Protecting our Home; Shaping our Future

Protecting our Home; Shaping our Future

President Harris and Professor Boudrias holding Laudato Si' document

Changing the world for the better. That’s what is at the heart of the University of San Diego’s Changemaker mission — exploring social justice issues, educating the next generation of active citizens and recognizing our interconnectedness.

Guided by Pope Francis’ encyclical, Laudato Si', the Torero community is called upon to join in the global dialogue to discuss the ways our actions and decisions impact the planet. Six years since the release of Laudato Si', the campus has continued to explore new and innovative ways to address our role in caring for our common home.

In Spring 2021, the university launched a seven-part speaker series on Laudato Si’, exploring the six chapters of the papal encyclical. On Oct. 13, USD made a bold and decisive move toward advancing that exploration by signing a commitment to officially become a University of Laudato Si', as acknowledged by the Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development. The campus event featured a conversation between USD President James T. Harris III, DEd, and Michel Boudrias, PhD, an associate professor of Environmental and Ocean Sciences and director of the Care for Our Common Home Strategic Pathway. The university joins a select group of national and international colleges and universities who have committed to developing and implementing action plans guided by the seven goals of Laudato Si’:

  • Respond to the Cry of the Earth
  • Respond to the Cry of the Poor
  • Foster Ecological Economics
  • Adopt a Sustainable Lifestyle
  • Offer Ecological Education
  • Develop Ecological Spirituality
  • Support Local Communities

“USD's vision statement says, ‘USD sets the standard for an engaged, contemporary Catholic University where innovative Changemakers confront humanity's urgent challenges,’” says Jeffrey Burns, PhD, director for the Center for Catholic Thought. “There is no more urgent challenge than the climate crisis. Pope Francis has made this a central initiative of his pontificate. Addressing climate change is integral to our claim to be an ‘engaged, contemporary Catholic University.’”

Events like the University of Laudato Si' signing and panel discussion provide an opportunity to readdress the campus’ commitment to sustainability and our role in protecting the planet for current and future generations.

"The key messages of Laudato Si' can be summarized as (1) climate change is real and happening now, (2) the impacts disproportionately affect disadvantaged communities and (3) we must work together to solve humanity’s urgent challenges,” says Boudrias. This is why, in addition to campus events, Laudato Si’ has informed classroom discussions, new faculty fellow programs and can be seen in the university’s newly adopted investment policy.

“This change to the investment policy reflects the university’s commitment to social justice, stewardship of the planet, protection of human life and dignity, and promotion of the common good into its investments,” said President Harris in an Oct. 4 message to the campus community. “The revised policy outlines our approach to Socially Responsible Investing (SRI) and Environmental, Social and Governance practices (ESG), including investments in enterprises having a positive social impact and demonstrated commitments to diversity, equity and inclusion.”

As the university continues to explore its connection to Laudato Si’ and its role in caring for our world, Burns sees continued discussions as a way to ensure a renewed commitment to the planet.

“We have to generate an urgency to a problem that people only vaguely acknowledge. The whole world literally hangs in the balance, but it is difficult to gain traction,” says Burns. “By popularizing the papal program and USD initiatives, we hope to make people more aware of the problem and more committed to addressing it.”

— Allyson Meyer ’16 (BA), ’21 (MBA)

Video by Tyler Graham