Arts, Faith and Humanities

Welcome Table

Written by Mike Thee

June 2, 2014

a closeup of thin taper beeswax candles inside the St. Ignatius chapel

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Seattle University will facilitate an important dialogue this month when it hosts "The Welcome Table: Interfaith Women in Dialogue in Catholic Higher Education." The biennial conference is being presented by the National Association for Women in Catholic Higher Education (NAWCHE) June 18-20. 

NAWCHE began at Boston College in 1992. Five years ago, Seattle University became the organization's home institution, and our very own Mary-Antoinette Smith, associate professor of English (right), serves as its executive director. NAWCHE's objectives are to facilitate support of one another; create, organize and disseminate work for justice in the academy; and provide a forum for members to speak out on matters relevant to women's issues in the academy, especially those concerns unique to Catholic institutions. 

"We're very excited about hosting this conference, which includes a wide range of themes and topics of interest and importance to us a Jesuit and Catholic institution concerned with issues pertinent to the academic, administrative, spiritual and personal lives and well-being of women and our allies at Catholic institutions of higher education." 

Smith stresses the inclusive nature of the conference and NAWCHE itself. "This conference will offer inviting and open forums for dialogues and sharing in communal opportunities to listen, support, and create the kinds of allyship and solidarity that is the hallmark of NAWCHE." 

Three of our colleagues will keynote the conference, bringing a diversity of perspectives to the conversation: Jodi O'Brien, professor of sociology and Wismer Professor (tentatively titled "Stained-Glass Ceilings: Religion, Leadership, and the Cultural Politics of Belonging"); Connie Kanter, chief financial officer and vice president of finance and business affairs ("Orthodox Jew Adopts a Jesuit"); and Sonora Jha, associate professor of communication/journalism ("Transforming Scholarship: Social Justice, The Story, and the Jesuit Institution"). 

More than 80 presenters and attendees have registered for the conference thus far, including SU faculty, staff, undergrads/graduate students, and alumni; as well as presenters from Loyola Marymount, Santa Clara University, St. John's University, Regis University, Our Lady of the Lake University, University of Detroit Mercy and the University of Dayton. 

The conference will also feature a book reading with contributors to Unruly Catholic Women Writers: Creative Responses to Catholicism , in addition to screening two films, "The Invisible War" and "Grace at the Margins: A Social Justice Musical."

Currently comprised of 25 institutions and counting, NAWCHE continues to grow. Smith says the organization is planning to expand its membership and engage with international Catholic institutions of higher education in the next few years.

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