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Formative: Conversations on Who We Became

  • Formative 12: When an endangered child can’t come home (with Darcy Olsen, Georgetown ‘93)

    14 MAG 2024 · It was a newborn infant sleeping in a homeless shelter in a government office building that changed Darcy Olsen’s life. The Georgetown University class of 1993 alum had thought she knew her purpose, both personally and professionally, serving as CEO of the Goldwater Institute think tank and advocating for public policy reforms like terminally ill patients’ right to try cutting-edge medications. But that foster child beget nine more – along the way to becoming the founder of the Center for the Rights of Abused Children, which offers pro bono legal services to help protect the rights and safety of abandoned kids. In episode 12 of Formative, we talk about the source of her social justice passions; the opioid crisis and communal disintegration that creates a need for her work; and why the utter helplessness of children makes them society’s most heartbreakingly vulnerable.
    Ascoltato 33 min. 15 sec.
  • Formative 11: What’s eating away at our local food systems (with Erika Polmar, St. Louis University ‘89)

    21 FEB 2024 · You don’t have to tell Erika Polmar, St. Louis University, class of 1989, that “we are what we eat.” Her reverence for local food systems has been lifelong. It inspired her Oregon-based farm-dinner series, Plate + Pitchfork, to educate eaters about the people and places that their sustenance originates. And when the pandemic closures devastated restaurants nationwide, she co-founded the Independent Restaurant Coalition, advocating to help secure some $30 billion in rescue funds for her 500,000 trade group members. Solving complex, intertwined social and political puzzles, Polmar often seems to have a lot on her plate. In episode 11 of Formative, we talk about why food mediates our relationship to time; how to get healthy, fresh alternatives to eaters of all economic backgrounds; and if “we are what we eat,” we’re also where we eat.
    Ascoltato 39 min. 52 sec.
  • Formative 10: Steeling the judicial ramparts on the last line of democracy (with Benes Aldana, Seattle University ‘91)

    12 DIC 2023 · When it comes to the faith and health of the American judiciary, no one would likely describe this as “the best of times.” Judges faces personal threats; courts are seen as politicized; and public opinion slumps, in tandem with civic education. But that’s the challenge that faces the last line of democracy, as Benes Aldana, frames it. The idealistic Seattle University, class of 1991, alum is president of the National Judicial College, which tasks itself with addressing these issues. In episode 10 of Formative, we talk about the moral education that informed him when working on detainee cases at Guantanamo Bay after 9/11; the need to create an anti-racist court to address issues of systemic, unconscious bias; and how the Jesuits taught him that relationships and love must be the foundation of any professional aspiration.
    Ascoltato 35 min. 53 sec.
  • Formative 9: The cartoonist’s pen versus the autocrat’s sword (with Adam Zyglis, Canisius University ‘04)

    16 OTT 2023 · If the job of journalism is to speak truth to power, newspaper cartoonists do it with a paintbrush in hand and a tongue-in-cheek. This puts them in the crosshairs of thin-skinned dictators abroad and on “the front lines of the first amendment” at home, as Adam Zyglis, Canisius University, class of 2004, phrases it. Since graduating from the school paper to The Buffalo News as its youngest staffer, the Pulitzer Prize-winning Zyglis has, quite literally, drawn readers’ attention to the issues of the day in a fashion that transcends language and both punches and tickles you in the gut. In episode 9 of Formative, we talk about the escalating backlash and hate felt by journalists thanks to social media; doing your best to fill your own shoes when following esteemed predecessors; and how he uses lies to, ultimately, tell the truth.
    Ascoltato 36 min. 43 sec.
  • Formative 8: On the front lines of the global refugee crisis (with Michael Gallagher, SJ, Spring Hill College ‘73)

    21 APR 2023 · 103 million people. That’s the United Nations’ best estimate of how many have been forcibly displaced worldwide – some of the highest recorded waves of migration since World War 2. And for decades now, Father Michael Gallagher of the Society of Jesus and Spring Hill College class of 1973, has been on the front lines of those borders and those crises. From providing direct legal representation in El Paso to helping formulate global policy in Geneva, from the Caribbean to southern Africa to Latin America, Father Gallagher has embodied the ministry of accompaniment that defines the Jesuit Refugee Service. In episode 8 of Formative, we talk about the escalating danger that aid workers face on the front-lines; the scapegoating lies peddled about foreigners by polarizing politicians; and being adaptive to the surprises that God throws your way – like needing to identify the sound of a Kalashnikov rifle after you’ve passed age 60.
    Ascoltato 45 min. 19 sec.
  • Formative 7: The triumphs and trials of women's professional soccer (with Danielle Slaton, Santa Clara University ‘02)

