Inaugural Anti-Poverty Symposium, 10/22

Caritas in Action: Root Causes, Solutions and Restoring Dignity


Friday, October 22, 2021
10:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m.

Arthur M. Goldberg '66 Commons
John F. Scarpa Hall
Villanova University Charles Widger School of Law
299 North Spring Mill Road, Villanova, PA 19085


Over the past year and a half, a spotlight has been shown on the age-old problem of poverty and inequality with the global pandemic exacerbating disparities. The United States government and local municipalities offered various ways to try to combat this through stimulus payments, expanded child tax credits, eviction moratoriums and others. However, these are acute solutions to a systemic problem.

Villanova University’s Inaugural Anti-Poverty Symposium “Caritas in Action: Root Causes, Solutions and Restoring Dignity” will bring together thought leaders and advocates to explore the cause and effect of poverty and inequality. Speakers include Julián Castro, Angela Davis and Anand Giridharadas. This interdisciplinary event is part of a University-wide initiative on poverty and inequality that has been made possible by a gift from Paul Tufano Esq., '83 VSB, '86 CWSL and Christine Tufano '84 CLAS, '86 MA. The program will focus on identifying the most promising approaches to eradicating poverty and eliminating disparities associated with race, disability and difference.

This symposium takes place on Friday, October 22, 2021 from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. in the Arthur M. Goldberg '66 Commons at the Villanova University Charles Widger School of Law. This program is approved by the Pennsylvania Continuing Legal Education Board for 5 Substantive In-Person or Distance CLE credits. This event is also ACS approved. Please note registration prior to the event is required. If you must attend virtually, a link will be sent to registrants prior to the day of the event.

Villanova University will continue to monitor local and national public health and safety guidelines, which may necessitate some changes to schedules, physical spaces and events to ensure the health of everyone on campus. For more information, please see the COVID-19 Campus Information. All faculty, staff, students and visitors to campus, regardless of vaccination status, are required to wear masks inside campus buildings (except when eating and drinking) to help protect our community.



Subject to change


10:00–10:20 a.m.: Opening Remarks​

Rev. Peter M. Donohue, OSA, PhD, '75 CLAS, President, Villanova University

Stephanie Sena, Anti-Poverty Fellow, Villanova University Charles Widger School of Law & Founder, Student-Run Emergency Housing Unit of Philadelphia (SREHUP)

Paul Tufano Esq., '83 VSB, '86 CWSL, Chairman & Chief Executive Officer, AmeriHealth Caritas Family of Companies


10:20–11:00 a.m.: Keynote Address​

Julián Castro, 16th United States Secretary of Housing and Urban Development

Moderated by Senator Nikil Saval, State Senator, First District of Pennsylvania 


11:00 a.m.–12:00 p.m.: Panel 1 – Shifting the Poverty Lens: Caritas in Focus

Roxana Bendezú, Director of Communications, Pax Christi USA and Caravan of Central American Mothers in Search of Disappeared Migrants

Cassie Haynes, JD, MPH, Co-Executive Director, Resolve Philly

Arthur Purcaro, OSA, Assistant Vice President for Mission and Ministry, Co-Chair University Sustainability Leadership Council, adjunct professor of Theology, Villanova University

Alicia Robinson, Board Member, Student Run Emergency Housing Unit of Philadelphia


12:00–12:40 p.m.: Lunch Talk​

Angela Davis, PhD, political activist, philosopher, academic and author

Moderated by Anand Giridharadas, Author, Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World (Knopf, 2018), Editor-at-large, TIME & Visiting Scholar, Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute at New York University


1:00–2:00 p.m.: Panel 2 – Healthcare and Poverty  ​

Mark Doorley, PhD, Director of the Ethics Program, Villanova University

Ruth McDermott-Levy, PhD, MPH, RN, FAAN, Professor & Co-Director, Mid-Atlantic Center for Children's Health and the Environment, Villanova University M. Louise Fitzpatrick College of Nursing

Dylan Toolajian BSN, RN, OCN, Registered Nurse, Cooper University Health Care

Bradley Wilhelm, Esq., General Counsel, University City Housing


2:00–3:00 p.m.: Panel 3 – The Role of Academia in Anti-Poverty Work​

Ksenya Basarab, EMS Community Health Outreach Coordinator, Delaware County Memorial Hospital 

Linda Maldonado, PhD, RN, Assistant Professor, Villanova University M. Louise Fitzpatrick College of Nursing

Joan Maya Mazelis, PhD, Associate Professor of Sociology, Department of Sociology, Anthropology and Criminal Justice, Rutgers University-Camden

Rev. Naomi Washington-Leapheart, Adjunct Professor, Department of Theology and Religious Studies, Villanova University and Director for Faith-Based and Interfaith Affairs, City of Philadelphia


3:00–4:00 p.m.: Panel 4 – Decriminalizing Poverty

Amelia Carter, Assistant Director, South Asia Center at the University of Pennsylvania  

Alec Karakatsanis, Esq., Founder & Executive Director, Civil Rights Corps

Teressa Ravenell, Esq., Associate Dean for Faculty Research and Development & Professor of Law, Villanova University Charles Widger School of Law

Alex Vitale, Professor of Sociology & Coordinator, Policing and Social Justice Project, Brooklyn College


4:00–5:00 p.m.: Closing Remarks

Anand Giridharadas, Author, Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World (Knopf, 2018), Editor-at-large, TIME & Visiting Scholar, Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute at New York University

Moderated by Scott Ferguson, 3-time Emmy Award winning Film & Television Producer known for Succession, The Night Of and Brokeback Mountain


Student moderators for the symposium are Antionna Fuller '22 and Luz Escobar Zapata '24 CLAS