Past Paluse Projects


Will Adams, Psychology
"Christian Meditation, Racial Justice, and Ecological Well-Being: Participatory Action Research to Break Our Hearts......Open"

James Swindal, Philosophy & William M. Wright IV, Theology
"The Eucharist and Existential Action: A Collaboration of Biblical Exegesis and Philosophical Theology"


Inci Sayrak & Erik Garrett, Communications
"From Surviving to Thriving"  in the Neighborhood: Public Health, Communication Ethics, and Urban Intercultural Mindfulness"

Nancy Trun, Biology
Clean water research

Robin Chapdelaine, History
Oral Interviews for Book Project on transnational labor migration


Norman Conti, Sociology
"Among Brothers and Keepers: White Supremacy, Mass Incarceration and Chosen Family"

For this project, I will be developing a recent journal article into a book length manuscript that explores how central tenants of the Spiritan Charism, such as openness to the spirit, the sanctity of creation and walking with those at the margins, play out in community encaged teaching and scholarship. Specifically, the article "Stanton Heights: Intersections of Art and Science in an Era of Mass Incarceration," forthcoming in Kalfou: A Journal of Comparative and Relational Ethnic Studies, highlights the interwoven threads at the nexus of seemingly disparate experiences with the family of a slain Pittsburgh police officer, to intellectual activism with Leon Ford-an African American man shot and paralyzed by the Pittsburgh police in a case of mistaken identity-as well as a think tank comprised of incarcerated men, academics, artists and activists. As I say in the article, "This work continually changes us, and by telling our stories, I hope to push readers to consider the wider totality of lived experiences included within them. Moreover, our group is working to build solutions that address the human suffering we have observed. The pages that follow, offer a perspective, comprised of many different perspectives, that is the foundation for a program designed to address the disconnection between the public, the police and men in prison."

Gretchen Generett & Amy Olson, Education
"Identity, the Principle of Participation, and the Right to Reputation"continue their ongoing work around the social justice implications of school-based meritocracy narratives and how these narratives impact teachers' practice and students' identity development.

Briefly, this work began following a small grant from the University Council of Educational Administration (UCEA) in 2016 to investigate teachers' perceptions of their own courage to engage in and sustain acts of advocacy for social justice in their school systems (Olson, Generett, & Foster, 2015). This grant funded data collection using journey lines and interview protocols with educators and students in a local area secondary school setting. We focused first on the teacher data, but struggled with the courage framework, ultimately finding that the teachers' stories were better understood within meritocracy as a cultural narrative, with a hyper-individualized emphasis on hard work and perseverance as keys to successfully developing individuals' potential within schools. These findings were presented at the American Educational Studies Association (Generett & Olson, 2017) and further developed for publication in Urban Education (Generett & Olson, in press). Following presentation at AESA, we were approached by Lexington Books, an imprint of Rowman & Littlefield, to develop a prospectus exploring and expanding upon this work. In order to pursue this, we first need to spend time focusing on the youth narratives. In doing so, we hope to develop a new line of inquiry using the existing youth data to answer the following research questions: (1) How do students make sense of their teachers' shared narratives? (2) To what extent do students take up aspects of these narratives in their own identities? We expect this work to develop as a second manuscript to submit for publication and that the adult and youth manuscripts will contribute to the book prospectus.

David M. Kahler, Center for Environmental Research and Education (CERE) with co-PIs Plaxedes Chitiyo, CERE & Benjamin Goldschmidt, Biomedical Engineering
"Water Security as an Issue of Social Justice in Tanzania"

For three-years, PureThirst has worked in Olkokola, Tanzania on water and sanitation projects. The students have documented the critical need for fluoride remediation of the community's drinking water. They have directly observed the human health consequences and measured fluoride concentration in the drinking water. Fluoride helps strengthen teeth and bones at low concentrations; however, fluoride will begin weakening teeth and bones at higher concentrations. The fluoride, which occurs naturally in the water source, places a health burden on the people. This problem is an example of what Pope Francis, in his encyclical letter, Laudato Si, identifies as a need for access to water of sufficient quality. The research team proposes to investigate the overall water security in the communities. Water quality, quantity, and access will be assessed with field instruments, installation of data loggers, satellite observations, and community surveys. Researchers will also work with the local clinic to determine the health impacts of the water quality and the issues of social justice. The results will be used to develop options to improve the water security of the communities such as point-of-use water filtration and various fluoride remediation. The output of this year's work will be an opinion article on water security and social justice and a peer-reviewed scientific article on the baseline water quantity and quality.


