The Christ College Symposium features presentations and talks sponsored by the honors college for students, faculty, alumni and the general public. Symposia center around a yearly theme drawn from critical questions about the human condition. The monthly Speaker Series presents lectures by distinguished scholars, artists, and public figures.

The Christ College Symposium is one of the most hallowed traditions of Christ College. Each week, the CC community gathers together for an evening of stimulating discussion and debate on topics that are both timely and timeless. Throughout the academic year, Symposia will be offered in two formats: The Symposium Speakers Series (our featured lecture series) and Fireside Symposia (more intimate and interactive gatherings in the Mueller Hall Commons).
The Symposium Speakers Series will convene once a month during the academic year, and will feature internationally distinguished guest speakers. These symposia will be lecture-style, intended to reach large audiences from CC, the campus community, and the broader public. They form a series of events across the year, bringing together exemplary scholars, public intellectuals, and artists who will address a common theme from their distinct disciplinary perspectives. 
The theme for 2016-2017 is “What Is Faith?” and our lineup features one of the nation’s foremost voices on religion and higher education, an internationally-acclaimed poet who boldly tackles themes of faith, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate who brought together the Christian and Muslim communities to bring an end the Liberian civil war, one of the world’s leading scholars of the Reformation, and a young memoirist and novelist who will offer a compelling look at the struggles of people of faith in the modern world.

The 2016-2017 Distinguished Speaker Series (Fall):

Duesenberg Recital Hall, Center for the Arts, 6:30-7:30 pm

March 8, 2012; Mark Roche headshot. Photo by Barbara Johnston/University of Notre Dame

Mark W. Roche is Joyce Professor of German, Concurrent Professor of Philosophy, and former Dean of Arts and Letters at the University of Notre Dame. His publications have been on German literature and on philosophy, film, and higher education. He is the author of nine books, including Why Choose the Liberal Arts? (University of Notre Dame Press, 2010), which received the 2012 Frederic W. Ness Book Award from the Association of American Colleges and Universities, and Why Literature Matters in the 21st Century (Yale University Press, 2004), which was chosen as an Outstanding Academic Title by Choice Magazine. His most recent book, forthcoming in early 2017, is Realizing the Distinctive University: Vision and Values, Strategy and Culture (University of Notre Dame Press). Roche teaches courses in German as well as broader courses, such as “Faith, Doubt, and Reason,” which integrate the arts, humanities, and social sciences. In 2013 he received the Joyce Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching and in 2006 the Kaneb Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching.

Chapel of the Resurrection, 6:30-7:30 pm

marie howe - brochureMarie Howe is the author of three volumes of poetry: The Kingdom of Ordinary Time (W.W. Norton, 2009); What the Living Do (1997); and The Good Thief (1988). She is also the co-editor of a book of essays, In the Company of
My Solitude: American Writing from the AIDS Pandemic (1994). Her poems have appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, Poetry, Agni, Ploughshares, Harvard Review, and The Partisan Review, among others.

The Kingdom of Ordinary Time was a finalist for the LA Times Book Prize; of the collection playwright Eve Ensler said, “These poems made me gasp. Each one a revelation, a lifeline, a domestic galaxy. This is the poetry of our times, a guide to living on the brink of the mystical and the mundane.” What the Living Do addresses the grief of losing a loved one and is a transparent, accessible documentary of loss. Publishers Weekly named the book
one of the five best poetry collections of 1997, saying “The tentative transformation of agonizing, slow-motion loss into redemption is Howe’s signal achievement in this wrenching second collection.” In large part an elegy
to her brother who died from AIDS, her intimacy and bravery in laying bare the music of her own pain—but never the pain alone—is part of its resonance. Inside each poem there is also a joy, a new breath of life, some kind of redemption.

Co-sponsored by Valparaiso University’s Wordfest, with generous support from the Lilly Fellows Program in Humanities and the Arts and the Valparaiso University Cultural Arts Committee.

Chapel of the Resurrection, 6:30-7:30 pm

Leymah-Gbowee - brochureLeymah Roberta Gbowee was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2011 for her work in leading a Christian and Muslim women’s peace movement that brought an end to the Second Liberian Civil War in 2003. She is founder and president of the Gbowee Peace Foundation Africa based in Liberia, which provides educational and leadership opportunities to girls, women and youth in West Africa. Her book Mighty Be Our Powers (2013) describes how her Christian faith motivated her to continue to fight injustice, and her earlier work is the subject of the Tribeca Film Festival 2008 Best Documentary, Pray the Devil Back to Hell.

Gbowee experienced the power of prayer after leading a reconciliation effort to eventually end her country’s civil war. In 1993, a dream led the peace activist to call a gathering of women that eventually formed the Christian Women’s Peace Initiative. The women prayed and fasted for the end of violence until the country reached a ceasefire. Gbowee is the other of six who divides her time between different countries as she promotes peace. She attends an independent evangelical church in Ghana and a Lutheran church in Liberia.

