Dr. Marc D. Guerra, Associate Professor and Director of Graduate Programs in Theology at Ave Maria University, has been awarded a $150,000 grant through the New Sciences of Virtue Project at the University of Chicago. Guerra and his project’s codirector, Dr. Peter Augustine Lawler, Professor of Government and International Studies at Berry College in Rome, Georgia, will use this grant to hold a series of three interdisciplinary conferences at Berry College that focus on the challenges and prospects modern technological society pose to the cultivation of virtue. The University of Chicago’s multidisciplinary research initiative awarded a grand total of three million dollars to 19 highly original, scholarly projects that have the potential to contribute to a renewed focus on the study of virtue in the contemporary academy. The New Sciences of Virtue Project garnered more than 700 grant applications worldwide. Researchers chosen for funding come from a wide range of highly prestigious institutions, including Vanderbilt University, Stanford University, the University of Oxford (United Kingdom), Tel Aviv University (Israel), Northwestern University, Yale University, Princeton University, and Amherst College.
Through these conferences, Dr. Guerra and his colleague, Dr. Lawler, hope to provide a model for colleges and universities seeking to initiate the study of virtue in a way that is both intellectually serious and engaging.
As the Conference Series’ website states: “This project defends the commonsensical but by no means self-evident belief that virtue is a naturally desirable feature of human life. At the same time, it recognizes that human beings in modern technological societies increasingly find it difficult to articulate and defend the irreplaceable role that virtue plays in human life. Working from the premise that humans are, by nature, stuck with virtue, we will attempt to identify the moral, intellectual, scientific, educational and civic framework in which an intellectually serious and humanly satisfying new science of virtue could reasonably hope to unfold and develop.”
Held on the Berry campus, the Conference Series provides a unique opportunity for students to interact with renowned scholars and experience for themselves discussions that could lead to the birth of a new course of academic study. The first conference in the series, held on November 18-19 of 2010 at Berry College in Rome, Georgia, featured nine speakers. Over 135 faculty and students, from six different colleges, attended that conference. The second conference, held on April 8-9, 2011, featured eight speakers. Over 115 faculty and students, from nine different colleges, were in attendance. The third and final conference will be held on November 17-18, 2011.
Dr. Guerra commented, “A morally, intellectually, and spiritually compelling science of virtue must be able to draw connections among human biology, human psychology, human freedom, and human happiness.
Developing and sustaining those connections is perhaps the central task of the science behind the claim that we are stuck with virtue. Such a science aims to connect what nature and God equip us with to our distinctive longings to know, and to be known, and to love, and be loved, by other human beings.”