Zvonimir Nagy, D. M., Music 
"Multi-media musical composition based on Thomas Merton's Dialogues with Silence"

This new musical composition is based on the prayers and drawings from Thomas Merton's book, Dialogues of Silence (Morton 2001). In his life as a Catholic priest and a Trappist monk, Thomas Merton remained an avid social critic and advocate of fundamental human and spiritual rights and values. In an effort to explore the role of the sacred in the search for common good, in composing my new musical composition I would consider Merton's concept of silence as a contemplative agent for social change in our world. This necessity for quiet reflection would be a guiding principle in the selection of texts and drawings to be featured in the composition, thus supporting the university's concern for moral and spiritual values, as well as its attentiveness to social and global concerns. Scored for baritone voice, flute, and a collection of percussion instruments, the new 50-minute work would set a selection of Merton's texts and drawings to music. It would be accompanied by electronically manipulated sounds that will act as a sonic backdrop to the selected drawings, which would be displayed on a projector screen, the new composition would be completed in Winter 2018, and subsequently premiered at the Chapel of the Holy Spirit in Spring 2019. The budget includes the costs for three performers (baritone, flutist, and percussion player), multimedia software and equipment, legal permission and rights costs for the use of Merton's text and artwork, and recording expenses.

Danielle A. St. Hilaire, Ph.D., English
"The Art of Feeling: Aesthetics, Ethics, and Pity in Early Modern Literature"

This monograph will explore how representations and deployments of pity in English early modern literature challenge the notion, widely held in the period, that literature serves a didactic, moral purpose. Treatises on aesthetics in 16th-century England argued unanimously that literature's purpose is to teach virtue, and that it does so by giving us this knowledge in a form that "delights." These accounts, known in the field as "instrumental aesthetics," assume that aesthetic response is a vehicle for ethical precepts. Literary texts from the same period, however, do not always tell the same story. Examining works by Sidney, Spenser, and Shakespeare, I will argue that the Renaissance explored a proto-Kantian (and neo-Augustinian) concept of aesthetics alongside and as a challenge to instrumental aesthetics. In the history of aesthetics, "pity" is a key category, emphasized by both Plato and Aristotle; but it is also a key ethical category in the Christian tradition. This project will trace the tensions and intersections between "aesthetic pity" and "ethical pity," which aligns with Augustinian and Thomist conceptions of misericordia, in order to show how pity, which seems to promise the transmissibility of moral affects through art, also undermines that transmissibility by distancing the ethical from the aesthetic audience. By complicating the concept of "instrumental aesthetics," these texts at the same time offer other ways of thinking about the value of the emotion evoked by literature, ways more closely aligned with virtue ethics than with systems of ethics that value reason at the expense of emotion.


Meghan Blaskowitz, Occupational Therapy
"Identifying Disparities and Predictors of Quality of Life for Young Adults with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities"

Carie Cunningham, Journalism and Multimedia Arts
Pamela E. Walck, Journalism and Multimedia Arts
"Truth and Fairness: Exploring Cognitive Dissonance among Young Journalists and Truthseeking Reporting"

Julia A. Sienkewicz, History
"Uplift Forgotten: Sculpture and Social Justice in the Work of Selma Burke"


Heather Leavy Rusiewicz,  Department of Speech-Language Pathology
"Using Gestures to Facilitate Learning of Phonetics: A Study of Embodiment in the Classroom"

Xia Chao, School of Education
"Language and Literacy in Church-Based ESL Programs for Bhutanese Refugees: Building on Strength, Imagination, and Equity"


