The Future of Catholic Universities in the Age of AI:
A Roadmap of Central Issues

This position paper is the outcome of the SACRU Scientific Colloquium on AI, hosted at Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, Milan, on July 13 and 14, 2023. The paper was written by a group of researchers from the SACRU partner Universities 

Given AI’s increasing power and transformative potential, the SACRU conference was an occasion for examining not just the benefits and risks of a specific technology but the basic purposes and aspirations of a Catholic university in a technologically advanced society. At its best, what might a Catholic university be? What are the distinctive goods that Catholic universities can achieve and that give orientation and coherence to their activities? What are the essential and defining roles within a university, and what virtues and skills are required for persons to succeed in those roles as members of a university community? In answering such questions, this paper develops what might be called a normative vision for Catholic universities in a technological age. Because this was a meeting of Catholic research universities, the normative visions of the university can be divided into two broad areas: teaching and research. Because this was a meeting of Catholic research universities, the normative visions speak to the distinctively Catholic approach to higher education, including a conception of spirituality, the dignity of human persons, and the university’s proper role in furthering the common good of society.

The position paper adopts a realistic approach that addresses two challenges: the educational and the anthropological ones. It is divided into sections identifying the most pressing issues for the Scientific Colloquium. The issues are organized under three headings, based on the central tasks of the Catholic universities as understood by the authors: teaching, research, and service to society. The point is not to provide a rigid taxonomy but to give some organization to this complex technological revolution. In each section, the authors try to be aware of both the benefits and risks of AI in universities. Questions about possible connections between AI and the normative visions of the Catholic university are also included.

On July 13 and 14, 2023, the Strategic Alliance of Catholic Research Universities hosted the Scientific Colloquium “The Future of Catholic Universities in the AI Age.” The multidisciplinary initiative involved different disciplines in the discussion on the impact of AI on universities. The Colloquium was organized in plenary sessions, which included a keynote speaker from each SACRU University and two parallel sessions (AI, Education & Research; AI, Universities within Society) in which the issues presented by the plenary speakers were further addressed. Following the Conference, a group of academics from SACRU synthesized the results in the position paper The Future of Catholic Universities in the Age of AI: A Roadmap of Central Issues. 

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 Boston College’s Summer Visiting Doctoral Research Fellowship

In keeping with Boston College’s strategic initiatives—including increasing its impact around the globe—and to highlight its leadership as a premier Jesuit University in Global Engagement, this fellowship is designed to support the next generation of scholars through research opportunities and hospitality. The summer research fellowships will support graduate students matriculated at a partnering university  who are seeking to undertake 2 months of research at Boston College.

CLICK HERE TO APPLY

 

 

WEBINAR

AI, Trust, and Explainability

Click on the picture or here to follow for event

Australian Catholic University earns
historic Carnegie Classification 

Australian Catholic University has become one of the first Australian higher education institutions to receive the new Carnegie Community Engagement Classification. The historic announcement makes ACU one of the first universities outside the United States to receive this significant Classification, which was formally implemented in Australia in June this year.

The Classification recognizes ACU as a higher education leader in institutionalized community engagement, committed to working with the community to transform society. Established by the US-based Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, the Carnegie Classifications have been used to recognize and advance the community-engaged practices of higher education institutions. The Community Engagement accreditation is an elective classification describing the collaboration between higher education institutions and their larger communities for the mutually beneficial exchange of knowledge and resources in a context of partnership and reciprocity.

Community Engagement at ACU encompasses activities and initiatives that build capacity and affirm human dignity through sustainable and reciprocal collaborations with communities, especially those that have historically experienced disadvantage or marginalization. ACU undergraduate students participate in Community Engagement opportunities as part of the Core Curriculum. ACU staff can also apply to work with community organizations on research projects that address real-world challenges and opportunities. They can additionally apply to receive up to 35 hours of time release throughout the years to participate in approved community engagement activities. Other community engagement initiatives at ACU include the Clemente program, the award-winning Solomon Islands Initial Teacher Immersion Program, extensive and sustained multi-disciplinary programs in Timor Leste, and the Order of Malta and ACU Community Hub in Melbourne.

ACU Vice-Chancellor and President Professor Zlatko Skrbis said ACU’s successful Carnegie Classification was a momentous achievement for the university. “ACU is delighted to be one of the first Australian universities in the history of the Carnegie Foundation to receive the Community Engagement Classification,” Professor Skrbis, who is also the President of SACRU, said. “As a national university –with an overseas campus in Rome- ACU serves and works closely in at least ten local communities connected to our campuses and leadership centers. The Carnegie Classification reaffirms our commitment to working with these communities and partner organizations to improve the lives of members living in our communities and to take on research that serves the common good.”

