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Stein conference returns to campus

Madeline Buckley | Monday, January 19, 2009

The Identity Project of Notre Dame will host the fourth annual Edith Stein conference, which addresses what it means to be a woman and focuses on issues that affect women.

This year’s conference, which will be on Feb. 13-14 and is entitled “Love: What Hurts and What Works,” will specifically look at love, and how distortions of love can hurt and how authentic love can heal, said Caitlin Podlaski, president of the Identity project. The conference will also address issues such as eating disorders, sexual violence, self image and relationships.

Podlaski said the conference is about getting at the heart of what it means to be a woman and creating discourse on real issues women confront every day.

“As Notre Dame students, we are women investing a lot in ourselves and in our education, and it’s a hard decision to make, whether we are going to get married and have kids, pursue a career, or do both,” Podlaski said.

Co-Vice president of the Identity Project Joanna Emilian said the conference builds on the goals of the Identity Project, which are based in starting conversations about living life in a way that is healthy, fulfilling and in accord with human dignity.

“As people, we have questions inside of us and we are looking for answers,” Emilian said. “We want to answer these questions in a way that is uplifting, and will help us live in a way that is truly fulfilling to us.”

The conference will host more than 20 speakers who will present on themes such as motherhood and fatherhood, violence against women, pornography, eating disorders and homosexuality, Podlaski said.

“We really want to emphasize that this is positive, not reactionary,” Podlaski said. “This is dialogue that needs to happen.”

Among the speakers will be a psychologist who will discuss the differences between men’s and women’s brains and how that affects the way they express love. The conference will also feature a woman who is the mother of 10 and a Ph.D. candidate in economics, students who will share personal stories about struggles with pornography and eating disorders and Bishop D’Arcy of the diocese of Forth Wayne-South Bend, Podlaski said.

“We feel blessed to have the support of the Bishop as well as Father Jenkins,” she said.

Podlaski added the Identity Project would like to have Notre Dame freshman Melissa Buddie speak at the event. Buddie, who wrote a letter to The Observer on Nov. 13, criticizing the hook up culture, would speak as part of a panel examining true beauty and the hook up culture, she said.

Emilian said the conference also has the support of many different groups on campus who want to find common ground and discuss these issues.

“It’s not about liberal or conservative. It’s not about Catholic or not Catholic,” she said.

Emilian and Podlaski said the conference was a freeing experience for them the first time they attended it three years ago.

“It was so liberating for me leaving the conference the first time,” Podlaski said. “I had a deeper understanding of who I was and how I could be a happier person. It was like a sense of floating.”

Emilian added: “You feel a lot of pressure in today’s world,” Emilian said. “I went to the conference and it was very affirming that I am free to be who I am. It was exhilarating.”