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Detroit Mercy earns bid to host the 2019 National Jesuit Student Leadership Conference

February 21, 2018

Drew Peters, Sarah Hirschmann, Kortney Hepting, Justin Elsesser, Tavala Luciow, Ben Westphal and DeRoss Cullens in Washington, D.C.Detroit Mercy recently earned the selection bid to serve as host site for the National Jesuit Student Leadership Conference (NJSLC) in 2019.

The University will welcome hundreds of students, faculty and administrators from more than 28 Jesuit colleges and universities throughout the country to McNichols Campus in July 2019.

Sponsored by the Jesuit Association of Student Personnel Administrators (JASPA), the conference is hosted by a different university each year and provides student leaders with collaborative opportunities to develop ideas, explore issues and build stronger leadership skills to better serve their institutions in the Jesuit tradition. NJSLC is comprised of workshops, group discussions, social programming, a day of service and opening and closing banquets.

Detroit Mercy students Ben Westphal ’20 of Fraser, Mich., Sarah Hirschmann ’19 of Fraser, DeRoss Cullens ’19 of Detroit, Tavala Luciow ’19 of New Boston, Mich., Kortney Hepting ’20 of St. Claire Shores, Mich., and Justin Elsesser ’19 of Wyandotte, Mich., authored Detroit Mercy’s proposal.

This is the first time that Detroit Mercy has submitted a bid as well as the first time the University and City of Detroit will host NJSLC. The students worked closely with Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs Pamela Zarkowski; Monica Williams, dean of Student Affairs and dean of students; Dorothy Stewart, associate dean of students and director of Student Life; Andrew Peters, University minister, Service and Justice Immersion Coordinator; and Lanae Gill, director of Residence Life, to ensure that the Detroit Mercy proposal was of outstanding quality.

During the summer of 2017, the six Detroit Mercy students attended the five-day NJSLC conference at Georgetown University. Following their experiences, they came back completely inspired and lobbied to have Detroit Mercy host the 2019 conference. The reasons? Students wanted to expose other college students from schools around the country to Detroit Mercy and give them an opportunity to experience Detroit’s resurgence through the University’s display of its Jesuit and Mercy values.

“Going to Georgetown was a really great learning experience,” explained student Co-chair Sarah Hirschmann. “We met so many new people and share ideas with other leaders from fellow Jesuit schools. The energy, environment and community the conference created was what inspired us to want to put in a bid for Detroit Mercy. We’ve never hosted something like this, but Georgetown’s theme was ‘Set the World on Fire,’ and so we just went for it using the inspiration from the conference and the inspiration we feel from our university community and in Detroit as a whole,” she added.

Student Co-chair Ben Westphal attended the conference at Georgetown as well and felt that Detroit Mercy was the perfect place to hold the 2019 event. But lobbying for support was one thing—developing a comprehensive, persuasive proposal that would win the bid was another.

“We essentially had to capture everything about Detroit Mercy and the city of Detroit in this bid. And we did. This is a huge opportunity for the students, staff, and faculty of Detroit Mercy, and, of course, for the city of Detroit. We will be able to create many leadership opportunities with NJSLC 2019. We plan on reaching out to all different organizations, departments, and academic colleges to assist with this massive endeavor as well as the Detroit community. As a community, the University of Detroit will come together in this year and a half journey to inspire the hundreds of Jesuit student leaders through the revitalization that the city and the surrounding areas are going through. We cannot wait for where this journey will take the students, the University of Detroit Mercy and the city,” he said.

Provost Pamela Zarkowski is pleased that Detroit Mercy earned selection for the 2019 conference and is impressed with the work the students performed with their proposal.

“The University community is excited about the opportunity to support this conference. Hosting this special event provides Detroit Mercy an opportunity to once again demonstrate our commitment to supporting students in their personal growth and development, as well as living the Jesuit values,” she said. “The city of Detroit is at a pivotal point in its history and represents the perfect location for this conference. Participants will not only enjoy their visit to Detroit but gain valuable insights about themselves and our community.”

This year's conference (NJSLC 2018) is at Le Moyne College (Syracuse) from July 18-21. Detroit Mercy will be in attendance. On July 21, the last day of the conference, Detroit Mercy students will announce the theme and name of the 2019 conference. 
To learn more about this years NJSLC 2018 conference, please visit

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