Second Annual Anti-Poverty Symposium, 04/18

"Unitas in Action: Fighting Poverty and Living Sustainably"


April 18, 2023
9:00 AM–6:00 PM

Connelly Center
Villanova University


Join us on Tuesday, April 18 for Villanova University's second annual Anti-Poverty Symposium in collaboration with the Villanova Sustainability Leadership Council and the Office for Mission and Ministry. This symposium will assemble experts in poverty alleviation and sustainability to discuss and motivate the community to contribute to the significant effort of building a sustainable planet free from poverty. This year’s discussions will be broadly framed around the intersections of poverty, ecocide and the path toward ecological justice. 

The event will feature renowned experts and other powerful presenters with a range of experiences and policy and research perspectives. Sessions will feature lively conversations among guests who bring different theoretical, methodological and disciplinary approaches to analyzing and mitigating climate crisis and poverty.

The symposium's events will kick off on Monday, April 17 with an evening concert performed by the Pastoral Musicians in the St. Thomas of Villanova Church. Throughout the symposium, we invite you to stop by the Exhibit Walk with art installations from featured organizations which will be located in the Connelly Center. We hope you will join us in April and for the series of lead-up events throughout the spring semester. 

This interdisciplinary event is part of a University-wide initiative on poverty and inequality made possible by a gift from Paul Tufano Esq., '83 VSB, '86 CWSL and Christine Tufano '84 CLAS, '86 MA.


Please check back for additional details and speakers as the event approaches, and complete the form below to receive an email when the event registration is available. 



Subject to change; all in-person seating will be on a first-come, first-served basis


Monday, April 17

8:00–9:00 PM: Evening Concert at the St. Thomas of Villanova Church 

Missa Gaia: A Musical Celebration of Mother Earth performed by the Pastoral Musicians

Originally performed by the Paul Winter Consort, Missa Gaia is a contemporary ecumenical and ecological concert-Mass celebrating the Earth. This major work incorporates texts from Saint Francis of Assisi, the Bible and the Roman Liturgy and draws musical inspiration from the sounds of the natural world. In addition to student soloists, hear the Kyrie intoned by an Alaskan tundra wolf, and the Sanctus sounded by a humpback whale. The work with be performed by the Villanova Pastoral Musicians, Villanova University’s liturgical music ensemble of vocalists and instrumentalists, and offers listeners an invitation to rediscover a sense of awe before the great family of creatures to which we belong. 


Morning Sessions

Opening Remarks


Panel 1: Laudato Si’ Action Platforms:  A Call to Conversion, A Vision for Action


 Panel 2: The Road to Repairing our Broken Ecosystem, and the Right to be Hopeful

  • Naomi Klein, Senior Contributing Writer for The Intercept and New York Times bestselling author of How to Change Everything: The Young Human’s Guide to Protecting the Earth and Each Other (2021)
  • Raj Patel, Co-director of The Ants & the Grasshopper and Co-author of Inflamed: Deep Medicine and The Anatomy of Injustice (2021)
  • Moderated by Bill McKibben, Author of The Flag, the Cross, and the Station Wagon (2022) and Co-founder of


Panel 3: Healing the Land, Ending Poverty Through Kincentric Wisdom and Indigenous Storytelling

  • Melina Laboucan-Massimo, Founder of Sacred Earth Solar
  • Robin Wall Kimmerer, Author of Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants and Distinguished Teaching Professor & Director of the Center for Native Peoples and the Environment, SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry (virtual)
  • Moderated by Meg Martin, First Nation Student featured in I Am Still Here


Panel 4: Pathways to Sustainability at Villanova University: Innovations and Challenges

  • William Lorenz, Director of Sustainable Engineering Program, Villanova University
  • Al Ortega, PhD, James R. Birle Professor of Energy Technology in the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Director of the Center for Energy-Smart Electronic Systems, Villanova University
  • Fr. Art Purcaro, Assistant Vice President of Mission and Ministry, Villanova University


Afternoon Sessions

Panel 5: Inequality, The End of Nature, and the Fight for a Fairer Future

  • Bill McKibben, Author of The Flag, the Cross, and the Station Wagon (2022) and Co-founder of
  • Moderated by Scott Ferguson, Emmy Award-winning Producer known for SuccessionThe Night Of (2016), Only Lovers Left Alive (2013) and Brokeback Mountain (2005)


Panel 6: Global Perspectives in Climate Crisis Solutions

  • Wanjiku "Wawa" N. Gatheru, Founder and Executive Director of Black Girl Environmentalist
  • Raj Patel, Co-director of The Ants & the Grasshopper and Co-author of Inflamed: Deep Medicine and The Anatomy of Injustice (2021)
  • Sean Callahan, President & CEO of Catholic Relief Services
  • Moderated by Chiji Akoma, Professor and Chair of the Department of Global Interdisciplinary Studies, Villanova University


Panel 7: Local Perspectives in Climate Crisis Solutions

  • Kali Akuno, Co-founder and Co-director of Cooperation Jackson 
  • Dimka Braswell, Owner of R and B Farms and Member of the Philadelphia Food Policy Advisory Council
  • Moderated by Luz Escobar Zapata '24 CLAS


Ritual Closing Interfaith Prayer Service