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Critical Concerns Week 2021 focuses on the intersection of two Mercy Critical Concerns: Earth and anti-racism. A variety of events provide multiple opportunities to reflect upon some of the most pressing issues of our time.

Schedule of Events

3:00 p.m.

Welcome to Critical Concerns Week 2021 & Opening Prayer Service

Join Paul DaPonte, Ph.D., GCU executive director of mission integration, who will welcome you to the opening event of Critical Concerns Week 2021. Kaitlin McGuinness, projects specialist for U.S. Senator Cory Booker, will offer greetings, and Jeff Schaffer, GCU director of campus ministry, will lead the week’s opening prayer service.

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5:30 p.m.

Movement Installation: Redline

Join Megan Mazarick, GCU assistant professor of dance, and ensemble for Redline, a movement installation that explores housing segregation. Using red string to map, divide, and demarcate the space, the dancers explore actions that connect and divide us in a live performance event.

Megan Mazarick, GCU Assistant professor of dance, is a choreographer, performer, and teacher. She earned her B.F.A. in Dance from the University of North Carolina–Greensboro and an M.F.A. in Choreography from Temple University. Her work has been presented internationally and throughout the United States. She often works collaboratively and curated a dance community class program for the nEW Festival (a Philadelphia-based dance festival) for four years and was codirector of the festival from 2010 to 2012. In 2015, she coproduced the By Chance Festival in Cairo, Egypt. Ms. Mazarick has received an Independence Fellowship, an Ellen Forman Award, a LiveArts LAB Fellowship, a Susan Hess residency, and a Graduate Assistant Scholarship from Temple University. Her choreography has been supported by the U.S. embassies in Singapore, Bulgaria, and Egypt. As a performer, she has worked with Susan Rethorst, Keith Thompson, Marianela Boan, Merian Soto, Anonymous Bodies, Black Box Dance Theater, and members of Lower Left. Ms. Mazarick has taught technique, improvisation, and composition classes at studios, festivals, and universities around the globe.

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Meeting ID: 979 2133 6953
Passcode: Redline

6:00 p.m.

Panel Discussion: Eliminating Racism in the Workplace

As organizations look to increase efforts to diversify the workforce, and grow inclusivity within that workforce, longstanding traditions and other workplace practices often lead to the contrary. The panelists will define the problems of workplace racism from their respective positions and will elaborate on their insight and share best practices to truly work to eliminate racism within organizations. This discussion is hosted by the School of Business and Digital Media and will be moderated by Theodora Sergiou, GCU lecturer and internship coordinator for the SBDM, with panelists Jeremy Grunin, president of the Grunin Foundation; Joy L. Smith, Ed.D., GCU chief diversity officer for institutional and student affairs and director of EOF; and Nichoele Peguese, an attorney and human resources professional.

9:30–11:30 a.m.

Faculty and Staff Retreat: Environmental Racism and the Illusion of Separation

Through storytelling, prayer, and discussion, we will explore what environmental racism is and how it helps to sustain pollution and climate change with presenter Eileen Flanagan, author and climate activist. Through a Lenten lens, we will reflect on our connection to these issues and what spiritual and systemic shifts need to happen to make our communities more just and sustainable.

A spiritual teacher turned climate activist, Eileen Flanagan is the award-winning author of three books. A former board chair of Earth Quaker Action Team, she is currently working on a new book called Overcoming the Illusion of Separation about racism, pollution, and climate change, and how we need both spiritual and systemic change to address these huge issues. Her most recent online course is Finding Your Role in this Moment of Social Change.

Register for this retreat here!
(Open to GCU staff and faculty only)

1:00–2:00 p.m.

Presentation: Impact of Climate Change: Flooding and Pollution Runoff

Runoff is the biggest cause of flooding and water pollution in lakes, rivers, streams, estuaries, and other waterways in New Jersey. The situation worsens as climate change increases the intensity and frequency of rain events. Jim Waltman of The Watershed Institute will explore the issues related to runoff and available solutions for its detrimental effects.

Jim Waltman is the executive director of The Watershed Institute, a position he has held since April 2005. Founded in 1949, the organization teaches more than 10,000 children, teens, and adults through formal educational programming each year; advocates for stronger environmental protections at the local, state, and federal levels; conducts a robust stream monitoring program with the assistance of more than 100 volunteers; implements habitat restoration projects; and works with private landowners, schools and companies to improve their environmental stewardship.

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2:15–2:45 p.m.

