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The Caldwell University Social Justice Symposium proved to be a success after many attendees participated in the day-long event on Friday, April 8. Many from the greater Caldwell community enjoyed informative breakout sessions, where speakers discussed the importance of several social justice issues, such as intersectionality, racial injustices, and more. 

During the opening remarks Venida C. Rodman Jenkins, adjunct professor at Syracuse University and director of the Speicher-Rubin Women’s Center for Equity and Diversity at New Jersey City University (NJCU), kicked off the day saying, “let’s learn together.” 

“The Business of Coffee: Corporate Social Responsibility” session made an impression on its intimate group of audience members. Keith Lemnios, the founder of Sun Coffee Roasters, engaged his audience in a conversation about his deep passion for the coffee industry, as well as his role in committing to a business that is socially responsible. Lemnios shared how he witnessed “a thirst for knowledge” when he visited coffee farms in Nicaragua, where families rarely have the opportunity for their children to attend schools like the one he helped. 

At a morning session, “Social Justice Through the Lens of Catholic Social Teaching Principles,” a panel of speakers presented their ideas on the principles. Father Timothy Graff, the secretary for parish mission and vitality for the Archdiocese of Newark and an adjunct professor for the Theology and Philosophy Department at Caldwell, spoke about the “foundation that brought us here,” while Dr. Stephen Meawad, assistant professor of theology, spoke about the principle of “Call to Family, Community and Participation” and stated that “the call to social justice is a call to spirituality.”

The breakout sessions turned out to be a success. Panels included: “Promoting Equity Through Research Methods and Writing,” “A Political and Culinary Analysis of Racism and Sexism in Food Advertising,” “Immersive Silence: Responsive Art Making with Natural Materials,” “Preparing Social Justice Advocates,” “Social Justice and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s “The Danger of a Single Story” and more.   

The keynote address on “Cultural Humility Through An Intersectional Lens” struck a chord with guests. Speaker Rodman Jenkins talked about intersectionality and how she personally acts on her call to justice. 

After a successful event, Caldwell community members reflected on what they learned throughout the sessions and activities, and joined together again in the Student Center Gym to share their experiences at the “Uplifting Your Voice” and swag pick up session with Helen Antoniou McGowan, assistant professor at the School of Business and Computer Science.

Greatly inspired by the event, many students, alumni, and faculty members voiced their positive opinions about the symposium and how it changed their perspective on social justice. In a wrapup conversation with McGowan, a number of students shared their hopeful thoughts about the symposium and how future events such as that one will motivate people to continue fighting for those who do not have a voice. 

Rodman Jenkins reminded the audience of every individual’s impact and how social justice work depends on society. “Believe that it’s attainable and believe that it starts with you.” 

The program was sponsored by: 

  • Student Life
  • Academic Affairs
  • The President’s Office
  • The Office of Student Engagement
  • The Office of Student Advocacy and Prevention Awareness
  • The Office of Campus Ministry
  • The Sisters of St. Dominic
  • Gourmet Dining
  • The SSC Facilities Office
  • The Social Justice Symposium Planning Team

The organizing team was led by: Abdul Staten, director, student advocacy and prevention awareness; Tim Kessler-Cleary, assistant dean, student engagement and retention, and Helen Antoniou McGowan and Stacey Murphy, faculty members in the School of Business and Computer Science.  

Kylee Blaney