Boisi Center staff members regularly teach courses at Boston College in political science and theology, the latter of which are also open to students in the Boston Theological Institute. The Center also offers Boston College students, faculty, staff and alumni the opportunity to join annual symposia, in which participants read and discuss primary texts and current events related to religion and politics.
Past educational initiatives include summer seminars on religion and public life for American college professors (supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities) and for foreign Muslim religious leaders and scholars (supported by the U.S. State Department) and the Catholic Intellectual Traditions Seminar, held in 2009, in which a diverse body of faculty members discussed opportunities offered by Catholic intellectual traditions.
The Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life hosts year-long faculty seminars during the academic year on various topics relevant to today's society. It is an interdisciplinary seminar among ten - twelve Boston College faculty members across different disciplines to help bridge the gap in dialogue and foster conversations.
The Boisi Center hosted a year-long faculty seminar during the 2017-18 academic year, "What Does Citizenship Mean in America Today?" It was an interdisciplinary dialogue among twelve BC faculty on the role and meaning of citizenship in contemporary America, as well as the prospects for democracy in the new landscape of American culture.
Among the "big ideas" considered: the distinction between legal and normative conceptions of citizenship, and the implications of each; the relationship between ethnic nationalism, multiculturalism, and "globalism" (and thus "global citizenship"); "civil religion" and its various critics; the ethical impulses informing political activism; civil disobedience and prophetic witness; the concept of open borders; and the viability of past "answers" (such as "Christian realism").
Faculty Symposium 2017–2018 Participants
- Jeff Bloechl, philosophy
- David Deese, political science
- Frank Garcia, law
- Candace Hetzner, associate dean for academic affairs, GMAS
- Ken Himes, O.F.M., theology
- M. Cathleen Kaveny, law & theology
- Mark Massa, S.J., theology
- Arissa Oh, history
- Erik Owens, theology
- Vincent Rougeau, law
- Martin Summers, History and African and African Diaspora Studies Program
- Mara Willard, visiting scholar
Over the course of the 2017-2018 academic year, Mark Massa, S. J., convened an inter-disciplinary faculty seminar on the theme of “Citizenship.” Each meeting was held at the Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life, represented by both Erik Owens and Mara Willard. Candace Hetzner joined from the Morrissey College’s Office of the Dean, and spoke from her perspective in political science, along with David Deese who represented the department of political science. Jeffrey Bloechl provided insights from the faculty of philosophy. From the Law School came Vincent Rougeau, Frank Garcia, and M. Cathleen Kaveny. Theology was represented by Kenneth Himes (and Kaveny). Arissa Oh and Martin Summers provided perspectives from history.
In a capstone session, participants reflected upon the tremendous success of the faculty seminar. Connections over lunch and the exchange of ideas across disciplines had succeeded in deepening collegiality and intellectual curiosity across the schools of Boston College. Global citizenship proved to be a robust organizing site for the sharing of brief, externally-sourced papers that sparked analysis and conversation. The conversations ranged from theological anthropology to “deep green religion,” from the importance of institutions in maintaining the strength of civil society to legal and cultural questions about whether believers participate as equal citizens in American life. Each were agreed to be unusually smart, connected to the trying issues of the day, and yet leavened by friendship and sustenance.
The faculty seminar for academic year 2018/19 was entitled “Liberal Arts Education in the Age of Trump.” It featured a cadre of distinguished faculty from across Boston College.
Its participants were: Paulo Barrozo, associate professor in the Law School; Mary Crane, Thomas F. Rattigan Professor in the English department; Andrew Davis, associate professor of Old Testament at the Boston College School of Theology and Ministry (STM); Franklin Harkins, associate professor of historical theology and church history at the STM; Mark Massa, S.J., director of the Boisi Center; Eve Spangler, associate professor in the sociology department; Eileen Sweeney, professor in the philosophy department; Eric Weiskott, associate professor in the English department; James Weiss, associate professor in the theology department; and Patricia Weitzel-O’Neill, executive director of the Barbara and Patrick Roche Center for Catholic Education.
