Symposium on Transforming Culture

March 15-16, 2024

This annual conference is held on the campus of Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas. The Symposium brings together scholars, business leaders, field professionals and students for a time of fellowship, reflection and dialogue concerning topics integral to the Catholic Faith and its transformative role in our society, culture and business.

Event Schedule

Speakers

Business Track

Registration is open for the 2024 Symposium:

2024 Schedule

Friday, March 15, 2024

4:00-5:30 p.m.

Rising Scholars Colloquium Sessions

Ferrell Academic Center, 3rd Floor

Light refreshments provided.

6:00 p.m.

Registration and Check-In

7:30 p.m.

Keynote Lecture

Dr. Ryan Topping

9:00 p.m.

Reception

Saturday, March 16, 2024

* Family zone available in Murphy Recreation Center for parents and children.

8:00 a.m.

Continental Breakfast

8:15 a.m.

Consecration Mass for Businesses

Learn More

8:30-9:30 a.m.

Keynote Lecture

Elisabeth Sullivan

9:45-11:00 a.m.

Colloquium Session #1

“Bringing the Catholic Faith to Business”

Ali Ghaffari, His Way at Work

11:15 a.m. - 12:15 p.m.

Colloquium Session #2

“Putting First Things First - Ordering DEI on First Principles”

Michael Naughton, Ph.D., University of St. Thomas

12:30-1:45 p.m.

Lunch

Business Track participants are especially encouraged to participate in networking time during lunch.

2:00-3:30 p.m.

Featured Presenter Sessions 

Room A: Amanda Livermore and Stephen Rasche, “Catholic Education at the Margins”

Room B: Sr. John Dominic Rasmussen, O.P., and Dr. Gregory Monroe, “Restoring Vision and Character”

Room C: Fr. Jose Medina, FSCB, and Jake Tawner, “Risk of Education and the Cultivation of Wonder”

“An Executive and Subjective Perspective on Growth, Leadership, and DEI”

Kenneth Reeves, Performance Food Group

3:45-5:00 p.m.

Colloquium Session #3

“The Purpose and Promise of Chaplain Services at Tyson Foods”

Kevin Scherer, Tyson Foods

5:30 p.m.

Sunday Vigil Mass

6:30 p.m.

Dinner

7:45 p.m.

Concluding Keynote Lecture

9:00 p.m.

Reception

2024 Invited Symposium Speakers

Keynote Speakers

Dale Ahlquist

Dale Ahlquist

President, Society of G. K. Chesterton

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Dale Ahlquist is President of the Society of Gilbert Keith Chesterton, creator and host of the EWTN series “G.K. Chesterton: The Apostle of Common Sense,” and Publisher of Gilbert Magazine. He is the author of six books, and has edited fourteen. He is a Senior Fellow of the Chesterton Library at London, and has been called “probably the greatest living authority on the life and work of G.K. Chesterton.” He is also the co-founder of Chesterton Academy, a top-rated Catholic classical high school in Hopkins, Minnesota, which is the flagship of the growing Chesterton Schools Network, which includes nearly 60 high schools in the U.S., Canada, Italy, Iraq, and Sierra Leone.

Elisabeth Sullivan

Elisabeth Sullivan

Executive Director, Institute for Catholic Liberal Education

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A former journalist, Elisabeth developed her passion for Catholic liberal education while exploring authentic formation in faith and reason for her own children. She joined the Institute in 2010 to advance this vision and train educators in its philosophy and practice. As Executive Director, she develops ICLE’s program content and publications, designs our annual conference, and promotes our mission through speaking engagements across the country. Elisabeth is a CiRCE-Certified Classical Teacher who has taught middle school writing and literature, served on Catholic school boards, and served as director of communications for a liberal arts school in the Catholic tradition. She holds a B.S. in Humanities from the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service, and an M.S. from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. She and her husband live in North Carolina and have three sons.

Ryan Topping, Ph.D.

Ryan Topping, Ph.D.