Marinus Iwuchukwu,Theology
"Appropriating Select Christian and Islamic Sacred Texts to Underscore Jacques Dupuis' Theology of Inclusive Pluralism Toward Effective Global Christian-Muslim Dialogue"

Project: Research funding to promote publication of an article that explores Dupuis' ideas of interreligious dialogue in relation to Christian-Muslim dialogue through various sacred texts.
"The focus of this work strongly advocates and promotes Duquesne University's mission of respect and appreciation of different religions in society. More importantly, Duquesne University's mission cherishes and espouses effective dialogue and collaboration between Christians and Muslims for more peaceful societies across the globe. One of the core mission values of Duquesne University is to promote 'an ecumenical atmosphere open to diversity.' This research is strategically poised to prompt one this mission."

Elaine Frantz Parsons, History
"The 1892 Homestead Strike and Popular Views of Legitimate Violence"

Project: Research funding towards an article connecting today's societal struggle with legitimizing violence in connection to a relevant historical event.
"The Duquesne UniversityMission Statement speaks to our 'Profound concern for moral and spiritual values.' This project traces the development of the values as they relate to one very important area: the legitimacy of the use of violence... My work will be neither theology nor political theory, and will not attempt to construct some sort of moral justification, but it will trace the history of that idea in US public life during a crucial period in our nation's development. "


Garnet Butchart, Communication and Rhetorical Studies
"Community and Communication: Continental Philosophical Perspectives"

Project: Research funding to support summer research on phase-one of a single-authored book tentatively entitled Community and Communication: Continental Philosophical Perspectives.

Although each of the philosophical frameworks engaged in this book project are in many ways motivated by topics of Catholic thought (e.g., transcendence, communion, revelation, freedom, etc.), what makes my project resonate most powerfully with the Catholic intellectual tradition is the way in which it places the perspectives of each philosopher into dialogue, not only with one another but also with perspectives at the center of inquiry in the Communication discipline.... Once brought into dialogue with each other, these different approaches may help broaden our horizons for thinking about community and what it means to be human. The project as such directly reflects the "integrating" feature of Catholic intellectual tradition by way of reasoned engagement with texts that may lead to openings for new insight into fundamental topics of Communication inquiry.

Jessica Wiskus, Musicianship Studies
"The Breath of Being: On Rhythm and Ethics through the Highest Kind of Music"

Project: Research funding to support hiring a professional music typesetter to offer musical interludes and scores as chapter interludes in the work-in-progress book entitled The Breath of Being: On Rhythm and Ethics through the Highest Kind of Music. 
Although there are obvious ways in which this work relates to the Catholic intellectual tradition - the reconciliation between Classical and Christian authors, the particular focus upon the thought and faith of Augustine, and, of course, the emphasis on ethics - perhaps it is more interesting to consider the deeper ways that this tradition is woven throughout the book.... [T]he book attempts to make of reading a creative act; the purpose is not simply to write about the Catholic intellectual tradition, but to perform it - to enact it. This intertwining between Classical, Christian, poetic, and musical traditions is designed to effect an actual transformation within the reader. It is not a book set with the purpose of simply clarifying systematic concepts; rather, it brings forth the present-ness of the expression and struggles of these intellectual, religious, and artistic figures.


Susan Goldberg, Psychology
"The 1,000 Stories Project: A Demonstration of Duquesne University's Distinctive Approach to Community Engagement"

Project: Research funding to support the publication of two articles emerging from research on community engagement in Pittsburgh's Hill District.
Both proposed articles will demonstrate and discuss how Duquesne's approach to community engagement, grounded in the Spiritan charism and the Catholic intellectual tradition, is distinctly sensitive to ethical considerations, social justice, and religious pluralism. Each division of Duquesne in which I participate provides a context and support for the strength of this approach to working with the "other".... The Catholic intellectual tradition informs every aspect of the University mission and values. Relevant ideas include recognizing oppression, choosing the preferential option for the poor, principles of human equality and human dignity, the belief in the common good, and challenging systemic and structural factors that perpetuate inequality.

