Duquesne hosts annual Integrity of Creation Conference

Photo Courtesy of Anna Meurer | The Integrity of Creation Conference will take place on March 26 and 27 at the Power Center. Pictured here is Tony Carbino on the left and Father John Osei Yaw to his right.

Kaitlyn Hughes | Staff Writer

Two speakers who will visit Duquesne next week as part of the Integrity of Creation Conference hope to inspire students on the pope’s teaching on ecology and climate.

The ninth Integrity of Creation Conference will return to Duquesne focused on the topic of pathways to achieving the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.

The event will take place on March 26 and 27 and invites all students and faculty to engage in workshops, presentations and posters. The conference will be held in-person at Duquesne’s Power Center and live streamed on YouTube.

According to their website, the conference has three goals which include: provide a scholarly opportunity to engage established and emerging research on the conference topic; foster interdisciplinary discourse on each topic; and enlighten public awareness and discussion of the conference topic.

Post-Doctoral Fellow of the Grefenstette Center Ercan Avci said the conference is to inform students that the future of Earth is in their hands.

“We live in this environment and we need to protect it,” Avci said. “We need to for our kids, our next generations leaving a healthy environment to them. In this case, we have certain responsibilities.”

The event was commissioned by former university President Charles J. Dougherty in 2015 because he wanted to have an annual conference celebrating the Spiritan mission of Duquesne which focuses on climate change.

Each year the event has a different theme based around climate change, but this year’s theme was chosen based on the upcoming deadline of 2030 to meet the U.N.’s goals.

The conference used to only consist of invited speakers, but it is now in combination with student posters and oral presentations.

The opening plenary speaker at this year’s event is Cardinal Christophe Pierre who serves as the Apolostic Nuncio to the United States, or in other words, the Vatican ambassador to the United States. Pierre will give a presentation on two documents written by Pope Francis: Laudato Si and Laudate Deum.

The closing plenary speaker for this year is Kachi Adindu who represents the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. He will carry forward the idea of sustainability through the idea of ecological justice.

Adindu’s talk will center around encouraging others to ensure everyone has the right to sustainable development.

“It will be an eye opener. It will be like telling them do you know that some people feel others don’t have the right to develop,” Adindu said. “When people know that, they will be able to raise their own questions and be able to challenge the systems. Whether it is their government or transnational corporations, they will join the workplace in making that call for people now to support this movement that will bring freedom to every person on the planet.”

Another goal of bringing in speakers is to empower students to present their research at the conference.

The committee works with faculty throughout the school year to encourage students to submit a poster to the conference. The classes that participate have courseworks centered around the theme of the conference.

Duquesne sophomore Emily Gierczynski was a participant in last year’s conference. She completed a poster for the conference as part of Daniel Schied’s essential questions class, “Can Faith Save Earth?” The class was centered around learning about how to protect the environment from climate change.

From each class that participates, three students are selected to give a five-minute presentation on the podium.

Students who submit a poster or give a presentation are eligible to submit an essay to be added into “The Conference Book” which is published every year after the event.

“The difficulty we are trying to avoid is you’ve probably been to many conferences where a lot of people come, and they see a lot, and they talk a lot, and the students are there but they’re not really engaged,” Magill said. “What we’re doing here is having the students be engaged.”

During the 2023 conference, Gierczynski submitted a poster and gave an oral presentation about her research on global warming’s effects on coral reefs and how they can be saved. She enjoyed the fact she got to learn about global warming through a topic of her choosing.

Gierczynski said the conference helps students become immersed in research, work on their professional skills and become more involved with the university.

“It just made me be more aware of those topics and just things I can do,” Gierczynski said. “Like small changes that I can make in my daily life to impact the Earth.”

Gierczynski will be presenting again at this year’s conference with her partner Dalton Zelwalk, with a poster focused on public health and poverty.

From her experience gained through the conference and her research, Gierczynski realized ways students can become more climate friendly.

“The first step is just being aware that these problems do exist and how impactful they are to the Earth,” Gierczynski said. “Students can make very small changes in their daily life like taking public transportation or walking whenever you can, especially since we’re in the city. I think just those really small changes in your daily life can have such a big impact.”