Marywood Blogs

95 African Sisters Earn Their Degrees Through HESA

Posted by Byrne on 2017 March 25

Photo of some of the first sisters to graduate through Marywood University

The Marywood University core values have been and always will be the foundation for the success of the university. These core values are maintained throughout every program, department, club/activity as well as in every aspect of the Marywood University community. However, there is one program in particular offered here at Marywood that goes above and beyond to foster senses of Catholic identity, respect, empowerment, service and excellence to all the students, faculty and staff members involved.

In 1999, four universities in the United States and their congregations, including the servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary and Marywood University in Scranton, PA, established the African Sisters Education Collaborative (ASEC). ASEC is a nonprofit organization offered at Marywood as well as in 10 countries in Africa. Their mission is to provide Catholic women in Africa with an education that will help enhance and expand their knowledge of health, economic, social, environmental and spiritual services.

A newer and quickly growing branch of ASEC is the Higher Education for Sisters in Africa (HESA) program. Through the HESA program, sisters from Africa are able to complete online coursework and attend college classes through Marywood, providing these Catholic women from African countries with access to an undergraduate and graduate level education. ASEC is also partnered with 19 colleges and universities in Africa where sisters study onsite, and two additional colleges in the United States, Chestnut Hill College and Rosemont College, where sisters complete online coursework for one year. The program is funded by the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation and supports the students by covering tuition, expenses for books, a laptop, and academic workshops.

The African sisters involved in the HESA program at Marywood are all pursing a Bachelor’s degree in Education, however, they must also engage in liberal arts courses, such as communication arts, religious studies, psychology, and counseling classes. First, they complete 27 online credits over one year using an online-onsite hybrid model. At this time, the sisters are able to continue their ministry work in their home countries while completing their coursework. Then, they complete the rest of their course load on campus at a partner university in Africa.

The class size ranges from five to twenty students enrolled at each of the four partner institutions around the country, working together and providing a “continuous network of peer and academic support.” At this time, 95 sisters in Kenya, Uganda, and Zambia have earned their degrees through the HESA program at Marywood.

At Marywood, there are seven full-time staff members, two part-time research assistants, and four graduate students who work tirelessly to support ASEC. The sisters of Immaculate Heart of Mary, including the President of Marywood University, Sister Mary Persico, IHM, Ed.D., also contribute their time and effort in to supporting the HESA program. Sr. Persico previously served as the Chair of the Board of Directors for ASEC. Presently, Dean Terri Peters, Ph.D. of the Reap College of Education and Human Development serves as a board member.

Sister Adeodata is a graduate from the first cohort to Marywood in 2015 and is now working towards earning her Master’s of Education in Counseling/Psychology at a university in Kenya. She firmly believes, “were it not for HESA, I would not have been able to [enroll in the Master’s program]. I believe a Master’s level of education will facilitate me for a wide area of service and take me a long way in my life.”

Thanks to Marywood University and the ASEC office, almost 100 students have been provided with a respected, well-rounded education. Rosemary Shaver, the Assistant Director of the HESA program, has bared witness to the “enthusiasm of [the graduates] and their excitement to go out into the community and share [the] knowledge gained through education.”  She appreciates the fact that this program allows women to obtain degrees in necessary fields, such as education, commerce, social work, business administration, environmental science, nursing, and many more.

Catholic sisters and women in general have been restricted to the access of education in Africa. The ASEC and HESA programs allow these students to break barriers and overcome the norms of inequality seen in their home countries. Rosemary Shaver believes these women prove “all things are possible.”

For more information about HESA/ASEC, please feel free to visit the website, Special thanks to Rosemary Shaver for providing all of the information about the honorable HESA program.

Topics: Catholic Service Education

Posted by Erin Byrne

Erin Byrne, who is pursuing a master's degree in speech language pathology at Marywood, is a graduate assistant in the Reap College of Education and Human Development.

Read more from Erin Byrne