Is Justice Possible?

A professional and personal conversation

with David Skeel (S. Samuel Arscht Professor of Corporate Law) and Rogers Smith (Distinguished Professor of Political Science, Associate Dean for Social Science) and moderated by John DiIulio (Frederic Fox Leadership Professor of Politics, Religion, and Civil Society).

When: October 22nd, 2014; 7:00 p.m.
Where: Cohen Hall Auditorium G-17 (249 South 36th Street)

Reception to follow

Hosted by the Veritas Forum and the Collegium Institute at Penn.

Graduate Fellows Colloquia: Spring 2016

Collegium Institute invites all graduate students and other interested individuals from the University of Pennsylvania and Greater Philadelphia Area to join its graduate fellows for the spring colloquia series focusing on John Henry Newman’s The Idea of a University.  Fellows will explore excerpts of Newman’s book paired with various snapshots of the modern academy.

All readings are provided free of charge and refreshments are served!

Thursday, March 17 at 7p.m. in Arch 107. We will read Discourses 1-4 of Part I which, following an introduction to the university as a whole, argue for the place of theology in the university.  We will juxtapose that to the mission statement of Penn’s Religious Studies Department as well as with the video welcome to Trump University.

Thursday, March 31 at 7 p.m. in Arch 106. We will read Discourses 5-8 of Part I on the pursuit of knowledge in the university along with David Brooks’ seminal article on the over-professionalization of elite liberal arts students, in preparation for a lecture by Anthony Grafton on Friday, April 8.

Thursday, April 14 at 7 p.m. in Arch 107. We will read Discourses 1-3 of Part II on Christianity and Literature in preparation for a lecture by Joseph Bottom on Thursday, April 27 on the same topic.

For more information or to receive reading materials, contact Katie Becker:

What Happened to Syria?

A presentation by the author of “Among the Ruins: Syria Past and Present”

When: October 16, 2014; 5:30 p.m.

Where: Amado Room of Irvine Auditorium (3401 Spruce Street, Philadelphia)

Featuring Christian C. Sahner, a former Rhodes Scholar who, while completing his Ph.D. in History at Princeton University, wrote “Among the Ruins: Syria Past and Present,” which was just published by Oxford University Press this August.

With comment by Dr. Ronald Granieri,Director of Research of the Lauder Institute for Management and International Studies at the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania and moderated by Dr. Heather Sharkey, Associate Professor of Near Eastern Languages & Civilizations, and Affiliate Professor of Middle East Center, University of Pennsylvania.

Cosponsored by:

The Alexander Hamilton Society, The Department of Near Eastern Languages & Civilizations at the University of Pennsylvania

A light reception to follow.

To Register for this lecture, please click here.

How to Redesign an American Metropolis

Water, Transportation, and Land Use in the Notre Dame Plan for Chicago 2109

A Luncheon Lecture featuring Professor Philip Bess

When: October 2nd, 2014; 12noon

Where: Houston Hall 218, Ben Franklin Room


Daniel Burnham’s 1909 Plan of Chicago was one of the last efforts (perhaps the greatest) to employ classical principles of architectural, landscape and urban design in and for and at the scale of a rapidly expanding modern industrial metropolitan region. Though Burnham’s classical humanist sensibilities are often downplayed by contemporary admirers more admiring of his environmental and civic sensibilities, modern metropolitan Chicago to its detriment has turned away from all three. The Notre Dame Plan of Chicago 2109 picks up where Burnham’s Plan left off, critiquing contemporary Chicago and proposing for it a 100-year vision comparable in scale and scope — and also showing how the long tradition of classical humanist urbanism speaks directly to contemporary concerns for better human stewardship of nature, and for making cities, towns, villages, and hamlets both economically and environmentally sustainable.

Philip Bess is Professor of Architecture at the University of Notre Dame. He teaches graduate urban design and theory, with a particular interest in Catholic and classical humanist intellectual and artistic traditions in the context of modern American life and the contemporary culture of architecture and urban design. He is the author of several books, including: Till We Have Built Jerusalem: Architecture, Urbanism, and the Sacred (ISI, 2006).

Moderated by Dr. Lothar Haselberger, the Morris Russell Williams and Josephine Chidsey Williams Professor of Roman Architecture and Art History at the University of Pennsylvania



The Department of Landscape Architecture, School of Design, University of Pennsylvania

The Department of the History of Art and the Program for Research on Religion and Urban Civil Society, School of Arts and Sciences, University of Pennsylvania

To RSVP for the Luncheon, please click here.

Upcoming Fall Events

Mark your calendars for these upcoming events:

September 18, 2014


An evening conversation with Dr. Margaret Brinig and Dr. Nicole Stelle Garnett,
professors at the University of Notre Dame Law School and authors of
Lost Classroom, Lost Community: Catholic Schools’ Importance in Urban America
(University of Chicago, 2014).

The event will be moderated by Rev. Timothy Scully,
Director of Notre Dame’s Institute for Educational Initiatives.

