Mission Moment

August 29, 2019


The Immersion East Side (IES) program completed its seventh annual Student Immersion in May. The IES program, run by Co-Directors and Associate Professors of Philosophy Devonya Havis, PhD, and Melissa Mosko, PhD, focuses on developing a “well-educated solidarity” with Buffalo’s East Side communities and seeks to cultivate a spirit of community between the college and community partners.

It’s a concept that was championed by the late Rev. Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, SJ, 29th Superior General of the Society of Jesus.

The IES was founded by Havis and Michael Gent, PhD, professor emeritus of management.

Havis says one of the key goals of the immersion is to bear witness to Buffalo’s East Side communities by allowing them to tell their own narratives.

Prior to the immersion, participants read about the history of the East Side, governmental policies affecting the area and race. The East Side is also the community where the college resides. Immersion facilitators encourage participants to consider how the college can best be a neighbor in the spirit of our Jesuit call to promote a faith that does justice.

Family Promise

(L-R) Alexis Apeku ᾽20, Lauren Derwin ᾽20, Eita Nanda ᾽22, Lu Firestone, executive director of Family Promise of WNY, Bruce Hakes ᾽22, Mark Villanueva ᾽19, Shalonda Schickling ᾽19, Nana Sylla ᾽21, Matt Kochan and Melissa Mosko, PhD, associate professor of philosophy.

Student participants on the May immersion visited a combination of social service agencies, community-based organizations and public sector entities whose work intersects with IES themes: housing, criminal justice, education, community building health care and religion. Program highlights included visits to Family Promise of WNY to learn about causes of eviction and homelessness and Prisoners are People Too, where participants learned about the incarnation system and its systemic effects in individuals' lives and communities at large. The group also toured the Freedom Wall mural with one of the artists, Edreys Wajed, and attended church services at Bethel AME, a historically black church with a history of civic engagement on the East Side.
"Each person who participates in the immersion has his or her own goals,” said Mosko “As directors we hope to facilitate those individual goals. I hope to deepen Canisius' connection with the East Side, to form partnerships with community members and organizations that enable us to leverage our institutional resources for the benefit of their communities.”
Havis, who is committed to urban living, believes perceptions of such communities need to be re-examined.

“In urban communities, often there is the belief that individual failures have resulted in the conditions under which people live. These presumptions often do not analyze the systems and structures that have produced unjust conditions rather than seek to better understand how these structures limit or produce opportunity.”

“My participation in the East Side Immersion actually spurred my interest in living on the East Side,” added Mosko. “My family helps run an urban farm on the East Side and we are invested in rehabilitating some historical buildings in the community. As an educator who teaches political philosophy, my experiences in the immersion program give me a wealth of knowledge to illustrate the theories of injustice and justice that are embedded in our institutional and departmental learning goals and objectives.”

There are several ways for alumni to become involved with Immersion East Side. Alumni are welcome to join events and discussions during the fall and spring that are sponsored by the IES Program. Alumni working in the issues of housing, criminal justice, education, social services or politics in the city of Buffalo are welcome to reach out to the co-directors to build new partnerships or to serve as a leader for a student immersion. For more information, please contact Mosko at moskom@canisius.edu or Havis at havisd@canisius.edu.

If you would like to learn more about the Immersion East Side Program and upcoming events, please visit the IES website, Instagram and Facebook pages.

Sarah Signorino '04, '12, MS '09, director, Mission & Identity