On Thursday and Friday, May 2-3, over 250 students, faculty, staff, visiting academics and representatives of community-based organizations participated in the “Environmental Justice & the Common Good Conference” on community-university partnerships for research, learning and social change. Hosted at Santa Clara University, the conference was organized by an interdisciplinary faculty team, including Chris Bacon and Iris Stewart-Frey (Environmental Studies and Sciences), Ed Maurer (Civil, Environmental, and Sustainable Engineering), Chad Raphael (Communication), and Tseming Yang (School of Law). The College, Provost’s Office, Ignatian Center, Schools of Engineering and Law, and the Department of Environmental Studies and Sciences co-sponsored.
In his opening remarks, Father Engh recalled the challenge he gave us in his inaugural address a decade ago to “champion environmental justice, and to do so explicitly for the sake of and alongside the poorest in our world” — a challenge Pope Francis enlarged on in his landmark 2015 encyclical, Laudato Si‘. Panels reviewed the state of environmental justice (EJ) today, exemplary university-community research partnerships on EJ, and how these partners can work together well. Students and faculty presented examples of community-engaged research on EJ at a poster session. In breakout sessions and follow-up meetings, Catholic social justice organizations, community groups, and faculty members envisioned new research partnerships on emerging issues in California, and new ways in which Jesuit schools in the U.S. and around the world can strengthen their ties to promote learning and research on EJ in their regions. Anyone interested in joining in this continuing work is welcome to contact the conference organizers at environmentaljustice@scu.