Students gear up for hosting national Jesuit event


For the first time in school history, Detroit Mercy will host the National Jesuit Student Leadership Conference (NJSLC) this summer.

The five-day conference is expected to draw over 400 attendees from across the nation.

The event will take place July 10-14 under the leadership of student co-chairs Sarah Hirschman (’19 of Fraser) and Ben Westphal (’20 of Fraser).

“This is a massive conference where we have plenty of volunteer opportunities for students, faculty and staff,” said Westphal.

After attending their first conference in 2017 at Georgetown University, Hirschmann and Westphal came back to campus inspired to take on the 2019 event.

It was then that the co-chairs decided it was time to expose other Jesuit schools to Detroit Mercy.

Their intentions were to give students foreign to Detroit the opportunity to experience its economic resurgence.

“We authored a 50-page bid back in August 2017 to place Detroit Mercy in the mix of 28 other Jesuit institutions to host this conference. After months of waiting, we were selected to host it for the first time ever,” said Westphal, student government president.

Westphal and Hirschmann were not the only students to help formulate the proposal.

Detroit Mercy students Tavala Luciow (’19 of New Boston), Kortney Hepting (’20 of St. Clair Shores) and Justin Elsesser (’19 of Wyandotte) also helped create bid.

Hirschmann and Westphal plan to honor Detroit within this year’s theme: “Rising from the Ashes.”

They believe the theme relates not only to Jesuit values – “men and women with and for others” – but also Detroit’s motto as well – “We hope for better days; we shall rise from the ashes.”

 “This is a theme that is universal and can be related to anyone as everyone has struggles and wants to rise from their ashes,” said Hirschmann.

Provost Dr. Pamela Zarkowski is also looking forward to Detroit Mercy hosting the conference.

“The university community is excited about the opportunity to support this conference,” she said in an official document released in February. “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.”

If you are interested in volunteering or participating or have questions, email the chapter at

Since its founding in 1997, the leadership conference has aimed to create networking opportunities for student leaders at all 28 Jesuit colleges and universities in the United States.

The event will include a variety of keynote speakers, workshops, small-group discussions and an afternoon of community service.

Activities are geared toward the idea of community advancement through leadership.