa Scholars clean up Bartow-Pell Park in the Bronx as part of a fall service project.

This point brought up the question of whether or not anything we do can truly be considered selfless. This is an ethical dilemma with which I have struggled in the past, and considering it in the context of my generation only heightened my worries that perhaps I did not enjoy helping people as much as I thought I did. I turned this thought over in my head for the remainder of the colloquium, and came to the conclusion that although volunteering did add to my resume, I do love helping people. I also decided that from now on, I should take the time to consider why I choose to help others before doing so.

If anything, this colloquium served to make me more aware of the ethics behind the choices I make when it comes to helping others.


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