Symposium - Speakers

Speakers have not been finalized for the 2020 Symposium. The speakers listed below spoke at the 2019 Symposium.

2019 Speaker: Mark Bauerlein

Parents who wish to raise their children with the proper habits of devotion know what perils digital diversions pose.  Snapchat and Fortnite are fast and furious, absorbing but overstimulating.  The attitude of prayer requires a calmer and slower mood.  To cultivate it against the avalanche of the iPhone, however, parents should consider not only habits of worship, but also the appreciation of beauty.  Beauty demands a focused concentration on the object--no multitasking, and not so much stimulation that the contemplative powers are overwhelmed.  This talk will provide examples and draw the connection between the experience of beauty and the receptive posture toward God.

Mark Bauerlein

Mark Bauerlein is Senior Editor at First Things and Professor of English at Emory University, where he has taught since earning his PhD in English at UCLA in 1989. He served as Director of the Office of Research and Analysis at the National Endowment for the Arts 2003-05. He is the author of several books, including The Dumbest Generation: How the Digital Age Stupefies Young Americans and Jeopardizes Our Future (2008), Negrophobia: A Race Riot in Atlanta (2001), and Literary Criticism: An Autopsy (1998), and he has published numerous reviews and commentaries in New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Boston Globe, Weekly Standard, The Guardian, Chronicle of Higher Education, and other national periodicals. He has appeared on CNN, CBS News, Fox and Friends, BBC World News, All Things Considered, C-SPAN, and other national media outlets.  He has served as consultant to numerous education and cultural organizations, including the National Council of State School Officers, Educational Testing Service, College Board, International Baccalaureate, and Pioneer Institute.

2019 Speaker: Michael Hanby

Joseph Ratzinger once wrote that “something wholly new is happening to man and to the world in a culture in which scientific and technical self-determination is becoming ever more total.”  The change, he adds, “cannot be measured by the usual norms of historical change as they have always existed but rather signifies an epochal transformation for which there is no adequate comparison.”  This paper will seek to analyze this “epochal transformation” and its effect upon human thought and self-understanding, anticipate its future course, and contemplate a properly Catholic response. 

Michael Hanby

Professor Michael Hanby is an associate professor of Religion and Philosophy of Science at the Pontifical John Paul II Institute in Washington, D.C. Prior to his move to the Institute in 2007, he was an assistant professor of theology in the Honors College at Baylor University, and associate director of the Baylor Institute for Faith and Learning. Before that he was Arthur J. Ennis Fellow in the Humanities at Villanova University. Professor Hanby is author of the 2013 monograph from Wiley-Blackwell, No God, No Science?:  Theology, Cosmology, Biology which reassesses the relationship between the doctrine of creation, Darwinian evolutionary biology, and science more generally. He is also author of Augustine and Modernity (Routledge 2003) which is simultaneously a re-reading of Augustine's Trinitarian theology and a protest against the contemporary argument for continuity between Augustine and Descartes. He has contributed chapters to a number of volumes and is also author of several articles appearing in CommunioModern TheologyPro Ecclesia, and Theology Today.

2019 Speaker: Donna Freitas

What does it mean to have a healthy relationship with our smartphones--is there such a thing? Do our smartphones make us more (or less) human--and what might Simone Weil have to say to us about this? Based on the results of her national study about social media, smartphones, and the college experience, Donna Freitas will discuss how and why students see new technology as a problem in the way of happiness, as well as the need for compassion as this generation struggles to navigate life with all our new devices.

Dr. Donna Freitas

Dr. Donna Freitas is a researcher and writer of nonfiction, and she has spoken at nearly two hundred colleges and universities about her work with college students, published as, Sex and the Soul: Juggling Sexuality, Spirituality, Romance and Religion on America's College Campuses, and most recently, The Happiness Effect, about social media, smartphones, and young adults. Her newest nonfiction book is a manifesto about sexual assault, consent, and Title IX in higher education, and will be out in September of 2018 with Oxford University Press. Over the years, Donna has written for many newspapers and magazines, including The Washington PostThe New York TimesThe Wall Street Journal, and The Boston Globe, and she has appeared on radio and television to discuss her work, from NPR's All Things Considered to The Today Show. She received her Ph.D. in 2001, and has been a professor at Boston University as well as in the Honors College at Hofstra University on Long Island. She is also the author of ten novels for children and young adults. Her most recent novel, The Healer, will be released from Harper Collins in October of 2018. She lives in Brooklyn.