5:30pm at the Penn Newman Center
Reception to follow


October 2, 2014


A Luncheon featuring Professor Philip Bess,
the Director of Graduate Studies for the University of Notre Dame’s School of Architecture.

12 noon in Houston Hall 218 – Ben Franklin Room


October 16, 2014


Featuring Christian Sahner lecturing on the debut of his book,
Among the Ruins: Syria Past and Present, just published with Oxford University Press.

With Comment by Dr. Ron Granieri, Director of Research of the Lauder Institute for Management and International Studies at the Wharton School.

5:00 pm in the Amado Room of Irvine Auditorium


October 30, 2014


Featuring Rémi Brague, Emeritus Professor of Arabic and Religious Philosophy at the Sorbonne and
Chair of the Philosophy Department at the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich.

12 noon Luncheon, Wolf Auditorium of the McNeil Center


November 13, 2014


Featuring Robert Koons, Professor of Philosophy at the University of Texas, Austin.

5pm, Location TBA


A Crisis of Community: Catholic School Closures and Urban Neighborhoods

A Discussion with the authors of “Lost Classroom, Lost Community: Catholic Schools’ Importance in Urban America”

When: September 18th, 2014; 5:30 – 7:00 p.m.
Where: Penn Newman Center (3720 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia)

Dr. Margaret F. Brinig is the Fritz Duda Family Chair in Law at the University of Notre Dame Law School. She holds a Ph.D. in Economics from George Mason University and a J.D. from Seton Hall University. Her research integrates law and social sciences in empirical studies of families, social capital, and social welfare legislation. She serves on the executive board of the International Society of Family Law and is a Fellow of the Institute for Educational Initiatives at the University of Notre Dame. In addition to more than a hundred shorter works, her most recent book is Family, Law, and Community: Supporting the Covenant (University of Chicago Press, 2010).

Dr. Nicole Stelle Garnett is Professor of Law at the University of Notre Dame. Her teaching and research focus on property, land use, urban development, local government law, and education policy. She is the author of numerous of articles on these subjects and of Ordering the City: Land Use, Policing and the Restoration of Urban America (Yale University Press, 2009). At Notre Dame, Professor Garnett also is a Fellow of the Institute for Educational Initiatives and the Senior Policy Coordinator for the Alliance for Catholic Education. From 2008-2010, she served as Provost Fellow at Notre Dame, and, in 2007, was a Visiting Professor of Law at the University of Chicago Law School.

The event will be moderated by Rev. Timothy Scully, Director of Notre Dame’s Institute for Educational Initiatives.

Reception to follow.

Sponsored by:
Collegium Institute for Catholic Thought & Culture,
Robert A. Fox Leadership Program — Faith and Service Partners,
Penn Newman Center,
the Alliance for Catholic Education,
Notre Dame Law School, and
Penn’s Program for Research on Religion & Urban Civil Society.

To RSVP, Please register here.

Collegium Institute Student Fellows Program

The Collegium Institute Student Fellows form an undergraduate intellectual community at the University of Pennsylvania committed to exploring the past, present, and future of academic learning as a whole.  Student fellows show varying degrees of interest in the meaning of the liberal arts, the promise of the research university, and the study of the intellectual tradition of Catholicism or other religions in both contexts.  All, however, seek to reflect together upon the inter-relation of knowledge across the university.  They pursue the questions that transcend the disciplines, while striving to draw wisdom from each one.  

Student Fellows of the Collegium Institute are granted a number of academic opportunities, including:

  • Special Access to the Institute’s Guest Speakers and Faculty Senior Fellows, which includes invitations each semester to join the speakers’ dinners and private receptions after Collegium Institute events.  Past lecturers have included Michael Lewis, Ann Matter, John Haldane, Christy Wampole, Wilson Goode, Robert Wuthnow, Jesus Fernandez-Villaverde, Brad Gregory and other leading intellectuals from the United States and abroad.
  • Priority Admission to the Institute’s evening non-credit seminar, Coffee with the Classics, and the gift of the classical texts that accompany it.  Student Fellows are granted the privilege of opting into the seminar without having to submit a separate application.
  • Board Membership in the Collegium Institute Student Association at Penn, which includes participation in event plotting and design, strategizing, and the direction and execution of publicity campaigns.
  • Invitation to lead the monthly Fellows’ ColloquiaThese colloquia are monthly luncheons that provide Student Fellows with leadership experience in directing the intellectual community of the Collegium Institute at Penn.  Each month a different fellow, in consultation with the Graduate Service Fellow, will have the option of (a) inviting a guest faculty member to lead a conversation on some topic relevant to the Fellows’ collective interests or (b) personally preparing and leading that conversation, or (c) workshopping some of his or her own writing or a planned research project on a theme likely to engage the other fellows (religion and the university, unity of knowledge, the liberal arts, etc.).

The Fellows Program is open to Penn students of all faiths and of none.

Undergraduates interested in applying should compose a brief essay of 300-500 words on one of the following topics:

(1) Should we have faith in the secular research university?  Explain why or why not according to one or more of the multiple senses of the question.

(2) Synthesize any thinker’s account of the relationship between faith and reason and then articulate your own understanding within the context of your studies at Penn.

