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Project to tackle vulnerability

Amanda Gray | Thursday, February 9, 2012

The seventh annual Edith Stein Project will focus on vulnerability in relationships of every type, conference co-chair junior Margaret Kennedy said.

“The theme is ‘Encountering Vulnerability: Courage, Hope and Trust in the 21st Century,'” she said. “We chose to focus on vulnerability this year because we often see it in a negative connotation and run away from it. But we also have a positive necessity of vulnerability in relationships.”

Co-chair senior Rebecca Roden said 29 speakers will lecture on the many aspects of vulnerability in daily life.

“We thought vulnerability would be a good theme because there is a lot of variation in interpretation and a lot of different ways to go,” Roden said.

Professors from several universities, including Notre Dame and Holy Cross, will speak to the audience, as well as individuals in fields related to the conference theme.

Kennedy said Project Rachel founder Vicki Thorn will speak on the body’s physical response to love and relationships. Project Rachel is a ministry and resource for women experiencing grief after abortions, according to the project’s website.

“We always talk about that we can reduce love down to a series of chemical reactions,” Kennedy said. “But what happens after that? Vicki will look at this.”

Popular Notre Dame Philosophy professor David O’Connor will lecture on masculinity and vulnerability, Kennedy said. O’Connor teaches the course “Ancient Wisdom, Modern Love,” which reflects part of the theme of the conference, she said.

“He will be juxtaposing Christ and Socrates as examples of masculinity,” Kennedy said.

Roden said the planning committee aimed to place students on positive life trajectories and encourage acceptance of vulnerability.

“I hope students will have a better sense to answer the question, ‘What does it mean to be vulnerable in relationships with others?'” she said. “I want them to know that’s a positive thing.”

Kennedy said the conference always intends to echo the teachings of Edith Stein herself. Stein lived in Germany during the Nazi regime and was killed because of her Jewish heritage.

“She’s the patron of our conference because she wrote a lot about dignity of women,” Kennedy said.

Though the conference focuses on women from a Catholic perspective, Roden said she wants attendees to know the planning committee hopes to reach a broader audience.

“Male students, professors, staff — we want everyone to come,” she said. “Come and bring your questions. Even if you end up disagreeing with a talk or presentation, you could add to the question and answer session or still gain something from it.”

Kennedy said 250 students are expected to register.

“It’s really cool to bring together so many undergraduates,” Kennedy said. “To bring in that many is to spark a lot of fruitful dialogue.”

Kennedy said anyone can register for the conference up until it begins either online or at McKenna Hall, where the conference will be held.

The conference begins today at 12:45 p.m. and runs through Saturday.

A full schedule of events is available online at nd.edu/~idnd