2019 Speaker: Brad Kallenberg

Central to the Technocratic Paradigm is the myth that communication reduces to “information.” If that reduction were actual, technology might be cleverly employed to make the Gospel “go viral.” Nevertheless, since technology has drastically altered our contemporary form of life, is not technology thereby appropriate, even necessary, to the manner by which the new evangelization advances?

Dr. Brad Kallenberg

Dr. Brad Kallenberg is Professor of Theology & Ethics at the University of Dayton (OH) where he has pioneered a course in engineering ethics that compares ethics to engineering design. He holds a Ph.D. in Philosophical Theology from Fuller Theological Seminary and has co-edited two books and authored four others including Ethics as Grammar: Changing the Postmodern Subject (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame, 2001); God and Gadgets (Eugene, OR: Cascade Press, 2011); and By Design: Theology, Ethics and the Practice of Engineering (Eugene, OR: Cascade Press, 2013). He has published a wide range of journal articles and book chapters, including “Rethinking Fideism through the Lens of Wittgenstein’s Engineering Outlook.” International Journal for the Philosophy of Religion 71, no. 1 (2012): 55-73 and “The Theological Origins of Engineering,” in Engineering Education and Practice: Embracing a Catholic Vision, edited by James Heft and Kevin Hallinan, 41-55 (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 2012).

2019 Speaker: Joshua Hochschild

Digital technology promises to abolish boredom. Is that a good thing? How does it do that? What is boredom, and what is the alternative to its technological elimination?

Joshua Hochschild

Joshua P. Hochschild is Professor of Philosophy, and former Dean of the College of Liberal Arts, at Mount St. Mary’s University in Emmitsburg. Professor Hochschild studied philosophy at Yale University and the University of Notre Dame. From 2001 to 2005 he taught at Wheaton College (Illinois). He was received into the Catholic Church in 2004.

At Mount St. Mary’s he teaches a variety of courses in the philosophy major, the undergraduate liberal arts core, and the seminary’s philosophy curriculum. He has published scholarly works and translations in the fields of ethics, metaphysics, and medieval logic, and has lectured and published widely in the history of philosophy and Catholic social thought. His writing on higher education and the Catholic intellectual tradition have appeared in First Things, Commonweal, and the Wall Street Journal.

In 2017 he published, with co-author Christopher Blum, the book A Mind at Peace: Reclaiming an Ordered Soul in the Age of Distraction (Sophia Institute Press), a practical guide drawing on classical philosophy and the Christian spiritual tradition to address challenges of internet technology.

2019 Speaker: Brett Robinson

Title of Presentation: “Full of Grace: Restoring a Culture of Radical Contingency”

Brett Robinson

Brett Robinson is director of communications and Catholic media studies at the McGrath Institute for Church Life. In his role, he oversees outreach efforts for the institute while conducting research at the intersection of religion, technology and culture.

Brett studied marketing and English at the University of Notre Dame and received his Ph.D. in Mass Communication from the University of Georgia. He has taught media studies courses at Duquesne University, the University of Georgia, Saint Vincent College and Notre Dame. Brett is the author of Appletopia: Media Technology and the Religious Imagination of Steve Jobs and his essays and commentary on technology and culture have been featured in Wired Magazine, CNN, the LA Times and Catholic News Service.

2019 Speaker: Sr. Nancy Usselmann

Why do we sometimes feel restless in a digital world of endless friend requests and transforming technology? What does it mean to be human in this mediascape? How can we integrate our faith within a media culture? By becoming mystics! Through theological reflection and critical engagement we can discover the needs of humanity present in popular culture and so become inculturated evangelizers today, taking a sacred look on humanity’s deepest yearnings and propose the true joy of the Gospel!

Sr. Nancy Usselmann, FSP

Sr. Nancy Usselmann, FSP is the Director of the Pauline Center for Media Studies in Los Angeles, CA and a Media Literacy Education Specialist. She is a theologian, national speaker, film reviewer, and blogger for Her book A Sacred Look: Becoming Cultural Mystics is a theology of popular culture published by Wipf & Stock. Sr. Nancy has degrees in Communications Arts, a Masters in Theology from Fuller Theological Seminary and certification in Catechetics and Media Literacy.

Sr. Nancy has given numerous workshops, presentations and retreats around the country to youth, young adults, catechists, seminarians, teachers and media professionals helping to create that dialogue between faith and media. She also has extensive experience in the creative aspects of social media, print media, ratio, and video production. She is a board member of CIMA (Catholics in Media Associates) and a member of NAMLE (National Association of Media Literacy Educators), SIGNIS (World Catholic Association for Communicators) and THEOCOM (Theology and Communications in Dialogue). Her passion is talking about Jesus and everything popular culture—movies, music, social media, and books!