Students and faculty from a wide range of disciplines spend every spring preparing for the national GRACE conference, scheduled to be held this year on April 9.
The GRACE conference was first established in 2017 by Regina Boerio, the dean of humanities and social sciences at Franciscan University of Steubenville.
“What GRACE stands for explains what it is,” said Boerio. “It is a Gallery of Research, Artistry and Community Engagement.”
GRACE is “an opportunity to showcase the talents of students and faculty as manifested through their research in their particular disciplines. Artistry can be accomplished via visual arts, music, theater, media,” Boerio said. “Community engagement deals with projects, activities, etc. that are connected with the broader community.”
Students must apply to GRACE and be selected to have their work showcased. “Many students do a poster presentation and are given a 30-minute time slot in which they provide a three-to-five-minute presentation, (then) are asked questions and judged,” said Boerio. “Presentations can be done individually or as a team.”
This year, there is a change that is happening in GRACE. This is the first year that psychology professor Matthew Breuninger is taking over the program.
Breuninger said he was particularly looking forward to two aspects of his new role, one of which is “the continuation of the short film competition.” The theme is “The Joy of Being Catholic.”
“I am also really excited about this additional invitation to submit art depicting holy men and women of color,” he said. “This came out of some conversation we had with students from various ethnic and cultural background(s) who stated that it would be really meaningful to them if there was more art on campus representing and depicting saints from other ethnicities and cultures. So we are going to have this gallery of art depicting holy men and women of color and then those art pieces are going to be hung up around campus.”
“For the students who are unaware of the treasure of saints and blessed and holy men and women of other cultures, this will expand their knowledge; these men and women are resources,” Breuninger said. “To not be aware of the treasure of saints across culture is to unnecessarily limit ourselves and the spiritual resources that the Church wants to provide us.”
“It’s not about promoting some ideology but expanding our appreciation on how Christ has acted through men and women throughout the world. … How can we as a church condemn sin such as racism and discrimination and show support and love to minority students from minority groups among us without condoning the problematic ideological principles of the most prominent voices in the current debate? One way to do that, to show support without getting behind some of these problematic organizations is through this representative art.”
Breuninger said that students should not avoid submitting their work to GRACE just because they might not feel qualified or feel that it would be boastful to participate.
“GRACE is a low pressure, low stakes opportunity to be where students can say ‘I have a talent I can share,’” he said.
“This isn’t for experts. It’s not for people who are only qualified, it’s a place where you can try your ideas out. It’s a place where you can take a healthy risk and see how your art is received. It’s an opportunity to be known by the Franciscan community for what you’re doing without feeling like you have to be perfect.”
Breuninger said that it would be a “false humility” for the talented students to not to be acknowledged.
GRACE will be held throughout the day on April 9. Besides this year’s themed short film and art galleria, students are invited to share what they are doing within other fields as well.
Breuninger personally invited students, saying, “I would like to see more submissions because so many of our students are so talented. … We have so many students on this campus who have so many talents.”
Boerio agreed. “It is an excellent opportunity to share God-given gifts and talents,” she said. “In addition, it will be an excellent addition to resumes and graduate school applications.”
There are even some merit awards that will be handed out to the winners for each department.
To apply, please visit https://institutes.Franciscan.edu/grace/