While Markets & Morality has long invited prominent speakers to Hope and regularly travels as a group to thought-provoking seminars, it has never had the chance to host an in-house conference of its own. Several logistical stars must align for such a gathering to take place, with a certain level of work required to gain the attraction necessary for hosting a successful half-day academic showcase of readings, discussion, and real-world application. However, the student organization, now in its sixth year, was able to bring into reality its very first conference on Saturday, entitled “Freedom for Virtue” with the question “What is your freedom for?” Students who signed up before the Feb. 15 deadline were treated to a 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. seminar, with speakers such as Dr. Ortiz of the religion department, Dr. Deb Van Duinen from the Department of Education, Nate Jebb from AXIOS Human Resources and Morgan Hederstedt (’16) of Deloitte, a Markets & Morality alum.
The keynote speaker for the event was Dylan Pahman, a research fellow of the Acton Institute and author of the conference’s reading “Foundations of a Free and Virtuous Society.” The event officially began with students congregating at around 8:30 a.m. in the combined Transmatic and Gentex rooms of Haworth Inn. After an introduction by Professor Estelle of the economics department (and director of M&M), there were two engaging ice-breakers: one where the participant related an aspect of their life to a randomly picked object and another where the participant finished a sentence started on a scrap of paper. After ice-breakers, Dr. Ortiz began his lecture entitled “The Human Person Fully Alive” with a “lectio divinia,” a Benedictine approach on a scripture and reflection. The focus this time was on 2 Corinthians 12:7-10.
This was followed up by a lecture regarding how virtue and truth are directly tied into God’s vision for the world or “God’s Mind,” as it was frequently referred to. After an approximately hourlong discussion that conferencegoers split into three groups for commenting on the readings for the conference, it was time for a delicious main course of lasagna for lunch. It was at this time that Mr. Pahman arrived and shared a bit about his life and theological principles with those who happened to be seated around him. Following lunch, he traced themes from the second-half of his work during an intriguing hour-long lecture entitled “What if We Didn’t Have Economics?”
During an interview with The Anchor, he remarked on the joy of coming to speak with students about things he’s learned from his time with Acton and beyond: “I really love the opportunity to talk to people, especially people who are undergoing undergraduate education…it’s such a unique time of life where you have this newfound independence.” The last part of the conference, excluding a snack break and closing reflection, was a personal productivity panel. This allowed students to put a nice bow on their experience and take away some lessons for their personal life. Nation/ World editor Claire Buck, who was in attendance, had this to say about the significance of the event as a whole: “As students, it’s important to step back every so often from the day-to-day demands of our work and studies and ask the broader value questions about the disciplines we study and the work that we do…The goal of a liberal arts education is not just to impart breadth of knowledge but to cultivate depth of thought. Saturday’s conference created an environment where students could reflect, converse and move forward into the next week with new insight and understanding.”