Co-sponsored by the Valparaiso University Institute for Leadership and Service and the Office of the Assistant Provost for Inclusion.

The 2016-2017 Distinguished Speakers Series (Spring):

Harre Union Ballrooms B & C, 6:30-7:30 pm

20151016 JLH Tal Howard-017 - brochureThomas Albert (Tal) Howard is Professor of Humanities and History and holds the Phyllis and Richard Duesenberg Chair in Christian Ethics at Valparaiso University. He completed his MA (1992) and PhD (1996) at the University of Virginia. He is the author or editor of eight books, including Religion and the Rise of Historicism (Cambridge, 2000); Protestant Theology and the Making of the Modern German University (Oxford, 2006); The Future of Christian Learning: An Evangelical and Catholic Dialogue (Brazos, 2008); God and the Atlantic: America, Europe, and the Religious Divide (Oxford, 2011); Imago Dei: Human Dignity in Ecumenical Perspective (Catholic University of America Press, 2013); (with Mark A. Noll), Protestantism after 500 Years (Oxford, 2016); Remembering the Reformation: An Inquiry into the Meanings of Protestantism (Oxford, 2016); and The Pope and the Professor: Pius IX, Ignaz von Döllinger and the Quandary of the Modern Age (Oxford, forthcoming). From 1997 to 1999, Professor Howard served as a fellow in the Lilly Fellows Program at Valparaiso University. Currently he is working on two projects: “Modern Theology: An Intellectual History” (Princeton University Press) and “The Riddle of the Religious Other: On the Past, Present, and Purpose of Interfaith Dialogue.”

Brauer Museum of Art, Center for the Arts, 6:30-7:30 pm

Schwehn for brochureHow do we navigate the space between who we are and who we would like to become, between the world as it is and world as we imagine it could be? In August of 2001, Kaethe Schwehn needed her own, personal Eden. She was a twenty-two-year-old trying to come to terms with a failed romance, the dissolution of her parents’ marriage, and her own floundering faith. At first, Holden Village, a Lutheran retreat center nestled in the Cascade Mountains, seemed like a utopian locale: communal meals, consensus decision-making, and eco-friendly practices. But as the months wore on, the idyll faded and Kaethe was left with 354 inches of snow, one prowling cougar, sixty-five disgruntled villagers, and a pile of copper mine tailings 150 feet high. Her Eden was a toxic Superfund site.

In this Symposium Schwehn will read from Tailings: A Memoir, winner of the 2015 Minnesota Book Award, and share her passionate and awkward journey about embracing the ‘’in-between’’ times of our lives with grace and hope.

Schwen’s poetry and prose have appeared in journals such as jubilat, Crazyhorse, New Orleans Review, Women’s
Studies Quarterly, and Word for /Word. Schwehn has been the recipient of a Minnesota Arts Board grant, a Loft Mentor
Series Award, and the Donald Justice Poetry Award. Tanka & Me: Poems (Mineral Point Poetry Series) appeared in
December, 2015. She teaches creative writing at St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota.

The 2016-2017 Fireside Symposium Schedule (Fall):

Mueller Hall Commons, 6:30-7:30pm

David Western is a Lecturer in Humanities and Social Thought

“Your faith was strong but you needed proof,” runs a line in Leonard Cohen’s song Hallelujah. Carl Sagan called science a candle illuminating the darkness of an otherwise faith-soaked, medieval, demon-haunted world. When faith healers don’t work we go to doctors – and most of us, of course, actually go to doctors first. One common narrative about the modern age presents it as a time of progress for humankind where the vicissitudes and disappointments of belief are increasingly traded for the relative certainties of knowledge and reason. Or, we might say, where the object of our greater faith switches from belief to knowledge. But Prof. Western isn’t sure. An intellectual by trade, he puts far less stock in reason and knowledge-creation than his profession would expect of him, and he’s pretty sure faithful belief is actually at the fundament of all our lives. Certainly that’s how he thinks it works in his own life, and either because he’s a narcissist or because he believes the question of faith is inescapably personal, he’s inviting you to have a conversation with him about how faith and knowledge interact in both his life and your own. Our jumping off point will be the absolute skepticism modern/post-modern philosophy has brought us to about our ability to actually “know” anything at all.

Mueller Hall Refectory, 6:30-7:30pm

Belief? Trust? Assurance? The substance of things hoped for? A panel of Valparaiso University/ Christ College alumni who have entered the ministry will discuss how they respond to this question in their church vocations and in their lives.

