Catholic Scholars’ Capstone Presentations Deal Weighty Issues

News Story: May 23, 2007

When Kristin Tweed applied for Sacred Heart University’s Catholic Social Thought Scholars Program in her freshman year, there was nothing to suggest it would change her life.

Four years later, Tweed, a senior psychology and education major from Smithtown, New York, said her participation in the program and its required Capstone project broadened her horizons and influenced her career path.

“It’s eye-opening. By getting involved and working at an elementary school in my freshman and sophomore year I figured out that I wanted to be a teacher…Everything changed, but for the better,” Tweed said at the annual Capstone Presentations held on April 20 at the Pitt Center Board Room.

For her Capstone, Tweed researched laws governing the education of students with learning problems and created a brochure in English, Spanish and Portuguese containing beneficial information for parents of such children.

Laura Murphy, a finance and marketing major who will graduate in December, said the Emersion Week that introduced Catholic Social Thought Scholars to several service projects had her working with the SHU Sunshine Kids, an after-school enrichment program for under-privileged children.

“It turned out to be the most influential week of my life,” said Murphy, who has served as a Sunshine Kids mentor for three years. Murphy used her Capstone to examine the program’s strengths and weaknesses. The biggest strength she identified is that, “You leave with a feeling of accomplishment.”

Tweed and Murphy were among 11 students – three in the Catholic Studies Certificate program and eight Catholic Social Thought Scholars -- who offered Capstone presentations before an audience of about 30 parents, faculty and fellow students. Their Capstones dealt with weighty issues, including the death penalty, hunger and poverty, and environmental stewardship.

As part of his Capstone project on HIV/AIDS, Senior Jonathan DeRosa coordinated a “Walk for the Cure,” which raised over $8,000, created an educational program for middle school age children and wrote an informational brochure. “The best I can do is spread awareness so people will stop spreading the disease,” said DeRosa, a psychology major and Spanish minor from Braintree, Mass.

Some students tied their Capstones to their majors. Nursing majors Emily Chasse and Betsy Kara researched universal healthcare and the health of inner city children, respectively.

In her presentation, Junior Sarah Novotny, a math major from Ridge, New York, talked about a week-long series of events she created dealing with the death penalty. Novotny scheduled a viewing of a powerful movie, “The Life of David Gale,” held a candlelight service, encouraged people on campus to sign an anti-death penalty petition and asked people to express their opinions in Memory Books that she will forward to organizations that deal with the issue.

Novotny said Catholic Social Thought teaches that people should value their own lives and the lives of others.

June-Ann Greeley, a professor of religious studies and acting director of the Catholic Social Thought Scholars Program, said the Capstone presentations were more than just a visual representation of the work students have done. “It’s a commitment to certain values, like the thought that we are all joined together,” Greeley said.

“We have a responsibility to go out and do good in the world and it’s not just based on ‘feel-goodism,’ it’s based on church teaching, it’s based on certain moral principles that you don’t have to be Catholic to espouse but working from that tradition suggests that these are things we need to address…children with HIV, death penalty awareness, hunger and poverty, education for children with disabilities,” Greeley said.