Virtual Art Exhibition: Thalassophilous

Experience the treasures of the sea with Rebecca Hartman’s virtual coastal art exhibit Thalassophilous, which is Greek for “love of the ocean.” Through paintings, pastels, and clay sculptures of the ocean and marine life, Ms. Hartman provides a way for us to appreciate the beauty of our ocean’s ecosystems while providing awareness of the damage done by climate change and human actions. Included in the installation are lifelike sculptures of coral and starfish, which are declining because of warming temperatures, as well as jellyfish and octopi. Learn what actions you can take to keep humans and marine life living together in balance through this stunning educational exhibit.

Rebecca Hartman, GCU individual giving officer, is a graduate of Marywood University and received her M.A. in Museum and Non-Profit Management from Seton Hall University. She is the owner of the coastal décor boutique Tides of Joy Treasures, found on the Etsy platform and at local craft fairs. Through the power of art, Ms. Hartman’s mission is to educate the community on the conservation of our oceans and its marine life and how they must be preserved for the future.

View the Coastal Art Exhibit

3:00 p.m.

Film: A Plastic Ocean

Journalist Craig Leeson teams up with diver Tanya Streeter and an international team of scientists and researchers, and they travel to 20 locations around the world over four years to explore the fragile state of our oceans. In the center of the Pacific Ocean gyre, researchers found more plastic than plankton. A Plastic Ocean (2016) documents the newest science, proving how plastics, once they enter the oceans, break up into small particulates that enter the food chain, where they attract toxins like a magnet. These toxins are stored in seafood’s fatty tissues and eventually consumed by us.

5:00 p.m.

Critical Concerns Mass

This Lenten liturgy resonates with our Critical Concerns week theme, environmental racism. In prayer, music, and Sacrament, we will ask God for a renewed spirit to right the injustices of our day. Msgr. Vincent Gartland, GCU trustee, will preside.

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9:00 a.m.

Morning Reflection

Look for a link from the Office of Mission Integration via e-mail.

10:30 a.m.

Panel Discussion: The Eagle Has Landed

Join Michael F. Gross, Ph.D., GCU associate provost for academic program development, professor of biology, and director of the arboretum; Jeff Schaffer, GCU director of campus ministry; and Michael Putnam, GCU director of university operations, for a fascinating discussion about the amazing comeback of bald eagles from near extinction. Learn how you can help ensure the future of the nation’s symbol. Hear the story behind the discovery of GCU’S bald eagles and see video footage of the eagles in their nest.

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3:00 p.m.

Film: 13th

Combining archival footage with testimony from activists and scholars, director Ava DuVernay’s 13th (2016), an examination of the U.S. prison system, looks at how the country’s history of racial inequality drives the high rate of incarceration in America. It is titled after the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, adopted in 1865, which abolished slavery throughout the United States and ended involuntary servitude except as a punishment for conviction of a crime. This piercing, Oscar-nominated film won Best Documentary at the Emmys, the BAFTAs, and the NAACP Image Awards.

5:50 p.m.

Dance Performance: all lives matter

Choreographed by GCU senior Charisma Bosley, this dance is a reflection on how African Americans live, feel, and what they face in America. The title is a both a question and a statement.

Charisma Bosley ’21 is a senior dance major. Her choreographic work has recently been accepted to an international film festival. She is a sprinter and jumper on the Georgian Court women’s track and field team.

Note: Charisma’s piece will be shared at the beginning of the event that follows. See below for link.

6:00 p.m.

Panel Discussion: Race Matters: What Matters Most?

Join Joy L. Smith, Ed.D., and Ria DasGupta, Ed.D., GCU’s new chief diversity officers, for a discussion on anti-racism. They’ll discuss what matters most with three student members of GCU’s Council for Diversity and Inclusion.

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9:00 a.m.

Morning Reflection

Look for a link from the Office of Mission Integration via e-mail.

2:40 p.m.

Dance Performance: (waste) Deep

Choreographed and performed by GCU senior Tyler Rivera, along with GCU dance alumna Daria Raguseo ’20 and Jessica Totaro, this dance deals with the current state of pollution in our waters. It highlights the relationship between the overproduction and consumption of plastic materials and the resulting harm to and entrapment of sea creatures.

Tyler Rivera ’21 is a senior dance major at Georgian Court University. While training in ballet and modern techniques, he invests in his own work with the choreographic mentorship of GCU faculty Silvana Cardell and Megan Mazarick. His newest work, valIDity, was performed at the Mid-Atlantic North ACDA Regional Gala Concert and selected to be presented at the ACDA National Festival in Long Beach, California.

Note: Tyler’s piece will be shared at the beginning of the event that follows. See below for link.

3:00–4:00 p.m.

