ESCAPE Program Director Reflects on First Semester in Dream Job

Outdoors, tree with yellow leaves, and three people walking on a path.

ESCAPE Team leaders enjoying the fall colors at the Calcagnini Contemplative Center.

In true ESCAPE tradition, as we approach the end of the semester and 2022 calendar year, I am reminded of the importance of taking time to pause and reflect. As the new Program Director of ESCAPE, I am honored to share with you my experience of becoming a steward of this beloved program. In line with an ESCAPE overnight, I will follow the reflection format of where you were, where you are now, and where you are going.

“Life Before Georgetown” started for me in Boston, Massachusetts, where I attended Boston College and was introduced to the Jesuit tradition and Ignatian Spirituality. My own retreat experiences and engagement with reflection and contemplation led me to the Jesuit Volunteer Corps and subsequently a Master of Social Work from Boston College. After completing four years of clinical work, I was hired for my dream job – ESCAPE Program Director. I am truly honored to have the opportunity to dedicate my time and energy to a program with such a rich history and vibrant community. 

A group of approximately 30 students wearing maroon sweatshirts making funny gestures.

ESCAPE Team 32 Leaders

And so my “First Year at Georgetown” has begun. I have been warmly welcomed into the Office of Campus Ministry as well as the ESCAPE community by students, faculty, staff, and alumni alike. I have treasured the opportunity to be a part of the formation of such bright, talented, and conscientious students. Collaborating with these students to create space for reflection, connection, discernment, and lots of group singing (yes, there is still a boisterous dance to I Want It That Way) has been a dream come true. In my short time with ESCAPE, I have had the chance to witness the magic that can happen when students are able to take time away from the frenzy of campus life and be present with themselves and with others.

Although 27 hours seems like a blink of an eye, we are able to engage with so many Ignatian principles including Cura Personalis, Consolation & Desolation, and Discernment. And in between all of this reflection, there is so much fun to be had – whether that is playing games, singing songs, or building new relationships. There is something quite magical about the Calcagnini Contemplative Center and the fantastic backdrop of the Blue Ridge Mountains. As each cohort of students attends an ESCAPE overnight retreat, they become part of an incredible community that values what it means to be a Contemplative in Action.

In looking towards the future, I have several goals for myself as well as the ESCAPE program. I am dedicated to continuing to create an intentional space for an even wider audience of students to be introduced to the tenets of Ignatian Spirituality. The tools that students have access to on ESCAPE are ones that they will not only utilize during their time at Georgetown but in many ways in their lives beyond college. The ability to reflect and discern is of great importance for both the formation of personal growth as well as professional success. As the Georgetown students of today become the change-makers of tomorrow, I hope that their time on ESCAPE has encouraged them to discern who they are and what gifts they have to offer the world. 

by Nicole Sandonato, ESCAPE Program Director. Nicole joined the Office of Campus Ministry at the start of the 2022-23 Academic Year.