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College plans for conference

Mandi Stirone | Friday, September 7, 2007

The John Templeton Foundation recently awarded Saint Mary’s a grant of $95,905 for its Center for Spirituality, which will use the money for a new project to discuss the interface between science and religion.

Sister Kathleen Dolphin, director of the Center for Spirituality, and Ed Ackerly, director for Business and Foundation Relations, worked together with other administrators to write the proposal for the grant.

“We had to write a very, very detailed proposal,” Dolphin said.

Several meetings last fall gathered ideas from interested faculty members to include in the proposal, she said. The money will fund “The Quest Project: Women Exploring the Science/Religion Interface.”

“The professors have a high sense of ownership in it,” she said.

The Quest Project has two major goals – to learn more about the “important questions facing us” and “to organize a conference at which the findings are to be presented,” Dolphin said.

Plans are still tentative since the grant was awarded to the Center less than three weeks ago, she said. She does know, however, that there will be book discussion groups, students working with professors on research projects, guest lectures, a Web site and a conference that will take place in April 2009.

The Web site for the Quest Project has not launched yet, but Dolphin said it should be up in early October. There will be a link on the Saint Mary’s Web site as well as on the Center for Spirituality Web site, she said.

“It will be easy to find once it gets up and running,” she said.

The project will involve professors and students at Saint Mary’s as well as other universities and colleges.

“I have close to 40 [Saint Mary’s] professors with whom I have been brainstorming,” Dolphin said.

The professors departments including science, religion and English.

“[The project] is wonderfully, creatively open to other modes of expression,” Dolphin said.

Students could, for example, present some kind of drama piece or dance performance as a “visual expression of how religion and science interact,” she said.

The conference, which students and faculty will have two years to prepare for, will include papers and presentations given by the students who help to organize it.

“The exciting thing is that our students are going to organize this major conference,” Dolphin said. “… [My] hope is that after having this conference we’ll have one every other year.”