Keynote I: Winona LaDuke: Economics for the Seventh Generation—Sustainability and Indigenous Thinking

Winona LaDuke is one of the world’s most tireless and charismatic leaders on issues related to climate change, Indigenous rights, human rights, green and rural economies, grassroots organizing, local foods, alternative sources of energy and the priceless value of clean water over a career spanning nearly 40 years of activism. Through an Indigenous lens, Winona LaDuke will help us to envision a sustainable future that secures economic justice for all.

Winona LaDuke is a rural development economist and author working on issues of sustainable development, renewable energy, and food systems. Her work is primarily in the area of Indigenous economics, food, and energy policy. She lives and works on the White Earth reservation in northern Minnesota and is a two-time vice-presidential candidate with Ralph Nader for the Green Party. In her own community, she is the founder of the award-winning White Earth Land Recovery Project, one of the largest reservation-based nonprofit organizations in the country. She is also the co-founder (along with the Indigo Girls) of Honor the Earth, a grassroots environmental organization focused on Indigenous issues and environmental justice. As executive director of Honor the Earth, she works nationally and internationally on the issues of climate change, renewable energy, and environmental justice alongside Indigenous communities.

Globally and nationally, Ms. LaDuke is known as a leader in the issues of cultural-based sustainable development strategies, renewable energy, and sustainable food systems. She is one of the leaders in the work of protecting Indigenous plants and heritage foods from patenting and genetic engineering. This work is documented in part, in the book Food Is Medicine. Ms. LaDuke’s work in renewable energy includes the completion of the White Earth Tribal Energy Plan and coordination of implementation work for solar and wind on the White Earth reservation, and with Honor the Earth and Solar Energy International installs on the Navajo and Western Shoshone reservations and territories. Providing expert witness testimony in carbon cap hearings in New Mexico (2013) as well as state and tribal hearings on proposed pipeline projects, her testimony discusses the economic, health and environmental impact assessment for mega projects.

In 2007, Ms. LaDuke was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame, recognizing her leadership and community commitment. In 1994, she was nominated by Time magazine as one of America’s 50 most promising leaders under 40 years of age. She received the Thomas Merton Award in 1996, Ms. Woman of the Year (with the Indigo Girls in 1997), and the Reebok Human Rights Award. Ms. LaDuke was a cofounder and board cochair of the Indigenous Women’s Network and maintains a significant role in international advocacy for Indigenous people. This has included numerous presentations at United Nations forums.

A graduate of Harvard and Antioch Universities, she has written extensively on Native American and environmental issues. She also attended one year at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the Community Fellows Program. The author of six books, including Recovering the Sacred, All Our Relations, Last Standing Woman (a novel), and her newest work, The Winona LaDuke Chronicles.

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6:00 p.m.

Film: This Changes Everything

Filmed over 211 shoot days in nine countries and five continents over four years, This Changes Everything (2015) is an epic attempt to re-imagine the vast challenge of climate change. Directed by Avi Lewis and inspired by Naomi Klein’s international nonfiction bestseller This Changes Everything, the film presents seven powerful portraits of communities on the frontlines, from Montana’s Powder River Basin to the Alberta Tar Sands, from the coast of South India to Beijing and beyond. Interwoven with these stories of struggle is Klein’s narration, connecting the carbon in the air with the economic system that put it there. Throughout the film, Klein builds to her most controversial and exciting idea: that we can seize the existential crisis of climate change to transform our failed economic system into something radically better.

Access available only to GCU community members.

9:00 a.m.

Morning Reflection

Look for a link from the Office of Mission Integration via e-mail.

3:00 p.m.

Film: RiverBlue

Following international river conservationist, Mark Angelo, RiverBlue (2016) spans the globe to infiltrate one of the world’s most pollutive industries, fashion. Narrated by clean water supporter Jason Priestley, this groundbreaking documentary examines the destruction of our rivers, its effect on humanity, and the solutions that inspire hope for a sustainable future. Written and directed by David McIlvride and produced and directed by Roger Williams, RiverBlue brings awareness to the destruction of some of the world’s most vital rivers through the manufacturing of our clothing, but also acts as a demand for significant change in the textile industry from the top fashion brands that can make a difference.

Access available only to GCU community members.

7:15 p.m.

