Letter from the Executive President

Peter Balleis, SJ, - Executive President Jesuit Worldwide Learning

Letter from the Executive President

27th September 2016

In 2010, a new model of digital learning to make tertiary education accessible to refugees and underserved communities was launched. Since then, more than 5,000 young men and women from more than 25 countries have benefited from the services of “Jesuit Commons – Higher Education at the Margins” (JCHEM).

We have recently undergone two important developments. This month we

Peter Balleis, SJ and Dr. Mary McFarland attend a reception in Dr. McFarland’s honor at Georgetown University September, 2016

changed our name to “Jesuit Worldwide Learning (JWL) – Higher Education at the Margins.” And last month we said farewell to our International Director of six years, Prof. Dr. Mary McFarland, whose inspiring vision, high academic standards, tireless work and limitless kindness built this organization into what it is today: 11 learning centers across nine countries, where students access language and vocational training and work toward a Diploma in Liberal Arts.

As International Director of Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS), a partner of JWL, I bore witness to Mary’s incredible achievements. I am now honored to step into her shoes, to carry forward her vision.

“We have learned so much from the students,’ is a phrase of you frequently hear from professors describing the rich experience of teaching, working with and learning together with refugees and students at the margins. This worldwide learning community, which exists in virtual classrooms, is what inspired our name change.

Executive President, Peter Balleis, SJ talks about his vision for the future of educating people in marginalized communities
Executive President, Peter Balleis, SJ talks about his vision for the future of educating people in marginalized communities

“Jesuit Worldwide Learning – Higher Education at the Margins” is a true expression of our vision: Learning together to transform the world. True to this mission, JWL provides tertiary learning to people and communities at the margins of societies — be it through poverty, location, lack of opportunity, conflict, or forced displacement – so that all can contribute their knowledge and voices to the global community of learners. Our hope is that together they will create a more peaceful and humane world.

The task ahead is to build on the foundations – this community of worldwide learners — laid by Mary. We aim to scale up and reach more students; to transfer the JWL model to new locations such as northern Iraq and Mozambique; and to shape a global organization that is sustainable. As of this month and thanks to support from the Jesuit Province of Switzerland, we will be doing this from new headquarters at the Society of Jesus in Geneva.

As well as to Mary, I am deeply grateful to the students and staff of JWL, who make it real. My gratitude extends to the universities of the Society of Jesus and others; to the many professors who give their time and intellect, often on a voluntary basis; to our funding and technology partners; to our partners in the field, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the JRS. I feel encouraged by this high degree of collaboration and support for this magnificent vision.


Fr. Peter Balleis SJ
Executive President



Jesuit Higher Education: Learning Together to Transform the World