University hosted a reception and dinner Sept. 8 to honor Catholic Relief
Services’ Ethiopia Pilot Program started by Stritch trustee Art Wigchers and
his wife, Mary Ann, and supported by many Stritch faculty and other community
This pilot program
provides support for establishing schools for adolescent girls and training
teachers in Ethiopia.
The event included special guest Carolyn Woo, who is president of Catholic Relief Services and is formerly
the Martin J. Gillen dean of the University of Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of
In early 2012,
Wigchers assembled a team of Wisconsin educators to travel and work with him to
support efforts to improve life and educational opportunities for girls in the
Meki region of Ethiopia. Supported by Catholic
Relief Services and guided
by the Meki bishop and director of education, Dr. Linda Gordy, Stritch’s
associate dean of the School of Urban Initiatives, joined with colleagues from
Marquette University and Alverno College in May 2012 to provide two-hour
professional development workshops for Ethiopian teachers at several schools.
This trip led to the bishop discussing his and the community elders’ desire to
empower adolescent girls and stop harmful cultural practices through education.
A second trip occurred
in January 2013. Feeling a deep sense of connection to Ethiopia, Gordy not only
made plans to return with Wigchers, his wife Mary Ann, and Marquette colleague
Dr. Madeline Wake, but helped inspire other Stritch colleagues to join her.
Dr. Molly Shiffler,
Dr. Deb Heiss, Ruth Hoenick, and Dr. Rose Coppins readily agreed to pay their
own expenses for the opportunity to teach English to Ethiopian teachers. While
teaching, the Stritch instructors also modeled interactive teaching strategies
and shared essential information on sanitation and nutrition to deepen the
lessons and to lead into topics on the most harmful practices that impede the
progress of girls and families.
Another trip took
place in May 2013, which will start a cycle of trips every January and May with
hopes of reaching out to more teachers and additional schools. The goal is to
pass on lessons to the teachers that ultimately filter down to the children,
specifically the girls in the community who face the greatest barriers to
education and opportunities.
Future trips will focus on local formal and
informal school programs and on the expansion of local teacher and community
involvement to assure sustainability.
Read a guest essay by Wigchers about his Catholic Relief Services work, which appears in Stritch Magazine online.