Inside USD

Rome Seminar Delves into Difference, Diversity

Monday, April 25, 2011

True to the nature of religion, there’s an unlimited reservoir of knowledge available, always an opportunity to delve deeper. At the University of San Diego, too, the chance to explore beyond the surface is an adventure not limited to USD students or on campus.

Eight USD professors — four in the College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) and two each from the Joan B. Kroc School of Peace Studies (KSPS) and School of Leadership and Education Sciences (SOLES) — spent the first week of January in Rome, enabling them to examine Catholic Social Teaching (CST) concepts through the theme, “The Meeting of Cultures: Encountering Difference and Diversity.”

This was the third annual Faculty Travel Immersion Seminar, hosted each year by USD’s Frances G. Harpst Center for Catholic Thought and Culture (CCTC). The 2011 participants were Mary McDonald, PhD, (SOLES, Leadership Studies), Harriet Baber, PhD, (CAS, Philosophy), Carole Huston, PhD, (CAS, Communication Studies), Necla Tschirgi, PhD, (KSPS), Belinda Lum, PhD, (CAS, Sociology), Evelyn Diaz Cruz, PhD, (CAS, Theatre Arts), Ami Carpenter, PhD, (KSPS) and Reyes Quezada, PhD, (SOLES, Learning and Teaching). CCTC Director and USD Theology and Religious Studies Professor Gerard Mannion, PhD, organized the seminar and accompanied the group to Rome.

The program consisted of academic sessions with lectures, analysis and discussions. Immersion experiences involved meetings with different organizations, offices and seeing historical and cultural sites connected to the theme, Mannion said. He, along with a group of scholars, Sandra Mazzolini (Rome’s Urbaniana University), Mary McClintock Fulkerson (Duke) and Peter Phan (Georgetown), prepared the USD professors for the program with a selection of reading materials.

The seminar included Professor Gioacchino Campese speaking about the challenges of pastoral care for migrants; a discussion about ‘otherness’; a historic look at Rome as a meeting point for cultures and faith; encountering difference and diversity; Catholicity, Pluralism, Inter-church relations (ecumenism); ‘Religious Other’ (Inter-faith relations); issues of gender, race, able-bodiedness/disability; migration and multiple belonging; and being religious inter-religiously.

The trip left Huston, and others, interested in continuing the seminar’s themed discussion back on the USD campus.

“I loved what Necla said, that she had learned so much from repeated interactions,” Huston said. “That’s what happened in Rome. We were so immersed from morning until night in these amazing discussions that it felt as though I had so little time. The readings were very intense and they scratched the surface. I want to learn a lot more. There are CST seminars done for new faculty members at USD I think it would be great for them to open them up to the rest of us.”

Staying next to St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City, the professors met with the Superior General and General Council of the Religious of the Sacred Heart, the community that co-founded USD. This meeting was a highlight of the trip for Lum.

“Being around the Sisters of the Sacred Heart was really inspiring,” she said. “How they think, try to embody openness, and live diversity and inclusion. I think all of us at USD could learn a lot if we reintroduced ourselves to their work, teachings and the way they live what they believe. In my opinion, I think our university would be a much stronger, more diverse and accepting place if we revisited the principles that guided USD’s founding order.”

Upon the professors’ return, each was assigned to write and present a topic aligned with the trip’s theme. Preliminary paper presentations took place at USD on March 28 and April 15. It is anticipated that the final versions of their respective works will be published in journal form, but a date has not been determined.

The professors’ papers are titled: “The Holding Environment for Dialogue: A Reflection on Nonprofit Scholarship and Practice,” McDonald; “What Kind of Ecumenism Should We Want?”,  Baber; “Encountering Difference and Developing Social Responsibility: The ‘Core’ in the Core Curriculum,” Huston; “Beyond Inter-faith and Inter-cultural Dialogue: The Foundations for International Solidarity,” Tschirgi; “Resilience Through Conflict (Resolution) – A Macro Perspective,” Carpenter; “Expanding Understandings of Dignity at Work: Teaching and Transforming Beyond the Other,” Lum; “The Shared Christian Praxis Methodology Learning Process: A Faculty’s Self-Reflection of the Learning Movements with Difference and Diversity in Rome,” Quezada; and “Diversity, Communication and Theatre: Crossing the Major Divides,” Diaz Cruz and  Huston.

Huston said she has collaborated with two of the Rome trip’s professors in her classroom this spring. “I went to Mary’s (McDonald) Strategic Directions class in Leadership Studies and ran an intercultural experience for them. Evelyn Diaz Cruz came to my Gender Communications class and did a theater exercise that allowed my students to experience difference and creativity around their own identity.”

Much like the trip to Rome, Huston said she encourages other USD faculty to sign up for the January 2012 immersion trip.

“What would I tell other faculty? Go!,” she said. “Go meet Gerard Mannion and talk to him. He’s quite an amazing theologian. I think he brings a unity and depth of understanding to Catholicity I’ve never experienced before.”

— Ryan T. Blystone

Learn more about the history of the Frances G. Harpst Center for Catholic Thought and Culture’s Faculty Immersion Travel Seminar.

Dr. Mannion has a detailed account of the Rome seminar trip available.

Photo courtesy of Belinda Lum.

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