Fairfield University to host "Transforming the World and Being Transformed" bringing together all of nation's Jesuit universities as well as developing countries


From June 18-21, Fairfield University will host the  "Transforming the World and Being Transformed" conference, during which representatives from the nation's 28 Jesuit universities and colleges, and from developing countries, including Nicaragua, India, and Colombia, will discuss avenues for working together to strengthen the tradition of social justice that is the hallmark of a Jesuit education.

Fairfield University President Rev. Jeffrey P. von Arx, S.J., said the event underscores the University's tradition of helping society's marginalized and service to the community. "We're honored to host this event to facilitate the forwarding of this important initiative that is at the cornerstone of a Jesuit education."

This is the third such Commitment to Justice in Jesuit Higher Education meeting of members of the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities (AJCU), with the previous two conferences having taken place at Santa Clara University in 2000 and John Carroll University in 2005.

A team of Fairfield faculty, chaired by Janie Leatherman, Ph.D., director of International Studies and professor of politics, and Kurt C. Schlichting, Ph.D., the E. Gerald Corrigan Chair in sociology and anthropology at Fairfield University, have been working with the national committee in developing the conference program. Panels and presentations will consider diversity issues, graduate education, international immersion, teaching social change, and Africa and social justice, among other issues.

Winston Tellis, Ph. D., professor of Information Systems and Operations Management at Fairfield, said that the conference will bring together colleagues from all Jesuit colleges and universities in the United States, and some from developing countries, sponsored by sister institutions in the U.S. "The attendees will share their continuing concern for the plight of the poor and disadvantaged around the world, and reflect on an appropriate response. The presentations include a wide range of topics on academic and experiential efforts in the developing world. Attendees should leave with a renewed sense of purpose and feel encouraged by the support from peers."

Keynote addresses will be delivered by Rev. Rick Ryscavage, S.J., director of Fairfield University's Center for Faith and Public Life and professor of sociology; British Robinson, director of Public-Private Partnerships of the Office of the United States Global AIDS Coordinator and a member of the Center for Faith and Public Life's advisory council; and Rev. Charles Onyango Oduke, S.J., assistant professor of philosophy at Boston College.

Fr. Ryscavage said of his keynote: "Jesuits had an enormous influence on the creation of some of the greatest papal social encyclicals but within the Church today I find some confusion over how to situate Jesuit values - such as the promotion of justice - within the broader tradition of Catholic Social Thought. My talk will try to connect the Jesuit impulse of  'faith doing justice' with the social doctrine of the Church."

In October 2000, the 28 Jesuit universities and colleges sent delegates to the first Commitment to Justice in Jesuit Higher Education Conference. Those attending were asked to consider this question: "How can Jesuit colleges and universities express faith-filled concern for justice in what they are as Christian academies of higher learning, in what their faculty do, and in what their students become?" Since then, Jesuit campuses nationwide have bolstered their service and social justice projects.

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Media Contact: Meg McCaffrey, (203) 254-4000, ext. 2726, mmccaffrey@fairfield.edu

Posted on May 8, 2009

Vol. 41, No. 334