Attendees from 10 countries—including Belgium, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Nigeria, Peru, South Africa, DR Congo and the United Kingdom—and a dozen states across the U.S. participated in a series of vibrant discussions and interactive workshops focusing on the SNDdeN mission in the 21st century.
Emmanuel College President Sister Janet Eisner, SNDdeN, delivered the opening keynote, "Vision Made Manifest: Transforming Lives through Catholic Education and Healthcare." In her talk, Sr. Janet spoke of SNDdeN founder St. Julie Billiart as a visionary—and of Emmanuel College as just one manifestation of Julie's vision of education as the foundation of so many goods for individuals and for society. "As we prepare to celebrate Emmanuel's Centennial in 2019, we are focusing in a special way on our SND heritage, and on how our mission has flourished—often in unexpected ways and certainly with profound effects on our students," Sr. Janet said.
Emmanuel opened in 1919 as the first Catholic liberal arts and sciences college for women in New England, before women had the right to vote. The aim of the Sisters who founded Emmanuel was to equip women to succeed in a range of professions and make significant contributions to the Church, their families and communities. In the decades that followed, through the Great Depression and World War II, graduates of the College became trailblazers in law and the sciences, serving as some of the first women judges and at companies such as RCA, General Electric and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Amid this, the campus flourished from a commuter college to a residential one, drawing students from New England and beyond.
The 1960s and 1970s were a time of ferment, both in the world and on Emmanuel's campus. Students were at the forefront of national movements concerning civil rights, women's rights and U.S. military involvement in Vietnam. In addition, leveraging its location in the Longwood Medical and Academic Area, the College weathered shifts in the higher education landscape by launching degree completion programs for working nursing professionals.
In 2000, the College made the decision to transition to coeducation and to enter into a ground lease with Merck Research Laboratories - Boston on a parcel of Emmanuel's land. Sr. Janet credited the arrangement as "one of several factors that have allowed for the transformation of Emmanuel's endowment, enrollment and programs," as well as physical changes on the campus—such as the addition of the Jean Yawkey Center in 2004, the Maureen Murphy Wilkens Science Center in 2009, the Notre Dame Campus in 2014 and the College's brand new, 18-story, apartment-style residence hall this coming fall.
"If there is a single lesson coming out of the experience of the last two decades, it is this: 'Don't resist change. Rather, reinvent, work with others and affirm the mission,'" she said.
Today, on the cusp of the 100th anniversary, Emmanuel is thriving. This fall, Emmanuel will welcome imore than 620 new first-year students, open a new residence hall, reorganize its academic programs into five distinct schools and launch innovative academic programs in rising fields.
Additional keynote addresses included:
- Catholic Identity—The Idea, Our Instructions and American Society - Fr. J. Bryan Hehir, secretary of health and social services for the Archdiocese of Boston and distinguished professor at the Harvard Kennedy School
- Catholic Social Teaching—No Longer a Secret - Sister Mary Johnson, SNDdeN, co-director of the Billiart Center for Social Justice and distinguished professor of sociology at Trinity Washington University
- The Call to Public Holiness in Chaotic Times - Sister Simone Campbell, SSS, executive director of NETWORK and author of "A Nun on the Bus"
Sisters, as well as lay administrators, faculty and staff from SNDdeN schools, delivered nearly 40 workshops over the four-day conference, on a wide range of topics such as technology and social media, curriculum and instructional practices, ethics and healthcare, women in leadership, culturally responsive education, global citizenship, nonviolent conflict resolution and more.
The conference coincided with the annual Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur Student Leadership Conference, which welcomed more than 70 student leaders from 10 SNDdeN high schools in Massachusetts, Ohio, California and Maryland to Emmanuel's campus.