Rev. Richard E. Mueller ‘70, Senior Pastor, Atonement Lutheran Church, (ELCA), Florissant, Missouri


Rev. Liv Larson Andrews ‘02, Pastor, Salem Lutheran Church (ELCA), Spokane, Washington


Sr. Jessica Kerber ‘03, Handmaids of the Sacred Heart of Jesus


Mueller Hall Commons, 6:30-7:30pm

Jennifer Prough is an Associate Professor of Humanities and East Asian Studies in Christ College
James Wetzstein Valparaiso University Pastor

This Fireside Symposium will examine the issues faced when trying to represent faith in the visual medium of comics.  As soon as we try to visualize, put down in image form, a story or episode from a faith text questions of interpretation come to the fore—choices have to be made about what gets emphasized, what it should look like, and what can’t be visualized. Using examples from a variety of Bible comics as well as Pastor Jim’s own comic Agnus Day, Professor Prough and Pastor Jim will lead a discussion about the challenges and benefits the iconic medium of comics pose for speaking about faith.

Helge Center, 5:30-6:30pm

Kurt Senske

Dr Kurt Senske is Chief Executive Office of Upbring (formerly Lutheran Social Services of the South), a multi-faceted, multi-state, social service agency with an annual operating budget of over $75 million and more than 750 employees. Dr Senske completed his undergraduate work at Concordia University at Austin and Valparaiso University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration. He holds a law degree from the University of Illinois College of Law, a master’s degree in International Relations from Schiller International University in Paris, France, and a PhD in Government from the University of Texas at Austin.

Mueller Hall Commons, 6:30-7:30pm

Samuel Graber is an Assistant Professor of Humanities and Literature in Christ College

How do Muslims think about and practice faith?  Please join Professor Graber and members of the Muslim Student Association for a discussion of what faith means to Muslims here at VU and in the wider world.

The 2016-2017 Fireside Symposium Schedule (Spring):

Mueller Hall Commons, 6:30-7:30pm

Matthew Puffer is an Assistant Professor of Humanities and Ethics

St. Anselm’s dictum “fides quarens intellectum” [faith seeking understanding] has proven to be an influential formulation of the relationship between faith and reason. For nearly a millennium figures including Thomas Aquinas, Martin Luther and Immanuel Kant have wrestled with Anselm’s Proslogion and the questions it addresses: What can human beings know regarding God’s being and attributes? How might we come to this knowledge? And, does faith precede reason or vice-versa? Since the early 20th century, however, many theologians have followed Karl Barth’s novel interpretation of Anselm’s arguments about the meaning of faith and its implications for our knowledge of God, potentially turning a traditional definition of faith on its head.

Mueller Hall Commons, 6:30-7:30pm

Julien Smith is an Assistant Professor of Humanities and Theology

What do Christians mean when talking about “faith?” What is it good for? How do you get it? Do some people have more than others? Or is it not something one has, but rather something one does? Historically, Christians have insisted upon the need for “faith in Jesus Christ” as the basis (either solely, or in part) of salvation. But what about the “faith of Jesus Christ?” In what sense must we consider Jesus’s own faithfulness to his divinely bestowed vocation as necessary for Christian faith? Our conversation begins with the Apostle Paul’s understanding of the faith in/of Jesus and expands outward to consider matters of contemporary Christian faith and practice.

Mueller Hall Commons, 6:30-7:30pm

Slavica Jakelic is an Assistant Professor of Humanities and Social Thought

We live in a pluralistic society in which meeting people of different religious worldviews happens by necessity. But we also seek encounters with those who are different from us— outside and within our faith tradition. Why do we develop sustained efforts at interfaith dialogue and collaborations? Do we need a particular kind of theological disposition in order to nurture interfaith encounters? Do they impoverish or enrich our own faith commitments? Do they have any civic value and, if so, what is that value? Simply put, why should we have faith in interfaith dialogue?

Mueller Hall Commons, 6:30-7:30pm

Mark Schwehn is a Professor of Humanities in Christ College

Holden Village is the second-most remote ongoing community in North America.  It is a Lutheran retreat center in the North Cascade mountains of Washington State where many Christ College students and faculty have served over the years as part of Holden’s large volunteer staff.  Holden provides all villagers with the resources and experiences that strengthen faith in service to the world.  This session will introduce Holden Village and its many volunteer opportunities.  Testimonies about Holden’s transformative effects will abound.  The session should give everyone a chance to reflect upon the communal dimensions of faith.

Mueller Hall Commons, 6:30-7:30pm

Edward Upton is an Assistant Professor of Humanities in Christ College

Robert Saler, Research Professor of Lutheran Studies and Executive Director of the Center for Pastoral Excellence at Christian Theological Seminary

While the sacred music of composer Arvo Pärt (who has, for the past five years, been the most performed living composer in the world) has often been described as “minimalist,” it is more accurate to say that his music evokes the believer’s experience of the interplay between God’s presence and absence in faith. Robert Saler will use Pärt ‘s music as an occasion to reflect on how Christian art renders both the presence and absence of the divine as a mode of forming Christians as both disciples and humane lovers of a suffering world.

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