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Women Leaders in the Ignatian Family

Jenny Smulson

Institution: Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities

Title: Vice President of Government Relations

Location: Washington, D.C.

Do you have any other Jesuit institutional connections?

  • Georgetown University alumna
  • Holy Trinity parishioner, Parish Life Committee, former School Board Chair
  • Georgetown University parent, Santa Clara University parent

What does your job entail?
In this role, I represent the 27 Jesuit colleges and universities in the U.S. in federal advocacy, with particular attention to issues including: the Higher Education Act; maintaining or increasing funding levels for federal student financial aid programs; Title IX; protections for Dreamers; federal resources for research; and tax policies. I engage with the Administration, the U.S. House of Representatives, the U.S. Senate in partnership with colleagues, and Jesuit communities to communicate the value of Jesuit education and advance policies to make it accessible.

What is your favorite part of your job?
It is great to feel that connection with a congressional or administration staff person or member of Congress when they talk about their Jesuit education. That experience stays with them and is often a significant factor in what led them to public service. It inspires me! 

How does Ignatian spirituality shape your approach to work?
It is my good fortune to carry with me a toolbox filled with the wisdom and teaching of the Jesuits. Advocacy takes time and calls you to dialogue and understanding. Remembering to be open and hopeful to the views of others through the Jesuit presupposition, giving myself time for reflection to see how God is guiding to the greater good, to considering my work through the lens of the Examen at the end of the day — I am hopeful that, more often than not, I employ these tools to help our institutions and the students they serve. 

How could the Jesuits and the church as a whole foster women’s leadership more effectively?
I would ask the Jesuits to look within and take note of the extraordinary examples that are all around us. See the women leading within this faith community, especially at our Jesuit colleges and universities today. We can emulate their commitment to Jesuit values and be confident that they are true partners in the work of advancing a faith that does justice in our world. It is happening — women are leading! And we can all do more to celebrate and elevate them.