Daniel Lieberfeld, Social and Public Policy
"Debating "Peace versus Justice"; East Timor's Bishop Belo and Xanana Gusmao"

Project: Research funding to support the publication of an article engaging with a case study over reconciliation policy in post-conflict East Timor. 
Regarding the relevance of the research project to Catholic social thought, the 1983 Pastoral Letter of the U.S. Bishops quotes Pope John Paul II in asserting that peace is not simply absence of war, but the presence of justice (Article 68).... This goal of "positive peace" is important to a policy challenge facing leaders in the transformations of societies from dictatorships to democracies: How, in the aftermath of governmental regimes that perpetuated pervasive violence and abuses of power, to move beyond a "negative peace" defined by the absence of overt violence toward a "positive peace" characterized by new norms of justice, human rights, and attention to the needs of those who in the past have been excluded from full social, economic and political participation in society.

Ana Cristina O. Siqueira, Management
"Microfinance, Entrepreneurship, and Organizations with a Social Mission in Brazil"

Project: Research funding for a paper discussing the Brazilian community banks and their influences on the surrounding community.
This study is aligned with key Principles of Catholic Social Teaching including: Association (community banks are made possible by community organization), Participation (microfinance promote entrepreneurship and action to overcome poverty), Solidarity (community banks are solidarity financial services), and Preferential Protection for the Poor and Vulnerable (microfinance is offered to those who have little or no access to credit). Scholars have emphasized the preferential option for the poor and organizations like the Catholic Relief Services have offered programs that include microfinance.


Mark L. Haas, Political Science
"Catholic Strategies of International Conflict Resolution: Promoting Rights Protection to Reduce Western-Islamic Hostilities"

Project: Research funding to publish a book and an article pertaining to connecting Catholic analyses of international relations to current U.S.-Middle Eastern relations. Core beliefs of Catholic analyses of international relations are: 1) that illiberal ideologies that promote intolerance and deny rights are a central cause of international conflicts, including contemporary hostilities between Western and Muslim groups; and 2) that the spread of liberal beliefs that promote human rights is an important component of international conflict resolution.
Although these arguments are both plausible and tie in with important secular theories of international politics (most notable the "democratic peace thesis" which predicts peaceful relations among established liberal regimes) no study has systematically applied and tested the to current U.S.-Middle Eastern relations using evidence from the Muslim world. This is the purpose of my new book and scholarly article.

William M. Wright, Theology
"Echoes of Apocalyptic in Benedict XVI's Social Doctrine"

Project: Research funding for publication of an analysis of Pope Benedict XVI's use of apocalyptic theology in his social teachings.
This paper brings to light the subtle ways in which Pope Benedict XVI draws on biblical apocalyptic theology to frame his social teaching. The Pope's creative and nuanced use of this fascinating (and often controversial) biblical resource helps him define the challenges that confront the Church today and the prophetic Christian response to them.

Anne Marie Witchger Hansen, Occupational Therapy
"Listen to Our Voices: Challenges & Barriers to Participation and Engagement in the Lives of Persons with Disabilities in Zambia"

Project: Research and travel funding for an in-depth qualitative analysis of the Spiritans experience living the values of Spiritan Charism and Catholic Social Teaching in their ministries in East Africa.
This study proposes to uncover not only some of the important ministries of the Spiritans in East Africa today, but also the limitations, struggles, barriers ad breakthroughs the Spiritans encounter in carrying out their vision. The values of CST and the Spiritan Charism this investigator will explore include preferential option for the poor, respect and dignity for all human beings, participation and solidarity and contributions to the common good. This study will include the voices and perspectives of the Spiritans in ministry in East Africa as well as the voices and perspectives of local people in the context of Spiritan ministries.


