It is from our Experience that Possibilities and Responsibilities Emerge

photo (2)By Dr. Debra Colley

Over the last few months, as I have traveled to witness the persistence of one family in the hope for children in Haiti, to study St. Vincent de Paul in France, and to embrace educational partnerships in Vietnam, I have experienced the lasting imprint of one mission – the charism of the Vincentians in their commitment to transformative service and in their far-reaching influence.

This Vincentian heritage inspires a call to action to develop sustainable strategies to address core issues of poverty… a footprint that is uniquely represented through the three Vincentian Universities in the United States – Niagara, St.  John’s, and DePaul. The cycle of scarcity and poverty endured by so many people throughout the world is at the heart of the work we do as Vincentians. The graduates of Niagara University participate in this shared experience through their studies, their community engagement in service, and their research – experiences which will shape their contributions and leadership throughout their lives and careers. Experiences which will become the distinguishing difference in their life’s journey and the opportunities the future holds for them.

photo (3)From these experiences, challenges and responsibilities will emerge as well.  No one has said that this commitment to serving those most in need would be easy.  They have said it must be done; we must regard aid to the poorest and most vulnerable in our world as a fundamental duty.  We will bring our experiences to the question of how it must be done. Our mission calls on us to strive for innovation and excellence in the work we do as advocates for those in need and to support the development of programs and strategies that will make a difference in local communities and the larger world. Let’s, therefore, extend our experiences – domestic and global – in a strategic way so that actions emerge and we develop the persistence to stay the course and truly make a difference in our world.

Our Vincentian Heritage

By Dr. Debra Colley

As a Vincentian university, our mission inspires our studies, our service, our research, and our professional commitment to serving those most in need. We are joined in this mission by the other Vincentian Universities – DePaul University in Chicago and St. John’s University in New York City.

France BuildingWhat a privilege, therefore, to be asked to participate in the Vincentian Mission Institute to study St. Vincent de Paul and St. Louise de Marillac. This provides is with an opportunity to think about the importance of the Vincentian mission as we prepare leaders across all disciplines of study.

We are now in France following the footsteps of St. Vincent. We initiated our trip in his birthplace in Dax (the Berceau) and will make our way to Paris. I am interested in the transformational role of St. Vincent as he began his life as an ambitious and successful man, bringing what seems to me to be a commitment to systems thinking and sustainability to his work with the poor.   In the professions of education and human services (among others), we are challenged by the need to influence systems that will sustain reforms and change the course of opportunity for those who are under-served.


France FoodSo as I enjoy the pastries during this journey through France. I will reflect on the contemporary application of our mission given the pressing issues we face today.

Lasting Memory

Unknown-10By Dr. Debra Colley

I leave Vietnam with the warmth of the people in my heart and the beauty of the country in my memory.  We met many new colleagues and laid the foundation for partnerships with P-12 schools, university schools of education, and the Ministry of Home Affairs, among others.  Similar to our work in the United States, educational reform and the preparation of educational leaders who can ‘lead’ this reform is in the forefront of the discussion in Vietnam.

I leave with this picture of a child on a warm day – our global understanding does begin with children – and I am reminded that children from around the world are quite similar in many ways. On a very warm day, all of our children will smile while they enjoy the cool sweetness of their culture’s version of ice cream.   We can learn so much from each other when we embrace the simple smiles that extend across language, culture, and history.

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American Center

By Dr. Debra Colley

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photo 2The American Center of the U.S. Embassy was festive during the ribbon-cutting ceremony for this new facility.  The center, sponsored by the Public Affairs Section of the U.S. Embassy, is a one-stop source of up-to-date information about all aspects of the United States, its people, and its policies.
The American Center is open to the public and welcomes visits by government officials, academics, journalists, students, and others interested in information about the United States. Speaker programs, trainings, clubs practicing American English, debate and book discussions, film shows, exhibitions and music performances are planned for guests as well.
Although we missed the Ambassador during this event, we did meet several students who are studying English and are interested in visiting the U.S.  It was very exciting to be part of this event at our Embassy, so of course I was singing along…

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The Seminar

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By Dr. Debra Colley

We had the opportunity to provide training for directors and deputy directors from the Ministry of Home Affairs.  We learned from them as we spoke about management and performance – my topic being the development of employees in the public sector.  The training was in a formal setting with simultaneous translation.  It was quite interesting to present this way and I realize that I should have talked a bit slower! We had a lot of questions and a good discussion.

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A Short Walk

Unknown-6By Dr. Debra Colley

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It seemed difficult to find the time for an afternoon walk with the schedule of meetings and visits that were planned… But I did. The hustle of the city was evident, with the traffic of motor bikes and cars (heeding very few rules of the road), and small streets lined with wonderful people who were so excited to meet us and practice conversing in English as we wandered through their community.

Though we had a very busy agenda, I made it a priority to take time to appreciate the cultural footprint this trip to Vietnam will certainly leave on me. I have had the opportunity to engage in many unique experiences, inviting me to view the world through yet another cultural lens.

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Palm Sunday

By Dr. Debra Colley

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Never would I have imagined being at a mass in a Gothic cathedral in Vietnam, on Palm Sunday, with Father Maher and the new colleagues I had met. The Vietnamese language was so beautiful as everyone sang and prayed with the Bishop. I will bring the palm home with me so as to share this blessing and faith from a developing country with my family.

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