Dance Performance: Forgotten Bodies

Choreographed by Silvana Cardell and performed by Cardell Dance Theater dancers William Robinson, GCU lecturer in dance; Hassan Syed ’18; Megan Midgley ’18; Ama Gora ’17; and Mackenzie Morris ’15 and GCU dance majors Tyler Rivera, Ally Ferry, Anthony Dimaria-Sadorski, Rachael Zigrest, and Sarah Cotter, Forgotten Bodies addresses the effects of human behavior on bodies of water. Pre-pandemic, this piece was designed to include the audience as participants, having them physically involved in the performance. To create closeness, and a sense of community, the audience would have been invited to hold a large 100-yard transparent fabric, thus creating the performing space for dancers to perform underneath. Post-pandemic, keeping social distance and redesigning the performance for the virtual space, a bird’s-eye drone view will capture the audience point of view as if they were watching from above and different angles, recreating the sense of audience inclusion and community engagement. This involvement and closeness will resonate with the participants as we are all defenseless against the effects of environmental pollution, a leading cause of racial inequalities and major damages to the natural world.

Silvana Cardell has been an associate professor and the chair of the Department of Dance at Georgian Court University since 2009. An award-winning choreographer, she has been creating and presenting solo, group, and collaborative work in her native Argentina, in the United States, and internationally since 1990. She has received the most prestigious choreography award in Latin America from Fundacion Antorchas (2001). Ms. Cardell is the recipient of numerous fellowships, grants, and awards including Secretaria de Cultura de la Ciudad de Buenos Aires (1993–2001), Red Latinoamericana de Productores de Danza y Teatro (1995), Instituto Nacional de Teatro (1998–2001), Teatro General San Martin (1996), Temple University Fellowship (2002–2005), Swarthmore College Project (2005, 2014, 2015), Pew Center for the Arts & Heritage Performance Grant (2015), New England Foundation for the Arts National Dance Project (2017), Mid Atlantic Foundation for the Arts (2018), and Philadelphia Cultural Fund (2018–2021). She created and is the director of Cardell Dance Theater in Philadelphia.

Note: Ms. Cardell’s’s piece will be shared at the beginning of the event that follows. See below for link.

7:30–8:30 p.m.

Keynote II: Steve Curwood: Living on Earth: An Environmental and Racial Crisis

Steve Curwood, executive producer and host of NPR’s award-winning weekly environmental news program Living on Earth, will draw our attention to the myriad symptoms of a suffering planet and its suffering people. He encourages us to critically assess the environmental and social forces that contribute to their intersection and intensification in our time.

As an African American growing up in a single-mother-led household during the civil rights movement, Steve Curwood had much more on his mind than the environment. “Let the white guys march for the environment,” he remembers thinking. By Earth Day 1990, however, when his young son insisted that the environment was the most important issue of the day, Mr. Curwood revised his thinking.

“Of all the issues Americans marched about in 1970, only the environment has gotten worse. Population has almost doubled since the first Earth Day. Species are going extinct faster and faster. Open space and wilderness are disappearing. Evidence is mounting that pollution not only causes cancer but a host of other disorders, including asthma, heart attacks, immune system breakdowns, reproductive problems, and even criminal behavior,” he said on Living on Earth.

Today, Living on Earth, for which Mr. Curwood serves as host and executive producer, is aired on more than 300 stations nationwide and is heard in Pacific nations over the Armed Forces Radio Network. It has been awarded the Edward R. Murrow Award from the Radio and Television News Directors Association, the New York Festivals Award, a CINDY Award, and the National Federation of Community Broadcasters Community Program Awards.

Avoiding partisan lines, Mr. Curwood advocates the fact that our relationship to our environment, and what we do to it, is as important as any other part of our lives.

His relationship with NPR goes back to 1979 when he began working as a reporter and host of Weekend All Things Considered. He has also worked as a print and television journalist and is the recipient of a shared Pulitzer Prize for Public Service as part of the Boston Globe’s education team. He has worked as an editor and reporter for the Bay State Banner and as contributing editor at Black Enterprise magazine and the Boston Phoenix.

Mr. Curwood is also the recipient of the 2003 Global Greens Award and the 2003 David Brower Award given by the Sierra Club for his creation of Living on Earth. He received a 1992 New England Environmental Leadership Award for his work on promoting environmental awareness. The president of the World Media Foundation, Inc., he is also a lecturer in environmental science and public policy at Harvard University.

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1:00 p.m.

Film: Tomorrow

After a special briefing for the journal Nature announced the possible extinction of a part of mankind before the end of the 21st century, Cyril Dion and Mélanie Laurent, together with a team of four people, carried out an investigation in 10 different countries to figure out what may lead to this disaster and above all how to avoid it in Tomorrow (2015). During their journey, they meet the pioneers who are re-inventing agriculture, energy, economy, democracy, and education. Joining those concrete and positive actions which are already working, they begin to figure out what could be tomorrow’s world.

Access available only to GCU community members.

3:00–4:00 p.m.

