Elms College Selects Carolyn Jacobs, M.S.W., Ph.D., as 2017 Commencement Speaker

College of Our Lady of the Elms is pleased to announce that renowned social work professor and spiritual director Carolyn Jacobs, M.S.W., Ph.D., will deliver the commencement address and receive an honorary degree at the 86th commencement ceremony on Saturday, May 20, 2017.

“We are grateful for Dr. Jacobs’ willingness to send our students off with a great message and example of a life lived for others,” said Elms College President Mary Reap, IHM, Ph.D. “We are honored that Dr. Jacobs is a trustee of the college, and that she is such a positive role model for our graduating students.”

Jacobs’s dedicated career in social work and spirituality fits perfectly with Elms College’s commitment to engaging students in the great moral issues of our time. As commencement speaker, she will deliver an inspirational message to the Class of 2017 about the importance of faith, community, and social justice in their futures and careers.

“I am honored to be chosen as commencement speaker at Sr. Mary Reap’s last Elms commencement as president,” Jacobs said. “During my tenure as trustee, I have experienced the enormous development of the college.” Some examples she specified include new programs on campus and off campus, renovation and construction of new buildings, and a strengthened commitment to Catholic identity.

“This commitment is important to me as I consider what is happening on college campuses these days,” Jacobs added. “I am deeply concerned that many colleges and universities are graduating students without a grounding or exposure to values that enable them to continue developing spiritually and with a commitment to use their education in service of others.”

Jacobs’s professional interests include religion and spirituality in social work clinical practice and organizational behavior, and her teaching has been primarily within the research and practice sequences. She has written and presented extensively on the topic of spirituality in social work. In 2001, she was elected to the National Academies of Practice as a distinguished social work practitioner.

She retired from Smith in May 2015 but retains the title and honor of dean emerita of the Smith College School for Social Work. She has been a member of the SSW faculty for 34 years; for 14 of those years, she served as the dean and Elizabeth Marting Treuhaft Professor.

In addition to her academic and social work careers, she also helps others through the practice of spiritual direction, which means that she guides people as they discover or deepen their personal spirituality or relationships to God.

Jacobs received her B.A. from Sacramento State University and her M.S.W. from San Diego State University; she earned her doctorate at the Heller School of Brandeis University, and underwent training as a spiritual director from the Shalem Institute for Spiritual Formation.

She currently serves on the board of directors for the Mind & Life Institute in Charlottesville, Va​.; this organization was cofounded by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, together with contemplative neuroscientist Francisco Varela and entrepreneur Adam Engle. In addition to Elms College, she also serves on the board of trustees for Naropa University in Boulder, Colo., as well as on the advisory committee for the Montague Catholic Social Ministries.

“In a world of uncertainty, excellence in intellectual and spiritual development enables one to successfully compete in the workplace while clearly discern one’s gifts of service for others,” Jacobs said. “I hope that the Class of 2017 will engage in lifelong learning, continue to explore their spiritual development and actively commit to serving others.”