Catholic Studies Think Tank of the International Federation of Catholic Universities Holds December 2022 Meeting
On December 16, Seton Hall University hosted participants from across the world at a Zoom meeting of the Catholic Studies Think Tank of theInternational Federation of Catholic Universities (IFCU). At the meeting, Seton Hall's Catholic Studies Program and Department and its new initiatives emerged as models for international universities to follow in the design and implementation of Catholic Studies programs. The Catholic Studies Think Tank is led by Seton Hall University, with Ines Murzaku, Ph.D., Director of the Catholic Studies Program and Professor of Religion, as the coordinator.
Seton Hall University joined the prestigious IFCU in 2021, and since then has made many contributions to the organization. Additionally, Seton Hall has benefited from its membership in the IFCU, having established many affiliations between Seton Hall and Catholic universities around the world, as well as study abroad opportunities for Seton Hall students and international research and pedagogy collaborations for faculty. This summer, Katia Passerini, Ph.D., Seton Hall Provost and Executive Vice President, was elected to the Administrative Board of the IFCU, on which she is now serving a three-year term as the representative of North America on the Board.
At the December 16 meeting, attendees discussed new resources for Catholic Studies programs, as well as collaborative initiatives between Catholic universities. Online and in-person programs were discussed. Two new programs, in particular, garnered a great deal of attention.
First, the Catholic University of South Sudan, with which Seton Hall began a fruitful partnership in 2021, has established a Catholic Studies Peace minor program of study, under the direction of Reverend Ibiko Morris Masiri, Ph.D., Director of the St. John's Yambio Campus of the Catholic University of South Sudan.
Second, Seton Hall's own new Catholic Studies and Social Work double major program was recognized as a model for potential similar programs, on an international level. Anthony Nicotera, J.D., D.S.W., M.S.W., Assistant Professor of Social Work, who collaborated in the formation of the program with Murzaku and Dawn Apgar, Ph.D., Director of the Bachelor of Arts in Social Work program, explained the motivations behind the establishment of this program and the successes the new double major has already seen.
Supported in its expansion by the generous support the Provost's Office and the Office of Grants and Research Services Innovation Challenge Grant, the Catholic Social Thought in Action Academy at Seton Hall is the broader framework in which the new Catholic Studies and Social Work double major program is flourishing. Inspired by Mother Teresa's spirituality in action, Murzaku, Nicotera, and Apgar have successfully sought out ways to expand the reach of the program, with each new development giving Seton Hall students more opportunities to gain valuable work experience while putting Catholic social thought into action. Most recently, the program announced a prestigious partnership with St. Joseph's University Medical Center, which provides students with internships in which they promote public health and serve some of the most vulnerable populations in New Jersey.
Discussing the recent meeting, Murzaku said, "As I was facilitating this meeting of the IFCU Catholic Studies Think Tank, I was struck by the similar challenges that Catholic Studies programs around the world face, as well as by how all participants in the meeting value collaboration as a way to give students a genuine, universal Catholic Studies experience that immerses them in real-world problems."
She continued, "The beauty of Catholic Studies is that it sees challenges and problems as opportunities – it has a broad view of the whole person, the whole human race. We recognize that by working together, we can solve problems and alleviate suffering, bringing Christ to the world. Our own Catholic Studies and Social Work double major does just that, and we are looking forward to finding even more effective ways to use this program as a tool not just to prepare students for their future, but to help them live more attentively and completely in the present."