The conversations at this seminar ran the gamut, from discussions about new models of education, to why students are pushed to major in STEM fields, to the over-arching question: what are the liberal arts for?
The faculty seminar for academic year 2019/20 is entitled "Catholic and Jesuit Education: BC's Mission." It features a cadre of distinguished faculty from across Boston College.
This year's participants include: Boyd Coolman, theology department; Mary Crane, English department; Kerry Cronin, Perspectives Program and philosophy department; Susan Gennaro, Connell School of Nursing; Angela Harkins, School of Theology and Ministry; Maureen Kenny, Lynch School of Education and Human Development; Mark Massa, S.J., Boisi Center and theology department; Michael Magree, S.J., theology department; Theresa O'Keefe, School of Theology and Ministry; Eve Spangler, sociology department; Eileen Sweeney, philosophy department; Meghan Sweeney, Pulse Program and theology department; Andrea Vicini, S.J., theology department; and Melodie Wyttenbach, Roche Center for Catholic Education.
Faculty Reading Group
The Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life hosts an interdisplinary faculty reading group on prominent American Catholic intellectuals. These conversations include faculty from across Boston College schools and departments who meet once a month, centered around a dinner, to dissect and discuss a series of passages that follow the trajectory of an author's work. Our aim is to enhance a collective understanding of the Catholic intellectual tradition through the shared study of one of its most influential American figures, and to build lasting bridges between departments.
Spring 2019: Flannery O'Connor
During the spring semester of 2019 a faculty group convened by Jeff Bloechl (Philosophy) and Mark Massa (Theology / Boisi Center) met once each month to discuss the fiction, prose and graphic art of the southern Catholic writer, Flannery O'Connor.
The faculty reading group featured an equally interdisciplinary cast, including: Jeffrey Bloechl, associate professor in the philosophy department, André Brouillette, S.J., assistant professor of systematic and spiritual theology at the STM; Catherine Cornille, professor and Newton College Alumnae Chair of Western Culture in the theology department; Mary Elliot, Boisi Center graduate research assistant; Sheila Gallagher, associate professor of studio art in the art department; Kimberly Garcia, who teaches creative writing in the English department; Candace Hetzner, associate dean for academic affairs in the Morrissey College of Arts and Sciences; Mark Massa, S.J., director of the Boisi Center; Jack Nuelle, interim assistant to the director at the Boisi Center; James O’Toole, professor and Clough Millennium Chair in the history department; and Andrew Prevot, associate professor in the theology department.
The seminar was a lively examination of O’Connor’s work, technique, and theology from various disciplinary perspectives. The group read several of her short stories, as well as varied critical perspectives of O’Connor and her work.
2018: Thomas Merton
This year is the fiftieth anniversary of the death of Thomas Merton, the Trappist monk, social activist, and appreciative reader of non-Christian religious texts. Mark Massa, S.J. (Boisi Center, BC theology) and Jeffrey Bloechl (BC philosophy) led monthly faculty discussions of selections from Merton’s writings.
Other participants included Brian Braman (BC philosophy), André Brouillette, S.J. (BC School of Theology and Ministry), Catherine Cornille (BC theology), Sheila Gallagher (BC art, art history, and film), Kim Garcia (BC English), Kenneth Himes, O.F.M. (BC theology), Cyril Opeil, S.J. (BC physics), and James O’Toole (BC history).
Wishing to trace Merton’s remarkable itinerary and thus gain a sense of the development of the man from monk to public figure, the seminar took up Merton’s works in chronological order. This also became the occasion to reflect on developments in the Church, modern culture and global awareness between 1941, when Merton entered Gethsemane Abbey in Kentucky, and 1968, when he died unexpectedly during a conference in Bangkok.