Network of Catholic universities hosts event on sustainable development
By Vatican News staff reporter
With the world’s attention focused on COP26 in Glasgow, 26 doctoral students from 8 Catholic universities around the world are presenting their research on sustainability in an online seminar held on 8-11 November.
The event is the first hosted by SACRU, the Strategic Alliance of Catholic Research Universities, composed of institutions in Australia, Chile, Japan, the United States, and Europe.
The initiative is entitled "A sustainable future: research that impacts the 21st century".
University without walls
Pier Sandro Cocconcelli, professor of Microbiology at the Rome-based University of the Sacred Heart and Secretary General of SACRU, spoke to Vatican News’ Alessandro Di Bussolo about the network and the webinar.
He said SACRU’s goal is to create a “university without walls”, one which currently has a student body of over 200,000, with nearly 12,000 professors and research staff.
“All together these universities are united by their Catholic identity, as well as the capacity to engage in research,” he said. “The first objective is to form future generations with the idea that openness to the world and the ability to work together with other nations is a critical part of a university’s curriculum; in other words, to form people to deal with the complexity of the global system.”
With such a vast network, students at the 8 universities will be well-placed to carry out multi-disciplinary research and transform that knowledge into applications for daily life for the good of the planet.
Global Compact for Education
Prof. Cocconcelli linked the creation of SACRU to the Global Compact on Education, called for by Pope Francis.
The Pact’s 5 thematic areas and 7 commitments for the DNA of the 8 SACRU universities, according to the professor.
“The common objective of all Catholic universities,” he said, “is to focus attention on the human person, listen to younger generations, promote women, make families more responsible, open people up to others, and then work on the economy and politics and build our common home.”
Research for the future of our planet
SACRU was set up in 2019, and after only one in-person meeting all other initiatives have been held online due to the pandemic.
Prof. Cocconcelli said this situation has pushed organizers and students to expand research activities to other continents, beyond the limitations and costs imposed by in-person gatherings.
This week’s online seminar, he added, is focused on doctoral students whose research deals with sustainable development in an inter-disciplinary context, including life sciences, economics, and social sciences.
“Twenty-eight research projects have been chosen, and as usually occurs in scientific conferences the students will present their work and open the floor for discussions,” said the professor. “Our role as teachers will basically be to help the students exchange information on the theme of sustainable development.”
Series of SACRU events
The webinar is only the first in a series of initiatives put on by SACRU.
Another conference will be held on 12 November to discuss the impact of the pandemic and
lockdowns on family life.
Then, on 18 November, SACRU will set up a presentation at the Expo in Dubai during the week dedicated to tolerance.
Three representatives will be on-hand to demonstrate how the alliance can be a model for other universities, as well as an opportunity to expand SACRU through collaborations with other research networks.