Interview with Shawn M. LaTourette and Olivia C. Glenn

Join Jennifer Edmonds, Ph.D., dean of the GCU School of Business and Digital Media, and Paul DaPonte, Ph.D., GCU executive director of mission integration, for an interview with Shawn M. LaTourette, acting commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, and Olivia C. Glenn, deputy commissioner for environmental justice and equity. The conversation includes discussion of New Jersey’s recent landmark legislation on environmental justice and the intersection between environmental improvement and economic development.

Appointed by Governor Philip D. Murphy, Shawn M. LaTourette became New Jersey’s acting commissioner of environmental protection on January 16, 2021. Acting Commissioner LaTourette is responsible for formulating statewide environmental policy while directing programs that protect public health and ensure the quality of New Jersey’s air, land, water, and natural and historic resources.

A lawyer and policymaker with more than 20 years of experience in environmental protection, Acting Commissioner LaTourette began his career defending victims of toxic exposure, including organizing and advocating for the needs of vulnerable New Jersey communities whose drinking water was contaminated by petrochemicals. Throughout a career shaping environmental law and policy, he has served in executive roles and as a trusted advisor to governments, community and nonprofit organizations, and leaders in industry and infrastructure, while also litigating high-stakes lawsuits involving environmental, energy, and public health concerns.

Acting Commissioner LaTourette first joined the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) as the chief legal and regulatory policy advisor to then-Commissioner Catherine R. McCabe in 2018. He was elevated to chief of staff in 2019 and to deputy commissioner in 2020. Since 2019, he has been responsible for running the DEP’s operations while formulating policy and regulatory reforms to advance Governor Murphy’s environmental, climate change, and clean energy priorities. Acting Commissioner LaTourette has developed and led initiatives that prioritize environmental justice while facilitating greenhouse gas emissions reductions, climate change resilience and adaptation, renewable energy deployment, water infrastructure enhancement, brownfields redevelopment, community renewal, and natural resource conservation and restoration.

Guided by a deep commitment to equity and a professional philosophy that uniting economic development and environmental improvement promotes the public good, Acting Commissioner LaTourette has been regarded as a consensus builder adept at achieving balance among competing priorities. His diverse background—in protecting vulnerable communities, facilitating the development of infrastructure and public works, managing business risk, promoting conservationist policies, and advocating for equity—has made him a leading force in policy, program, and project development, especially those at the complex juncture of economic development, energy, and environmental protection.

Born and raised in New Jersey, Acting Commissioner LaTourette graduated magna cum laude from Rutgers University and earned his law degree summa cum laude from Rutgers Law School.

Olivia C. Glenn serves as a deputy commissioner to Acting Commissioner Shawn M. LaTourette.

Appointed in July, Deputy Commissioner Glenn is responsible for prioritizing the advancement of the administration’s environmental justice and equity goals. A longtime advocate of ensuring underserved communities have access to the outdoors, she believes every New Jerseyan has a right to experience and enjoy the benefits of nature.

Deputy Commissioner Glenn previously led the DEP’s Division of Parks and Forestry, serving since 2018 as its director and managing its 450,000 acres of natural and historic resources. From 2003 to 2009, she worked as the division’s urban initiatives and outreach coordinator and subsequently served as special assistant to the DEP deputy commissioner. Deputy Commissioner Glenn was later a member of the DEP’s Environmental Justice Advisory Council, leading its efforts in outreach, education, and land management.

Deputy Commissioner Glenn also has worked with the New Jersey Conservation Foundation, making outdoor spaces and trails more readily available to Greater Philadelphia residents, especially people living in Camden. In 2018, the Camden Collaborative Initiative honored her with the Camden Environmental Hero Award. As deputy commissioner, she chairs the CCI’s Steering Committee and is responsible for environmental justice, diversity, and environmental education.

Deputy Commissioner Glenn earned a bachelor’s degree in environmental studies from Dartmouth College. She holds a master’s degree from the Yale School of the Environment.

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4:15 p.m.

Concluding Prayer Service for Critical Concerns Week 2021

This concluding prayer services will be an opportunity to bring the issues of caring for creation and antiracism to prayer. In this way, we seek to turn toward God for mercy and to be transformed for the work of justice-building. Join Jeff Schaffer, GCU director of campus ministry, and Rob MacReynolds, GCU director of music, as we celebrate together.

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7:30 p.m.

Community Read Discussion: Final Discussion for Caste

Members of the GCU community are invited to join us as we discuss the topics and themes presented in the final pages of Isabel Wilkerson’s book Caste. This will be our final community read event, and all are welcome (even if you have not finished reading the book).

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