Director, Benedict XVI Institute, Newman Theological College

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A native of Saskatoon, Canada, Dr. Ryan N.S. Topping earned an MA in Philosophy from the University of Manitoba as well as an M.Phil. and a Doctorate in Theology from the University of Oxford. He is Professor of Theology and serves as Director of the Benedict XVI Institute for the New Evangelization at Newman Theological College, in Edmonton, Canada, where he also previously served as Academic Dean. Dr. Topping has published on a variety of Catholic themes and figures, from St. Augustine, to Dante, St. John Henry Newman, and G.K. Chesterton in academic and popular journals. To date he has published ten books on Catholic culture and education, including Rebuilding Catholic Culture: How the Catechism Can Shape our Common Life (2012), The Case for Catholic Education (2015), Renewing the Mind: A Reader in the Philosophy of Catholic Education (2015), and The Elements of Rhetoric (2016). His latest book is Thinking as Though God Exists: Newman on Evangelizing the Nones (2023). In 2022 he was awarded the Queen Elizabeth II Platinum Jubilee Medal (Province of Alberta). Dr. Topping and his wife have ten children.

Michael Naughton, Ph.D.

Michael Naughton, Ph.D.

Director, Center for Catholic Studies, University of St. Thomas

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Dr. Michael Naughton is the director of the Center for Catholic Studies at the University of St. Thomas (Minnesota, US) where he holds the Koch Chair in Catholic Studies and is a full professor in the department of Catholic Studies. He also taught in the College of Business for over 20 years. Author, co-author and co-editor of 12 books and monographs and over 70 articles, his two most recent books are Getting Work Right: Labor and Leisure in a Fragmented World (2019) and What We Hold in Trust: Rediscovering the Purpose of Catholic Higher Education (2021, coauthors Don Briel and Ken Goodpaster). He serves on multiple boards including as board chair for Reell Precision Manufacturing, which has plants and offices in the US, Europe and Asia and the board of trustees at the University of Mary and Catholic Eldercare.

Featured Presenters

Gregory Monroe, Ph.D.

Gregory Monroe, Ph.D.

Superintendent of Catholic Schools, Diocese of Charlotte

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Dr. Monroe, the Superintendent of Schools for the Diocese of Charlotte, North Carolina, has spearheaded numerous initiatives that build intentional Catholic Culture. His “School and Family Covenant” has revitalized Catholic K-12 education in his diocese, and he leads one of the fastest growing Catholic School Systems in the nation. Previously a teacher, collegiate director, and Catholic high school principal, Monroe holds degrees from Christendom College, Marymount University, and an PhD from the Catholic University of America. His leadership earned him and his team the 2023 'Catholic Institution of the Year' award from the Catholic Educational Foundation.

Stephen Rasche

Stephen Rasche

Senior Fellow, Religious Freedom Institute

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Mr. Rasche is Senior Fellow for International Religious Freedom Policy at the Religious Freedom Institute. He has over 35 years of experience in international business and humanitarian aid projects in the Middle East, Africa, Asia, and Latin America. He has served as counsel with the Chaldean Catholic Archdiocese of Erbil, and Vice Chancellor of External Affairs for the Catholic University in Erbil. Rasche was a founding officer of the Catholic University in Erbil in 2014, where he presently sits on the Board of Directors. He has served as an official representative to the Vatican Dicastery on Refugees and Migrants and is an official member of the Historical Commission to the Vatican Postulator in the cause of Fr. Ragheed Ganni and three murdered Iraqi Deacons. He is the principal international liaison on behalf of the Catholic University in Erbil and continues as counsel to the Chaldean Archdiocese of Erbil. Mr. Rasche holds a B.A. in International Relations from Boston University, and a J.D. from the University of San Diego.

Sister John Dominic Rasmussen, O.P.

