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Faculty discusses stewardship in public panel

A panel of five faculty members discussed stewardship in Luparello hall on Oct. 24 as part of the Liberal Arts Symposium. The annual panel was created and is spearheaded by Anthony Serapiglia, assistant professor of computing and information science.

The panel members consisted of Br. Norman Hipps O.S.B., president; Dr. Phyllis Riddle, professor of sociology/anthropology; Thomas Octave, assistant professor of music; Dr. Jeffrey Godwin, associate professor of business administration; and Dr. Cynthia Walter, associate professor of biology.

After Serapiglia’s introduction, each speaker presented an address to stewardship for approximately ten minutes.

Hipps related the project that created a natural system which purifies the local wetlands that were polluted from iron oxide to stewardship.

“It was an exciting project because it took care of the land, it took care of the water, it engaged people from the natural sciences from biology from chemistry, and then we were able to invite artists to come and capture what they saw,” Hipps said.

Riddle, who spoke next, defined stewardship as taking care of people and things. She discussed the lack of food security in different parts of the world, inefficiencies in agriculture and the prevalence of littering. Riddle suggested to the audience to do what they can to alleviate these problems.

“Stewardship can be challenging because stewardship can ask you to change how you live your life for the benefit of the community,” Riddle said.

Next, Octave explained that, to be stewards, people must ask themselves what they have to offer others, just as artists assess what unique talents they have.

“So often I think in our world people don’t realize how gifted they are and what that unique gift they might have is,” Octave said. “And so many projects call forth from us gifts we didn’t even know we had.”

Godwin presented next, and explained that management concepts, such as efficiency, effectiveness, leadership and operational excellence, are important parts of stewardship.

Godwin discussed his involvement in hospice care, specifically how he and his coworkers tried to fulfil the wishes of the patients and to provide them comfort.

“You have to be able to be operating efficiently and effectively in order to even be able to do those things. And it just raises the quality of care,” Godwin said.

Walter was the last to present. She said that purchasing foods locally and learning about threats of military conflict are ways to practice stewardship. At the end of the event, Walter handed out apples produced by a local farmer, and fans that related to a story about global unity.

“We can learn about nuclear weapons – science, history, policies,” Walter said, “and we can join others to actively pursue better, alternative paths to US security and global peace.”

When the presentations were complete, a half hour discussion took place between the audience members, who asked questions, and the panel members.

Frank Boehm, a freshman cybersecurity major, asked questions pertaining to water and food security.

“Nowadays, you cannot hear different viewpoints on the same topic,” Boehm said. “It’s always nice to hear the other side, and look at the world without rose-shaded glasses.”

Boehm considered different points made by the presenters as “eye openers.”

“If you want to expand your viewpoints on the topic being talked about, here stewardship, and if you want to learn how other people do the same thing different, then [a student should] come to this,” Boehm said.

Serapiglia said that when he attended a liberal arts college, he attended a symposium made up of faculty from different fields, discussing the topic of the mind.

Serapiglia described that the creative writer on the panel said no one knows where creative thought comes from, the psychologist said that the mind cannot be physically mapped, and the theologian asked whether the mind is a physical construct at all.

“To hear these nuanced viewpoints on a topic I had set in concrete really opened my mind up to the curiosity of being a well-rounded person and recognizing the different viewpoints that were possible,” Serapiglia said.

Serapiglia instituted the symposium at Saint Vincent in 2011, and said he includes a representative from each school in each panel. He does not ask what the panel members will talk about prior to the event.

“By populating the panel by people from different disciplines, it naturally takes care of itself that way,” Serapiglia said. “It makes for an interesting night for me because I reserve the right to be surprised, and it never ceases to be surprising.”

Serapiglia said that recently, he has been trying to align the topic of the discussion to a theme from the First -Year Seminar, as the target audience of the symposium is freshmen, even though all community members are invited.

Serapiglia began and ended the symposium by quoting John Henry Newman, a nineteenth century cardinal and theologian.

“There is a quote I use from Cardinal John Henry Newman talking about intellectual curiosity and the philosophical habit, and it comes from his discourses of a university that explains the structure that becomes the foundation of what we call liberal arts today,” Serapiglia said. “And the particular lecture this quote comes from is ‘Knowledge as its Own End.’ And that is, I think, the real goal of what a student at Saint Vincent should be trying to accomplish. Obtaining a philosophical habit, a curiosity to want to participate in these kinds of intellectual discussions, and if for nothing else just to have the knowledge be its own end.”

There were about 18 audience members at the symposium this year. Serapiglia said the event usually averages around 40 attendees, and has had many as 100.

Serapiglia said he was excited by the audience and its participation, and that he will hold the annual symposium again in the fall of 2018.

Photo: Matthew Wojtechko

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