Jotham Parsons, History
"Poverty, Class, and Spirituality in the Century of Saints"

Project: Research and travel funds to write two articles examining aspects of the golden age of spirituality in seventeenth-century France from a socioeconomic point of view.
This was the century of François de Sales, Pierre Bérulle, Vincent de Paul, Louise de Marillac and of course Claude-François Poullart de Places, founder of the Spiritans. These and many other religious leaders continue to exercise a profound influence through their writings and through the many orders and congregations they founded, reformed or developed. Their concerns and contributions took a huge variety of forms, from pure mysticism through scholarship and education to popular devotion and pastoral life. However, one would certainly count among their most original and lasting innovations a certain combination of spiritual rigor, social engagement and apostolic zeal that seemed to many, then and since, to respond exactly to the needs of a rapidly modernizing world. I propose to examine one aspect of the origins of that innovative outlook: the ways in which it arose out of the socioeconomic structure of early modern France.


Will W. Adams, Psychology
"Spiritual Practice for the Shared Earth Community: The Coalescence of Christian Contemplative Prayer and Ecological Justice Work"

Project: Research funding for qualitative psychological research exploring the potential for a mutually nourishing collaboration between contemplation/mediation and engaged work for social justice.
Before embarking on his work of teaching and healing, Jesus went into the depths of the wilderness to fast and pray for forty days. Imbued with this experience, he returned to serve the poor, sick, confused and oppressed. Thus nature, contemplative prayer, and social justice were intertwined at the origin of the Christian tradition. Christ included the natural world in his contemplative practice and if there had been an ecological crisis in his era I trust that it would have been one focus of his socially engaged spirituality.... The present proposal springs from my hypothesis that there is immense-but as yet underdeveloped-potential for a mutually nourishing collaboration between these two profound practices.

Rev. Jocelyn Gregoire, Education
"Examination of the Impact of the Roman Catholic Church on the Individual and Collective Racial-Cultural Identity Development of Mauritian Code"

Project: Travel and research funding for a qualitative analysis of the Catholicism's impact on the people of Mauritius.
We, the researchers, also intend to use findings of the study to develop culturally-appropriate interventions that can be employed by the Catholic Church to aid in the economic and educational advancement of the Mauritian Creole, and this help the church to be more in sync with her convictions related to social justice. Moreover, this inquiry will help the Catholic Church foster her work of enculturation and incarnation of the Gospel message in the life and culture of Mauritian Creole as she strives to remain faithful to the spirit of Vatican II. Finally, it is our hope that this study will help pave the way towards a necessary reconciliation between the Creole in Mauritius and the Catholic Church so that both can genuinely appreciate the Creole identity and work together towards more social justice for all.

Kathleen Glenister Roberts, Communication & Rhetorical Studies
"Cosmopolitical Alternatives in Catholic Social Thought"

Project: Research funding to perform an analysis of the comparison between cosmopolitanism and Catholic social thought.
Catholic social thought offers an alternative to cosmopolitanism. Cosmopolitanism as a theory of ethics has been disrupted by cosmopolitanism as a theory of cultural identity. Catholic social thought, because it flows in part from Pauline universalism, is the only surviving philosophy that still resembles ancient Greek cosmopolitanism. Diogenes sought not to celebrate diversity, nor to enjoy exotic cultures, but to negate difference in favor of a common humanity. The apostle Paul's baptismal formula, "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, for you are all one in Christ Jesus" establishes a universalism embedded in the cosmos-in God's creation.

Daniel P. Scheid, Theology
"Care of Creation as our Cosmic Common Good"

Project: Research funding to publish an article that connects both Catholics and people from a wide range of philosophical and religious backgrounds with a better understanding of the cosmic common good as a core concept of ecological ethics.
This article seeks to highlight the intrinsic connection between two core concepts of Catholic Social Thought: "the common good" and "environmental ethics/care of creation." It uses traditional Catholic resources to provide a more rigorous theoretical foundation for the language used in recent papal and episcopal documents that call on all people to work for the "planetary" and "universal" common god. Building off the notion of a "planetary common good," first articulated by the U.S. Catholic Bishops, I propose the notion of a "cosmic common good." This concept offers a nuanced theological model of humanity's relationship to the cosmos and to the Earth and can empower the kind of actions necessary to address ecological crises, from local concerns to global issues like climate change.