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SLU Partners With Jesuit Worldwide Learning to Provide a Bachelor’s Degree for Refugees

by Maggie Rotermund
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Maggie Rotermund
Senior Media Relations Specialist

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ST. LOUIS – Saint Louis University is partnering with Jesuit Worldwide Learning to offer a bachelor's degree to international students displaced by conflict, lack of opportunity and poverty. The first cohort of students will start in October 2023 and are presently located in refugee camps in Kenya and Malawi.

JWL Launch

Pictured from left, are Michael Lewis, Ph.D., SLU Provost; Martha Habash, USA JWL academic director and a professor at Creighton University; Fred P. Pestello, Ph.D., president of Saint Louis University; and John Buerck, interim dean of SLU's School for Professional Studies. Photo by Sarah Conroy. 

Jesuit Worldwide Learning (JWL) is a Jesuit-sponsored international higher education program founded in 2010 and designed to serve students at the margins. Those students are typically in war zones, refugee camps, and impoverished countries. It operates more than 50 learning centers in 20 countries across Asia, Africa and South America.  

Based in Switzerland, Jesuit Worldwide Learning has partnerships with Creighton University and Georgetown University to provide educational opportunities to students at the margins. JWL’s programs are developed within the framework of the Ignatian experience, which seeks to develop the whole person. 

JWL students will graduate with a B.A. in general studies through SLU’s School for Professional Studies. The School for Professional Studies (SPS) offers globally accessible academic, professional and continuing education programs for students in keeping with the University’s Jesuit tradition of excellence. 

“The JWL program is a true expression of Jesuit values,” said SLU President Fred P. Pestello, Ph.D. “Saint Louis University is proud to join this initiative, which exemplifies what becomes possible when mission-focused organizations from around the globe join together around a shared purpose.”

The JWL program offers a bachelor’s degree free of charge to interested refugees in the camp who meet eligibility requirements.

Jesuit Worldwide Learning classes are offered through a community-based cohort. Students are provided with computers, internet service, and on-site support.

Cohorts are expected to be between 20-25 students each term. A JWL learning facilitator will meet with students once or twice weekly during the term to provide administrative and academic support. 

The classes themselves will be delivered asynchronously via Canvas. SPS offers online courses in eight-week terms instead of a traditional 16-week semester.

“We believe this degree will give students a breadth of knowledge, professional skills, and sense of vocation—not to mention hope for a peaceful, dignified life in places of despair and injustice,” said Kyle Crews, Ph.D., associate dean in SLU’s School for Professional Studies, and General Studies program director.

Saint Louis University will recruit and hire additional instructors to teach the JWL courses.

The students will begin their time at SLU with 30 credits already completed through either Creighton University or Xavier Institute of Management in India’s one-year certificate program. Once enrolled, they will be full-time students with access to all forms of SLU support and are anticipated to complete their degrees within three years. 

“SLU has a mission to work with our Jesuit brethren organizations to help bring educational opportunities to those in need,” said Michael Lewis, Ph.D., SLU provost. “This is a vocational effort for all involved.” 

Jesuit Worldwide Learning partners with academic institutions to offer certified professional programs, academic certificates, and bachelor’s degrees.

“This bachelor’s degree offered by SLU increases the diversity of academic programs and allows JWL to scale to reach even more young people at the margins,” said Peter Balleis, S.J., executive president of Jesuit Worldwide Learning.

Jesuit Worldwide Learning

JWL provides equitable high-quality tertiary learning to people and communities at the margins of societies – be it through poverty, location, lack of opportunity, conflict or forced displacement – so all can contribute their knowledge and voices to a global community of learners and together foster hope to create a more peaceful and humane world.

Saint Louis University

Founded in 1818, Saint Louis University is one of the nation’s oldest and most prestigious Catholic institutions. Rooted in Jesuit values and its pioneering history as the first university west of the Mississippi River, SLU offers more than 15,200 students a rigorous, transformative education of the whole person. At the core of the University’s diverse community of scholars is SLU’s service-focused mission, which challenges and prepares students to make the world a better, more just place.