Seton Hall University

06/10/2022 | News release | Archived content

Catholic Social Thought in Action Academy Provides Progress Updates at Petersheim

Seton Hall's Catholic Social Thought in Action (CST in Action), an Academy established in November 2021 through the Provost's Office and the Office of Grants and Research Services Innovation Challenge Grant to deepen research, is already bearing fruit, and its work can be seen across the campus in academic work, through the growing emphasis on service-learning, and through its work to inspire the next generation of researchers and collaborators. The Academy's participation in the Petersheim Academic Exposition in April gave its leadership team members the opportunity to extend the work of the Academy in all three of these areas.

The University received 22 competitive Academy proposals from cross-disciplinary faculty who expressed a desire to work together to bring new learning and research opportunities to students, while opening avenues to serve the wider community. CST in Action was one of seven selected as an Academy for 2021-2024.

A result of collaboration among the Catholic Studies Program; the Department of Sociology, Anthropology, Social Work and Criminal Justice; Immaculate Conception Seminary School of Theology; and the University Core that focuses on integrating principles of Catholic Social Teaching with the Social Work curriculum in a manner that respects students with diverse religious beliefs, the CST in Action Academy has a tripartite mission:

  • To develop a Core 3 "Catholic Studies and Social Work" course
  • To develop a "Catholic Studies in Action" service-learning course; and
  • To present at many conferences and host a conference on integrating Catholic Social thought and social work.

The efforts of CST in Action leadership team, Dr. Ines Murzaku, Director of the Catholic Studies Program, Professor of Religion; Dr. Dawn Apgar, Director of BSW Program, Assistant Professor of Social Work; Dr. Anthony Nicotera, Assistant Professor of Social Work; Amanda Cavanagh, Assistant Director, DOVE, Social Work MSW student; and Giselle Pineda, Undergraduate Student Leader, have led to the creation of both a CORE 3 Global Justice course, cross-listed in Social Work and Catholic Studies and a service-learning CORE 3 course, cross-listed in Social Work and Catholic Studies.

Dr. Nicotera explained that the Academy has also "hosted presentations and conversations with scholars at the intersection of CST and Social Work, including a Petersheim Academic Exposition event with Dr. Barbara Shank entitled Social Work for Social Justice: Teaching to Mission - Integrating Catholic Social Teaching into Social Work Education, and an event co-sponsored with the Student Social Work Association, entitled An Intentional Struggle: Toward A Systemic Approach To Addressing Social Justice Within Catholic Higher Education, with Dr. Julia Pryce and Bridget Colacchio from Loyola Chicago."

"The CST in Action Academy's focus on 'Catholic Social Teaching in Action' underscores the importance of not only understanding the correlation between Catholic Social Thought and social work, but also putting these concepts into direct practice," said Ms. Cavanagh. "For the fall 2022 semester, the leadership team is organizing a mission to the Romero Center in Camden, New Jersey, which will focus on themes such as equity, cultural competence, the preferential option for the poor, subsidiarity, and various other social justice themes. These themes will be discussed and unpacked throughout the mission, and the semester, in such a way as to identify their overlaps with both Catholic Social Thought and social work practice." Ms. Cavanagh went on to explain that the goal of this mission trip, along with future international missions, is "to provide meaningful and educational cultural opportunities." She emphasized: "These 'in action' experiences are essential as building genuine relationships and better understanding the true meaning of compassion will truly form students' minds, hearts, and spirits."

CST in Action's Petersheim Exposition presentation on April 27 gave team leaders an opportunity to present the Academy's innovative work to the Seton Hall community.

"We were excited to be able to share the experiences and plans of the Academy with Seton Hall students, faculty, staff, administrators, and alumni through the panel discussion Catholic Social Thought in Action: Integrating Catholic Studies and Social Work Pedagogy and Practice," said Dr. Murzaku. "The Provost's Office and the Office of Grants and Research Services had great insight when they developed the grant program for interdisciplinary Academies at Seton Hall. As we have learned through Catholic Studies, interdisciplinary efforts truly enrich university education and prepare students for their careers and for lives of service to others. Although the CST in Action Academy is young, it is already fulfilling its mission and leading to innovations in practice and scholarship."