Sister John Dominic Rasmussen

Dominican Sisters Mary Mother of the Eucharist

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Sister John Dominic Rasmussen, OP, was born in Berkley, California and moved to Nashville, Tennessee at the age of five. She converted to Catholicism during her sophomore year and entered the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia in 1982. In 1997, she and three other Sisters founded the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Sister has been involved in Catholic education for over 30 years as both a teacher and administrator. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Education from Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee and a Masters degree in Theology from Franciscan University of Steubenville. In 2001, she co-authored with Carol Kennedy, Remain in Me, a Faith Formation curriculum for catechetical instruction. Sister currently serves as the Principal of Spiritus Sanctus Academy in Ann Arbor, Michigan. From her experience in administration and teacher she has developed Disciple of Christ-Education in Virtue a Christian curriculum structured on the teachings of St. Thomas Aquinas regarding the virtues and gifts of the Holy Spirit.

Amanda Livermore

Amanda Livermore

Cristo Rey Network

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Amanda Livermore serves as the Founding President and CEO of Cristo Rey Orlando High School, set to open in fall of 2025. Prior to this, she championed the effort towards the opening of Cristo Rey Orlando as the Feasibility Study Director. Prior to this work, she served as Vice President for Bishop Moore Catholic High School promoting the vision of Catholic education for the students, faculty, alumni, and families within the school community. She worked for the Diocese of Orlando since 2003 supporting Campus Ministry, Young Adult Ministry, Marriage Preparation, and International Missions. She studied Psychology at Samford University and proceeded to earn her Master's Degree in Pastoral Studies from Loyola University, New Orleans. She currently serves as president of the Orlando chapter of Legatus and as a board member for Young Catholic Professionals and UCF - CCM Advisory Group. Amanda presents at national conferences, retreats, and professional development opportunities around the country. She and her husband Jason have been married since 2002 and they enjoy spending time with their two teenagers, Isabel (18) and Sammy (16).

Fr. José Medina

Father José Medina

Priestly Fraternity of the Missionaries of St. Charles Borromeo

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Father José Medina is a native of Spain and a member of the Priestly Fraternity of the Missionaries of St. Charles Borromeo. He received his civil engineering degree from the Universidad Politécnica de Madrid, a Bachelors of Sacred Theology from the Pontificia Universita Lateranense in Rome, Italy, and a Master in Education from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Fr. José has devoted much of his professional career to the world of education, first as teacher of physics and mathematics in Washington, D.C. and Boston, and for six years as principal of Cristo Rey Boston, a Catholic High School for students with limited financial resources.

Jake Tawney

Jake Tawney

Chief Academic Officer, Great Hearts Academies

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Jake Tawney serves as the Chief Academic Officer for Great Hearts Academies, a network of classical charter schools across multiple states. Jake has an undergraduate degree in mathematics and computer science from Denison University in Granville, Ohio. He continued his studies at The Ohio State University where he earned a masters degree in mathematics. After teaching all levels of high school mathematics and computer science for nearly a decade, Jake took on the role of Director of Student Services for a district in central Ohio. During his time in Ohio, Jake also taught at the Pontifical College Josephinum, including courses in Euclid and the Philosophy of Mathematics. In 2014 Jake relocated his family to Phoenix, AZ to join Great Hearts Academies. Jake is the proud husband of Christina and the proud father of eight children, all of whom have something unique in their souls that can only be satisfied by wondering about mathematics.

Ali Ghaffari

Ali Ghaffari

Director of Apostolic Expansion, His Way at Work

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Ali Ghaffari, M.A. is the Director of Apostolic Expansion for His Way at Work. He oversees a parish formation program for Catholic Business owners designed to bring Christ's love into the workplace. Additionally, he works with senior leaders to assess their skills and personality using various assessment tools, including 360s, behavioral interviews, and personality assessments. He builds up organizations by measuring follower engagement and designing interventions, including training, seminars, and teambuilding initiatives. For the last five years, he has conducted leadership development initiatives and coached executives from Colorado to Atlanta - CEO's, company Vice Presidents, attorneys and mid-level managers.

