Published on November 1, 2018 by Sean Flynt  
The Barque of Dante, by Eugène Delacroix
The Barque of Dante, by Eugène Delacroix

Samford University hosted scholars from throughout the country for its third biennial Teaching the Christian Intellectual Tradition (TCIT) conference Oct. 25-27. Special guest speakers Albert Russell Ascoli–Gladyce Arata Terrill Distinguished Professor of Italian Studies at the University of California, Berkeley and President of the Dante Society of America–and Theodore J. Cachey, Jr.,–Albert J. and Helen M. Ravarino Family Director of Dante and Italian Studies at the University of Notre Dame–addressed key issues related to the conference theme of teaching the work of medieval Italian poet Dante Alighieri.

Under the leadership of the University Fellows Program, and in partnership with local and national organizations, the TCIT project seeks to promote a national conversation about the place of the Christian intellectual tradition in higher education. In particular, it seeks to help faculty from across the disciplines to develop effective strategies for teaching this tradition, cultivating younger scholars who are still mastering their craft while providing opportunities for more experienced faculty to explore new pedagogies. Since its inception in 2014, the TCIT project has supported the work of faculty from more than 50 institutions.

For the 2018 conference, University Fellows partnered with Samford’s Howard College of Arts and Sciences (HCAS,) Core Texts program, School of the Arts and The Frances Marlin Mann Center for Ethics and Leadership to create a rich program of panels, sessions and lecture related to Dante’s work.

History professor Jason Wallace and Allison Heidbrink Nanni of the Mann Center organized the Cachey lecture as a way to open the conference discussions to a broad local audience. Wallace said the Mann Center was an ideal partner because “they, like us, value the ideas of Christian history, but they also have the resources to help students realize how faith can be practiced and applied in community partnerships.” Wallace said that in addition to his public lecture, Cachey met with faculty to discuss how his academic work informed his service in community-based learning at the University of Notre Dame's Center for Social Concerns.

Cachey’s scholarship-service discussion was especially appealing to Nanni, who serves as Director of Community Engagement for the Mann Center. “His expertise in the integration of community work into Notre Dame's Gateway Program curriculum in Rome, Italy, through best practices in community-based learning is of great interest to the Mann Center,” Nanni said of Cachey.

Overall, the conference confirmed Samford’s reputation for Christian academic inquiry and warm welcome of scholarly peers. “We received a lot of positive feedback, most of it focused on having the opportunity to spend a few days in a collegial environment learning to become better teachers of Dante,” said University Professor Chris Metress, one of the conference organizers. “I think the best indicator of how well things went is that almost every attendee told us they learned something that would improve what they do in the classroom.”

Samford is a leading Christian university offering undergraduate programs grounded in the liberal arts with an array of nationally recognized graduate and professional schools. Founded in 1841, Samford is the 87th-oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. Samford enrolls 5,791 students from 49 states, Puerto Rico and 16 countries in its 10 academic schools: arts, arts and sciences, business, divinity, education, health professions, law, nursing, pharmacy and public health. Samford fields 17 athletic teams that compete in the tradition-rich Southern Conference and ranks 6th nationally for its Graduation Success Rate among all NCAA Division I schools.