UD faculty and students attend De Nicola Ethics Conference at Notre Dame

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A group of UD students attending the De Nicola Ethics Conference at Notre Dame. Photo courtesy of Isabella Childs

A contingent of UD professors and students traveled to the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind., to attend the conference: ‘I Have Called You by Name:’ Human Dignity in a Secular World. Held from Nov.11-14, the conference was organized by the De Nicola Center for Ethics and Culture.

This institution on the Notre Dame campus “is committed to sharing the richness and Catholic moral and intellectual tradition through teaching, research, and public engagement, at the highest level and across a range of disciplines,” according to the Center’s website.

The conference featured a number of speakers, ranging from members of academia in prestigious universities across the country to medical professionals, politicians, lawyers, journalists and clergy. 

UD’s Dr. Daniel Burns and Dr. Michael West of the politics and English departments, respectively, gave presentations. Burns’ presentation was titled “St. Augustine on the Meaning of Human Dignity” and West’s presentation was titled “‘Alike in Dignity’: Shakespeare and the Transformation of Human Dignity.”

16 students, who were invited by their department chairs to apply to attend the conference, received full funding for travel and had full access to the numerous conference talks and receptions.

The conference ran all day Friday and Saturday, from 8:00 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Students could choose between different colloquia, examining concepts of human dignity as exemplified in different disciplines and professions. Between conferences, at meals and over drinks at late night receptions, UD students met other students from Notre Dame, Christendom College and Benedictine College, as well as professors and other attendees.

On Friday morning, UD students met with Notre Law School faculty and staff at a private breakfast reception, to discuss opportunities at the Law School.

Dr. Philip Harold, Dean of Constantin College, organized the reception with the Notre Dame Law School and UD’s trip to the conference through his connection with O. Carter Snead, professor of law at Notre Dame and director of the De Nicola Center.

Harold said that he would like to create ties between UD and the Notre Dame Law School, and this desire is mutual between the two universities, Harold noted. The Notre Dame Law School is looking for intellectually rigorous and religiously devout students.

Although students had the opportunity to network, Harold said the primary purpose of attending the conference was intellectual formation and a view of the larger world of academia outside of UD.

“The primary goal is education, expanding your horizons, being inspired to learn more,” he said.

Harold said that when students are at their own university, working away at daily assignments, it’s hard to see the broad applicability of their education and place in the current academic conversation.

The UD students who attended the conference said they enjoyed it and received some education beyond what they normally receive in the classroom.

Sophomore politics major Giovanni Del Piero noted the importance of the conference’s topic. 

“I think the topic of dignity is one that needs a lot more discussion, especially in a time when many foundational concepts of humanity are being questioned and how we move forward,” he said.

Senior theology major Anamarie Garcia found that attending the conference confirmed her in her decision to become a teacher.

 “I really enjoyed the conference and talking to each other about the problems in the world like abortion, contraception, racism, that undermine human dignity … hearing the talks about every topic gave me a stronger urge to go out into the world and execute those solutions proposed,” she said. “I feel God is calling me more towards teaching, where I can interact with our youth and help them realize the truth of our human dignity.”

Senior psychology Andrea Vasquez said the conference didn’t help her choose a specific career path but broadened her career outlook. 

“I enjoyed the discussion of human dignity as it concerns our duties towards others. It was made clear to me that we fulfill and live out our dignity by attending to and thus affirming the dignity of our brothers in Christ. I’m not sure what this will look like for me after graduation, but it’s freeing to know that this vocation can be fulfilled in whatever types of lives and careers we choose to pursue.”

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