Additionally, Ali is the founder and Board President of Divine Mercy Academy, a Classical K-8 school that has proliferated to become a leader in the Classical Education world under his leadership. Before this, Ali spent 20 years in the Navy flying F/A-18’s off the decks of the nation’s aircraft carriers and into combat operations. Additionally, he spent time as an admiral’s aide, an instructor pilot, and an instructor at the United States Naval Academy, where he taught leadership and ethics to midshipmen as well as provided leadership training and mentorship to faculty, staff, and coaches across the Yard. Ali is a certified Executive Coach, having graduated from the University of Buffalo’s School of Management program in coaching. He is also certified in several assessments that are integral to leadership coaching. His passion is for assisting Catholic leaders and organizations to become more effective and achieve their goals. He is married with three daughters and lives in Maryland.

Kenneth Reeves

Kenneth Reeves

Vice President-HR, Performance Food Group

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Kenneth currently serves as Vice President-Human Resources for Performance Food Group-Temple, Texas. He is responsible for leading the efforts of PFG around talent management, leadership development, succession planning, diversity-equity-inclusion, benefits, compensation, training & development, and workforce planning. He is a member of PFG’s Leadership Team.  Prior to joining PFG, Kenneth served as Managing Director-Human Resources for UTIMCO, which is an investment management firm which services the University of Texas and Texas A&M University systems. Kenneth has approximately 28 years of experience in HR and has led the human resources function for the last 14 years for organizations such as International Nutrition and Wellness Manufacturing (Rosewood Private Investment company), Freese & Nichols, Bell Helicopter and RadioShack.  Kenneth was in the Six Sigma Black Belt Program at Bell Helicopter and also held the role of Vice President of Human Resources for another Textron company, E-Z-GO in Augusta, Georgia. Prior to RadioShack, Kenneth spent 12 years in the energy industry with organizations that included, Dynegy Inc., Enron, and Reliant Energy where he served in various corporate HR roles.

Kenneth received his BS and MS from Texas A&M University, and has completed most course work towards a Ph.D. in Human Resources Training and Development. Kenneth is married to Lysette Reeves, 28 years, and they have two children, Kenneth II (24) and Moriah (16). Prior to his corporate career, Kenneth spent seven years in the National Football League with the Philadelphia Eagles and the Cleveland Browns.

Kevin Scherer

Kevin Scherer

Director of Chaplain Services, Tyson Foods

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Kevin Scherer is the Director of Chaplain Services for Tyson Foods – the largest Fortune 100 workplace chaplaincy program in the country. Tyson’s chaplaincy network includes more than 100 chaplains across 25 states who provide pastoral care, counseling, and support to team members in 150+ facilities. Kevin has served as a chaplain in a variety of contexts outside of workplace and industrial chaplaincy, including healthcare, and mass trauma incidents (9/11 Attacks, Virginia Tech, and Northern Illinois University shootings). Before his chaplaincy role at Tyson Foods, Kevin served as a pastor in the Evangelical and Eastern Orthodox Church for a combined 22 years. He is the author of Truly Human: Recovering Your Humanity in a Broken World (Ancient Faith, 2017). He earned his Bachelor of Arts in Theology from San Diego Christian College in El Cajon, California, and his Master of Divinity from St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary in Crestwood, New York. He is currently studying at Bellevue University toward a graduate degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. Kevin is married with 5 girls and lives in northwest Arkansas.

The Business Track

Because commerce is the largest institution in civil society, transforming culture requires that we transform business. The Business Track is a set of sessions geared towards business professionals, with topics focused on applying faithful Catholic principles in the world of business and commerce. These sessions include practical examples of what business leaders are doing to manifest their faith in and through their work.

Theme for the 2024 Symposium

“Restoring All Things in Christ: The Mission of Catholic Education Today”

Catholic education seems to be at a crossroads. Schools at all levels, elementary, secondary, and higher education, are feeling the pressure of an increasingly secular culture. This has led to difficult decisions to close or consolidate educational institutions. At the same time, signs of renewal and innovation at all levels of Catholic education are present in many places in America and around the world. At the 2024 Symposium on Transforming Culture, we look to the future of Catholic education, as a force for renewing culture through the integration of mind and heart, intellect and will, and faith and reason.

The Last Judgement by Fra Angelico

The theme for the 2024 Business Track within the Symposium is “Catalyzing a New Normal for Business.”

Location