UC Chile Global Research Program

The Global Research Program is an on-site/virtual international experience program that supports research and creative projects in UC Chile within the Global Internships for Research and Practice-Based Learning framework. The program aims to enhance and stimulate research collaboration at a global level, connecting UC Chile researchers with master’s and senior undergraduate international students within new, creative, and innovative international research opportunities.

In its second version, 15 projects are offered from different areas of knowledge such as biological sciences, chemistry, education, engineering, international relations, theatre, among others. Students in the senior year of their bachelor’s degree and master students are welcome to apply to the research opportunity of their choice until December 3rd. It is the applicant’s sole responsibility to submit the necessary information and documentation, which must include:

  • A statement of purpose
  • Updated CV or resume (One page)
  • Transcripts or records of the last academic period (non-official transcripts admitted)
  • English of Spanish proficiency tests, if required

You can find the information about dates and projects in these links:

Global Research, program information (dates and requirements), link

Research opportunities, link

Student application form, link

UC Chile will support students through and after the application process. Should you have any doubts about the program and research opportunities, you can contact:

Javiera Ballesteros, Special Programs and Internships Officer, javiera.ballesteros@uc.cl

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Where lies the grail?
AI, common sense, and human practical intelligence

An article published by William Hasselberger and Micah Lott in the journal Phenomenology and Cognitive Science. This article is the fruit of the SACRU Working Group on AI collaboration

The creation of machines with intelligence comparable to human beings—so-called “human-level” and “general” intelligence—is often regarded as the Holy Grail of Artificial Intelligence (AI) research. However, many prominent discussions of AI lean heavily on the notion of human-level intelligence to frame AI research, but then rely on conceptions of human cognitive capacities, including “common sense,” that are sketchy, one-sided, philosophically loaded, and highly contestable. Our goal in this essay is to bring into view some underappreciated features of the practical intelligence involved in ordinary human agency. These features of practical intelligence are implicit in the structure of our first-person experience of embodied and situated agency, deliberation, and human interaction.

We argue that spelling out these features and their implications reveals a fundamental distinction between two forms of intelligence in action, or what we call “efficient task-completion” versus “intelligent engagement in activity.” This distinction helps us to see what is missing from some widely accepted ways of thinking about human-level intelligence in AI, and how human common sense is actually tied, conceptually, to the ideal of practical wisdom, or good (normative) judgment about how to act and live well. Finally, our analysis, if sound, also has implications for the important ethical question of what it means to have AI systems that are aligned with human values, or the so-called “value alignment” problem for artificial intelligence.

 

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Catholic Universities’ Ethical Engagement
Through Environmental Sustainability Education

Chapter published by Maria Manzon, and from the SACRU Working Group 2 on Laudato Si

This chapter aims to contribute to the ongoing academic debate on the issue of sustainability in a higher education context by focusing on the role of Catholic universities around the world from an ethical perspective of the two-fold pedagogical style typical of Catholic higher education. The first “fold” is critical dissidence that defies what Freire called “the scourge of neoliberalism” and its cynical fatalism (1998, p. 22); the second is creative counter-imagination that is underpinned by the Encyclical Letter Laudato Si′ (LS) and moves decidedly towards integral and sustainable development. To clarify the actions taken by Catholic universities and their approach to achieving sustainable futures, the chapter is organized as follows: The first section briefly presents the framework of international agreements and conventions that have been signed and effected to help produce education systems that respond ethically to the sustainability of the environment in which people live.

Next, we examine the ethical relevance of religion in the discussion of environmental sustainability. The final section illustrates the impact of the Encyclical Letter Laudato Si′ and its ethical principles in provoking a worldwide debate about the ecological question, especially in upholding the commitment and engagement of Catholic universities with the pressing environmental challenges of our time. Finally, the conclusion section addresses the suggestion that, by their ethical missions and identities, Catholic universities should see themselves as particularly well-positioned and equipped to lead the world toward a more just future for all. Catholic universities can become models of counter-conduct and critical nonconformity to the disproportionate anthropization and exploitation of our planet, which must be urgently stopped.

