Viterbo University Strides Magazine Online

The Story Beyond our Placement Rates

“There is no higher good than human service. To work for the common good is the greatest creed.”
-- Albert Schweitzer 

Viterbo touts a 98 percent placement rate. No doubt about it, the statistic is impressive and certainly reveals Viterbo’s contribution -- nearly 350 undergraduate and an equal number of graduate students per year -- supplying America with a generous allotment of new and highly trained workers.

But not all of our graduates grab their diplomas, pass “Go” and head off to the nearest perfect job. Some choose to go a completely different route.

They pass on the “good” job, the fabulous salary, the remarkable opportunity, leaving us to ponder, “Why?”

Why choose otherwise? Why poverty and hardship rather than security and comfort?

Blame it on Viterbo’s founding order of Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration. That’s all I can figure. The sisters, after all, championed the idea that a little peace and justice and service to others never got in the way of a good education.

And today, long after the sisters got the ball rolling, our students and alumni continue to be inspired with an infectious desire to serve. Examples can be found everywhere.

Sister Rosemary Nfunji (above left), who is from Cameroon, Africa, graduated Magna Cum Laude in May. A member of the Tertiary Sisters of St. Francis, she returns to her country with a bachelor’s degree in nursing 

“I’m ready to go home,” she says. “I’m needed and I want to work for my people.” Sr. Nfunji has worked in nursing homes and schools, orphanages, or wherever she is needed in her impoverished nation of 14.5 million. Most recently, she worked with the poor in villages, teaching Cameroonians how to improve sanitation, prevent illness, keep water clean, and to recognize and treat simple illness before more serious sickness or even death occurs. Frequently she vaccinates for tuberculosis, measles, whooping cough, and polio.

“It’s hard to get to a faraway hospital on impassible roads,” she says. “When a person is sick, they must be carried for miles on someone’s back because the buses and taxis can’t reach them.”

Most people struggle with daily survival and can’t pay for this ministry or many of the services provided at the remotely located health centers. But Sr. Nfunji and the other sisters manage to survive. “If a person cannot pay, sometimes they
will bring a chicken, a basket of ground nuts, or a bag of corn. We do not turn anyone away.”

Sr. Nfunji hopes to teach others what she has learned at Viterbo, thereby multiplying the benefits of the precious three years she has spent here. She will also be teaching at the Shisong Nursing School, helping others to serve the basic needs of the people.

For all of this, she thanks the FSPA and Viterbo. Her Viterbo stint is the result of a happy coincidence that came about several years ago when Marla Lang, FSPA met with other Franciscans at a worldwide conference in Assisi. Sr. Lang became acquainted with Sr. Nfunji’s provincial superior, and the needs of Cameroon, and an effort to reach out to Third World countries was born.

Sr. Nfunji is grateful for the outcome.

“My time here has given me strength and renewed my energy. I have learned much, thanks to the kindness and generosity of the FSPA and others.”

What makes Sr. Nfunji’s story so remarkable is that she is just one of many equally remarkable stories that “graduate” out of Viterbo every year. Most are not members of religious orders and their motivations are as varied as one can imagine.

One serves meals at La Crosse’s Place of Grace Catholic Worker House (Mickey Collins ’89 above right). Another was a human rights observer stationed at the Guatemalan border. One of our promising pre-med students went on to medical school, graduated, and joined the Peace Corp to treat the poorest of our world. Many stay within our borders, teaching inner-city children, serving as social workers, lay ministers, and hospice workers. Their pensions are most likely poor, retirement prospects limited, and stock portfolios non-existent. But they go on to find meaning in life that is rich, immeasureable, and very real.

It is impossible to know how many of our alumni are choosing these types of career paths. They are a modest lot and consequently their names don’t show up in class notes or in other more public forums. 

So, to all of you who are serving others; for those able to do what we can’t…thanks. Viterbo’s placement rate stands at 98 percent. And within that figure is a statistic representing your story. Your service is a compliment to the FSPA and to your educators and is a source of pride that goes to the very reason for our existence.

Pat Kerrigan-- Do you have an idea for a Final Word?
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