(3) Why the liberal arts?

(4) How might the Catholic intellectual tradition fit in here?  Discuss proposals and expectations.

Essays will be reviewed by committee and also may be nominated for one of the $250 essay prizes.

Applications should be sent to Daniel Cheely  at  The subject should be labeled as CI Student Fellow Application.  The review process is rolling, but admission is capped, and priority will be given to applications received by Friday, September 5th.

Coffee with the Classics

Collegium Institute Undergraduate Reading Group

Ever wonder whether universities make us better people? Can virtue be taught?  If so, are we obliged to practice it? In what sense are we moral beings?  Is it legitimate to impose morality on others?  How can a society be “free”?  What is Justice and how does that relate to my own happiness?

Ever wish you had a chance to step back and consider the big questions, the ones incredibly smart people have been struggling with for millennia, outside the pressures of grades and papers?  Did you think college would give you a chance to read Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, Aquinas, Machiavelli, Rousseau, Kant, and Nietzsche altogether, and to develop a sustained, coherent conversation about them?

Coffee with the Classics provides an opportunity to consider some foundational questions about education, morality, and politics in a laid back extracurricular forum. Students will read some of the most influential and provocative texts of the Western tradition and discuss them twice a month with some of Penn’s most exciting professors.  The seminar generally meets every other Wednesday evening for an hour and a half in Houston Hall.  Texts will be provided to admitted applicants free of charge.  Refreshments will be served.

To apply, please write a short letter of 150-250 words explaining why you would like to join our biweekly evening conversation.  Make the subject of the letter “Coffee with the Classics Application” and send it to Daniel Cheely of the Collegium Institute Student Association at Penn at  The first session is Wednesday, September 17, 7-8:30pm.  Space is limited.  To receive the texts in time, apply soon.  Deadline for Session 1 is September 8th.


Breakdown by Session:

I: Plato’s Dialogues and Republic
– Sept 17 (W): Plato’s Republic with Prof. Anne Hall (English)
– Oct 1 (W): Plato’s Laws with Prof. Susan Sauvé Meyer (Philosophy) and Prof. Anne Hall
– Oct 7 (T): Plato’s Apology and Meno with Prof. Hall
II: Cicero on Rhetoric, Politics, and Moral Education
– October 22 (W): Cicero’s De Officiis with Prof. Rita Copeland (Classics and Comparative Literature) and Prof. Hall
III. Aristotle and Aquinas on Ethics
– Nov 5 (W): Aristotle’s Nichomachean Ethics with Prof. Hall
– Nov 19 (W)**: Aquinas’s Commentary on Aristotle’s Ethics with Prof. John Mulhern (Classics, Government) and Prof. Anne Hall
All sessions meet at 7pm in Houston Hall 313 (Morris-Seitz Seminar Room).  Texts will be provided.  Coffee and Refreshments will be Served.
** Nov 19th Special Meeting Time: 6pm.

This Friday: Joy of the Gospel

Pope Francis’s Evangelii Gaudium and Modern Catholic Social Thought

A Lunch Colloquium at the University of Pennsylvania
When: Friday, May 23rd, 2014; 12 noon – 2pm
Where: Ben Franklin Room, Houston Hall 218 (3417 Spruce Street)
Dr. Jesus Fernandez-Villaverde, Professor of Economics at the University of Pennsylvania and Visiting Professor at Princeton University.  Dr. Fernandez-Villaverde is also Research Associate at Penn’s Population Studies Center, the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, the National Bureau of Economic Research, and the Centre For Economic Policy Research.  He is Vice-President of the Catholic Research Economists Discussion Organization (CREDO) and a Senior Fellow of the Collegium Institute.
Dr. Matthew O’Brien, Chairman of the Collegium Institute.  Dr. O’Brien completed an A.B. in Philosophy at Princeton University, a Classics Certificate at the University of Pennsylvania, and an M.A. and Ph.D. in Philosophy at the University of Texas at Austin.  His articles have appeared in venues such as The American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly, Public Discourse, The British Journal of American Legal Studies, National Catholic Bioethics Quarterly and as an amicus brief before the U.S. Supreme Court.  He has taught as a Lecturer at Rutgers University and Post-Doctoral Fellow at Villanova University and now works as an equity research analyst for O’Brien Greene & Co., an investment management firm in Media, PA.
Space is limited.  To RSVP, please contact Dan Cheely at

This Sunday: CI’s Penn Alumni Weekend Reception

When: Sunday, May 18th, 2014; 10:30 a.m. – 12 noon
Where: Houston Hall 223 (Golkin Room): 3417 Spruce Street

The Collegium Institute for Catholic Thought and Culture will host a breakfast reception immediately following the 9:30 a.m. Penn Alumni Mass at St. Agatha-St. James at Houston Hall in celebration of its first year of activities at Penn. We warmly welcome all alumni, family, and friends to join us. Advance registration is not required. For more information or to RSVP, please contact Dan Cheely,, or visit 

Perelman Quadrangle Photo by Scott Spitzer, University of Pennsylvania Public Stock Images