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May 25, 2021, Miami, Florida – The eight first- and second-year students in Barry University’s Humanities Honors Class, Dimensions of Culture, learned far more than academic theories on culture. Through service learning, they became involved in human rights work of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) and integrated into their personal lives the mission and core values of Barry University, as well as the Mission of the Adrian Dominican Sisters.
Pawena “Winnie” Sirimangkala, PhD, Director of the Honors Program and professor of the class, invited Sister Linda Bevilacqua, OP, PhD, and Sister Kathleen Nolan, OP, to participate in a conversation with the students during regular class time. Sister Linda, President of Barry University for 15 years, is now Director of the University’s Adrian Dominican Institute for Mission and Leadership. Sister Kathleen is Director of the Adrian Dominican Sisters’ Office of Peace, Justice and Integrity of Creation.
The conversation centered on Barry University’s involvement with the CIW, which began in 1993 as a farmworkers’ rights organization and now focuses other human rights issues, such as immigration and human trafficking. In their service work, the students were drawn to the mission of the CIW, and particularly its Fair Food Program, which asks fast food and other companies to increase their pay to tomato farmers by 1 cent per pound.
The classroom conversation also turned on various strategies to bring about social justice. When the students asked for an endorsement of CIW’s boycott against Wendy’s, which hasn’t formally agreed to the Fair Food Program, Sister Kathleen noted the harm that boycotts can bring to the workers. “The way to go is through investment,” since shareholders have some voice in the policies of corporations, she said. “Over time, this could accomplish what boycotts could not.”
The Adrian Dominican Congregation uses that socially responsible investing strategy through its Portfolio Advisory Board (PAB).
During their conversation, Sister Linda informed the students about Barry University’s Chapter of the Student Managed Investment Fund (SMIF), a national organization in which students learn about and manage stocks. Socially responsible investing is core to the operation of Barry University’s Chapter, which now has a portfolio of about $1,150,000, Sister Linda said. Students in the class hope to be involved in SMIF in the fall semester.
The conversation had an impact on the students. “After learning about the CIW, I felt so privileged to have been born in an environment where I’ve never had to worry about fair working conditions,” one student wrote in an email to Sister Kathleen. “Although it saddened me, I recognized that my environment also allows me to speak for those who are not heard, like the CIW. To be a part of their mission was an honor.”
In their experience with the CIW, Sister Kathleen said, the students “came to the realization that Barry’s core commitments really do mean something, and that they could see the implications of these core commitments in working with the Immokalee workers. They realized that the core commitments of Barry are alive,” and came to see their similarity with the Adrian Dominican Sisters’ Mission and in the mission of the CIW.
“I was so proud,” Sister Linda said. “It warmed my heart. [The students] learned, they reflected on what they learned, and they decided their lives were not going to be the same after that. That’s what education is all about – transformation. I’ve seen it thousands of times in my 15 years as President.”