    11 MAR 2023 · When Danielle Slaton, class of 2002 at Santa Clara University, was selected as the #1 overall draft-pick in the WUSA, both she and top-level women’s soccer were riding high: Slaton captaining the Broncos to a collegiate national championship and, later, West Coast Conference Hall of Fame entry; the US Women’s National Team etching a now-legendary 1999 World Cup victory into the collective memory of sports fandom. And in the decades since, both Slaton and women’s soccer have endured trials and enjoyed triumphs. In episode 7 of Formative, we talk about rediscovering a professional identity in your twenties when the body, inevitably, gives out; why the sexual abuse scandals that have plagued players over the years were the worst-kept secret in the beautiful game; and what it’s going to take for women’s soccer to achieve not just progress and equality in the American sports media landscape, but outright dominance on par with the NFL or NBA.
    Ascoltato 32 min. 23 sec.
  • Formative 6: The advance of the city college (with Ricardo Fernandez, Marquette University ‘62)

    22 NOV 2022 · In a nation today that’s beset by deep, structural inequalities, the ladder of socioeconomic advancement leans heavily on public city colleges like CUNY’s Lehman in the Bronx. And for a quarter-century, Ricardo Fernandez, class of 1962 at Marquette University, steered that ship. The sea was not always calm: under-resourced institutions survive on threadbare margins; a state budget shortfall begets a financial crisis which begets the furor of students and employees alike. But President Fernandez believed deeply in schools like Lehman as a means of mobility for first-generation, low-income, and students of color and a beacon within blighted blocks. In episode 6 of Formative, we talk about the imperative of maintaining higher education as a public good; assigning Saul Alinsky as homework rather than prosecuting student strikers occupying university buildings; and the eternal task of learning how to learn as technology overtakes the labor landscape for graduates.
    Ascoltato 42 min. 39 sec.
  • Formative 5: Mayoral imagination, big-city transformation (with Tom Murphy, John Carroll University ‘67)

    7 OTT 2022 · When Tom Murphy, class of 1967 at John Carroll University, won the Pittsburgh mayor’s office in the early 1990s, cities in general – and the Steel City in particular – were in rough shape. Pittsburgh had seen its population sawed in half, the byproduct of industrial decline and economic blight. The son of a mill worker, Murphy knew this working-class legacy well, even as he battled to implement a vision for tomorrow’s jobs, knowing that those of his father’s generation were probably not coming back. In episode 5 of Formative, we talk about the importance of risk and guts when leadership has to steer people through their fear of change, why crime will never be an issue that policing alone can solve, and what brings him hope and joy in these inspirational tableaus of collectivity that we call cities.
    Ascoltato 39 min. 3 sec.
  • Formative 4: How to cover the Pope (with Delia Gallagher, University of San Francisco '91)

    26 APR 2022 · A two-thousand-year-old institution, ensconced in pageantry, and shrouded in secrecy – that’s what Delia Gallagher, class of 1991 at the University of San Francisco, has covered for decades as CNN’s chief Vaticanologist. With a front row seat in the Rome-based press corps, she’s chronicled both the sacred and the profane and navigated contrasting papal styles: from the terse, professorial Benedict to the mystical, freewheeling Francis. It is a beat like no other, one attentive to both the heights of moral power and the intimacies of personal faith. In episode 4 of Formative, we talk about the intercultural nuances of working at global headquarters, her longing for depth amidst the superficial pressures of the news media, and why you should follow your bliss and be surprised where it takes you.
    Ascoltato 38 min. 49 sec.
  • Formative 3: Polling for a common good in polarized times (John Zogby, Le Moyne '70)

    1 MAR 2022 · Public opinion polling is a powerful practice: It legitimizes sentiment, crystallizes reality. It’s irresistible to political journalists. And, for several decades now, John Zogby, class of 1970 at Le Moyne College, has been one of its highest profile practitioners – featured in The New Yorker, a repeat guest on The Daily Show, and namechecked on The West Wing and House of Cards. From his near-perfect call of Clinton in 1996, Zogby has polled across the aisle and around the world. A self-professed political junkie, he once ran for mayor himself – and knew just how much he was going to lose by before election day hit. He’s written books about tribal identity in America and the global sensibility of its millennial generation and advocated on behalf of his fellow Arab-Americans through the dark discrimination of the War on Terror and the attempted Muslim ban. In episode 3 of Formative, we talk about whether polling has gone haywire on Trump, the high that comes from knowing what’s going to happen in the future before anyone else does, and what it’ll take to find some common good that might put our broken nation back together again.
    Ascoltato 41 min. 33 sec.

A Jesuit college judges itself on who our students become and ‘Formative’ is an interview podcast about those lives and stories. It features intimate conversations with notable alums – from...

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A Jesuit college judges itself on who our students become and ‘Formative’ is an interview podcast about those lives and stories. It features intimate conversations with notable alums – from arts and culture, public service, business, philanthropy, sports, education, science, and so on – from Jesuit colleges across the country. Host Michael Serazio, associate professor of communication at Boston College, asks questions about who and what shaped their life journeys, influenced their successes, and guided them through callings, causes, challenges, and careers. An official podcast of Conversations Magazine and the National Seminar on Jesuit Higher Education, ‘Formative’ is about the impact our graduates have had and how they might inspire future generations of young people to set the world on fire.
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