The recent article concerning a drop in student interest for the Carroll Fellows Initiative (“Carroll Fellows Interest Drops,” THE HOYA, Oct. 30, 2007, A1) should have included a more thorough perspective on the program’s history, and generally misses the point of what I see as the mission of the CFI.

First, the history: Much of the article seems to impute declining enrollment in the CFI to program shortcomings which lead to student disgruntlement. However, mirroring the opinion offered by Maryam Mohamed, assistant director for the CFI, I believe that any declining enrollment numbers are largely a product of the changing structure of the program.

A quick trip to the university archives or the conference room in the Gervase building, home to the CFI offices, would reveal how much this structure has changed since the inception of the program. What was once a program that admitted students prior to their entry to Georgetown, and that was linked to a scholarship program, now competes with a flurry of other activities to secure student interest in the hectic first semester of freshman year. What once even considered community living requirements that might have resulted in a faction closed off from the campus as a whole, now must meet the challenge of defining itself within the context of the entire student body. This combination of the “program mission development” problem with the logistical reality of establishing a new application deadline that falls so early in students’ academic careers is likely to account for a significant portion of the drop.

Perhaps, then, some suggestions for consideration of that mission: A reader of the article otherwise unfamiliar with the CFI would come away with a very narrow impression of its output: research, research, research. Yes, independent research is undeniably at the core of the program, but any student can participate in programs like Georgetown Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (GUROP), work at a think-tank or just conduct his or her own research. There is something behind the CFI’s research obsession that is what really gives the program meaning and a place on our campus. The CFI motto, “Mentis Vita Pro Vita Mundi” ( “The Life of the Mind for the Life of the World”), expresses that animating spirit quite well. As Fr. Alvaro Ribeiro, S.J., expressed it at a CFI dinner in March, “It is the duty of a truly well-honed mind to cut through the propagandizing to speak and to write the truth in freedom.”

While one former member of the CFI described its focus in the article as training for “academia,” a word which often connotes a life of isolation from the “real world,” I believe Ribeiro’s statement captures the power for social change present in each of us that the program hopes to foster. The CFI’s focus on research is, or at least should always be, motivated by the idea of training for the ability to act as an informed citizen, as a person capable of processing the divergent data in the world, and to advance the ideals that Georgetown champions. Conceived in this way, the research components of the CFI clearly fit students of all disciplines and all future professional aspirations.

So, yes, the CFI has faced some very significant structural challenges, and one of the short-term effects of those has been a drop in enrollment. However, there is a reason that the CFI chose not to separate itself as some facsimile of honors programs at other colleges: A Jesuit university has a role, even a duty, as Fr. Ribeiro put it, to engage the world, and that can only be done effectively after one has struggled to apply her intellect and reason to the great challenges we face.

I believe the student body at this school understands that, for the most part, and the CFI hopes to nurture that impulse within students to encourage tangible results. The struggle to define itself within the larger Georgetown community should not, I believe, be a long one for the relatively young CFI program, as its central beliefs are but an iteration of how Georgetown has historically distinguished itself.

Teddy Hanson is a junior in the College.

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