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SACRU Working Group 2 published the Laudato Si’ Report

This report has been created by Working Group 2 “Catholic Identity and Laudato Si’: The Common Home and Social Justice”. «The urgent challenge of protecting our common home includes the concern of uniting the entire human family in the search for sustainable and integral development, since we know that things can change,» says Pope Francisco in Laudato Si’. In that sense, Catholic universities have a lot to do. As the Pope tells us: «Young people demand a change from us. They wonder how it is possible to try to build a better future without thinking about the environmental crisis and the suffering of the excluded.»

This report seeks to answer that call. It presents a display of today’s campus initiatives that are being developed across SACRU universities, identifying how Laudato Si’ is integrated in several aspects of the university community such as education, research, campus life and public outreach. This document also presents the series of webinars that were developed jointly combining efforts across the 8 universities of SACRU.

It is a combined effort of the Working Group members and many contributors from SACRU university community members. It is formed by 15 people from 8 universities: Australian Catholic University, Boston College, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, Pontifícia Universidade Católica do Rio de Janeiro, Sophia University, Universidade Católica Portuguesa, Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, and Universitat Ramon Llull. The joint work marked by the Catholic identity, and the creation and strengthening of ties between people, make it possible to create warmer and more humane spaces, with harmony and respect for our common home.

 

Call for Expressions of Interest
Doctoral Webinar Collaboration
‘Vulnerability and Healthcare’
 

The Strategic Alliance of Catholic Research Universities (SACRU) has launched a Call for Expressions of Interest in a cycle of collaborative webinars focused on “Vulnerability and Healthcare”. The initiative is organized by the interdisciplinary SACRU Working Group “Vulnerability and Healthcare”.

 The theme

The relationship between Vulnerability and Healthcare is strong: healthcare is a sector in which COVID-19 exposed many vulnerabilities in new ways, whether one is talking about the level of personal doctor-patient relationships, the impacts of public health interventions, the allocation of scarce medical resources, vaccine rollouts and administration, health workforce problems, health policy and economics, or communication in healthcare. Often it was people who were already vulnerable in various ways who were either worst affected by COVID-19, the most important targets of social concern, or both. Consider, for example, how older people were paradoxically denied treatment in some contexts due to age and, in other contexts, confined to aged care facilities to protect them.

The aim of the initiative

One doctoral student from each SACRU University partner will be selected to participate in a series of 5 online webinars, in which they will be able to present their work to other fellow doctoral students and academics. This will provide an opportunity for a unique interdisciplinary exchange of ideas shaped by the multiple contexts in which the Catholic Universities that makeup SACRU operate: Australia, Brazil, Chile, Italy, Japan, Portugal, Spain, and the USA. The aim is to enrich the doctoral work of the individual students, to provide opportunities for collaboration, and to foster research networks on the theme of vulnerability and healthcare.

Submission procedure

Please submit an expression of interest (500–1000 words) in which you articulate how your doctoral research relates to the theme of vulnerability and healthcare and the questions you aim to solve. Please also explain what you would hope to gain from participating in the international doctoral webinar collaboration. Please include a short biography (approximately 100 words).

The application shall be sent to the Representative of your University in the SACRU Working Group on Vulnerability by November 15, 2023

University Representative Email
Australian Catholic University Associate Professor David Kirchhoffer david.kirchhoffer@acu.edu.au
Boston College Professor James Keenan S.J. james.keenan.2@bc.edu
Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile Professor Luca Valera luvalera@uc.cl
Pontifícia Universidade Católica do Rio de Janeiro Professor J. Landeira- Fernandez landeira@puc-rio.br
Sophia University Professor Osamu Takeuchi o-takeuc@sophia.ac.jp
Universidade Catòlica Portuguesa Professor André Azevedo Alves azevedoalves@gmail.com
Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore Professor Simona Beretta simona.beretta@unicatt.it
Universitat Ramon Llull Professor Mar Rosás Tosàs mariadelmarrt1@blanquerna.url.edu

You are welcome to contact sacru.alliance@unicatt.it for any further information. Please see below the whole Call for Proposals attachment

Event by Sophia University

The Future of Women’s Leadership

Sophia University invited Prof. Isabel Capeloa Gil, Rector of Universidade Católica Portuguesa,  to discuss among panelists the strategies to promote greater involvement of women and raise awareness of the importance of women’s leadership and empowerment in Japan.

Panelists:
  Prof. Isabel Capeloa Gil, President, Catholic University of Portugal
  Dr. Miki Sugimura, Professor, Department of Education, Faculty of Human Sciences

Moderator:
Dr. Makiko Deguchi, Director, Center for Global Education and Discovery