Interdisciplinary Seminar Series 2022/2023

Past Events: 

Situated Personhood: Insights from Caregivers of Minimally Communicative Individuals 

By: Laura Specker Sullvian, Ph.D.

April 26th, 2023 from 12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m.


For caregivers of minimally communicative individuals, providing support in the absence of clearly meaningful responses is ethically fraught. We conducted a secondary analysis of qualitative data from caregivers of individuals who are minimally communicative, including persons with advanced dementia and individuals in disorders of consciousness.  Our analysis led to two central claims: (1) Personhood is a threshold concept that is situated, relational, and dynamic; (2) In circumstances in which personhood is difficult to judge, caregivers can “fill the gap” to reach the threshold through a repertoire of strategies. Because personhood is in part an attribution from others, a situational loss of personhood does not preclude restoration, nor does it eliminate moral status.


Laura Specker Sullivan is an Assistant Professor of philosophy. She is a specialist in interdisciplinary and cross-cultural ethics who incorporates her experience in clinical ethics consultation and qualitative research into her philosophical work. She received her PhD from the University of Hawaii focusing on informed consent in Japan. She is the former Director of Ethics at the Medical University of South Carolina and a previous Assistant Professor of Philosophy at the College of Charleston. She has held fellowships at the Center for Bioethics at Harvard Medical School, the Center for Sensorimotor Neural Engineering at the University of Washington, Neuroethics Canada at the University of British Columbia, and the Kokoro Research Center at Kyoto University. 

Attaining the Tomb: The Social Life of an Eleventh-Century Shrine in the Miracles of St. Maiolus.

By Scott G. Bruce, Ph.D.

February 15th 2023 from 12:30 to 1:30pm 


The early eleventh–century Miracles of Saint Maiolus narrated accounts of more than four dozen miracles that took place at the shrine of Maiolus of Cluny in the town of Souvigny, where the abbot died in 994.  This article examines the evidence of this little–known source to reconstruct the social life of a popular pilgrimage destination at the turn of the first millennium.  It presents a profile of the kinds of people who visited Maiolus’ tomb, including their names, genders, and occupations.  Next, it analyses the maladies for which these pilgrims sought relief through the healing power of the saint.  Finally, it explores the social networks that facilitated the movement of pilgrims with motor and sensory disabilities from their homes to the abbot’s shrine.  


Scott G. Bruce is a historian of religion and culture in the early and central Middle Ages (c. 400-1200 CE).  He earned his Ph.D. at Princeton University (2000).  His research interests include monasticism, hagiography, and the reception of classical and patristic traditions in medieval Europe.  He has published several books about the abbey of Cluny.

The Impact of Structured Support

 Programming on Adjustment, Stress, and Coping in College 

 Students with Learning Disabilities

By: Yi Ding, Ph.D. and Amanda Siegel

Lecture Recording Here

Wednesday, November 2nd from 12:30 p.m.-1:30 p.m. EST 

Summary: The present study examined the relationship between enrollment in structured support programming and the college adjustment, stress, and coping of a sample of 83 undergraduate college students with learning disabilities aged 18 to 25. Participants completed an online questionnaire composed of the items from the Student Adaptation to College Questionnaire (SACQ), the Perceived Stress Scale (PSS), the Ways of Coping Questionnaire WAYS), and selected scales from the Behavior Assessment System for Children, 3rd Edition – Self-Report of Personality, College (BASC-3 SRP-COL). Information was also collected about participants’ grade point average (GPA), family involvement, and extracurricular involvement on campus to control for the impact of these factors. Findings demonstrated that students in structured programming had significantly higher levels of Attachment to Institution and Personal-Emotional Adjustment. In addition, students in programs were found to have significantly higher levels of Self-Reliance. Further, students in programs were found to have significantly lowers of stress than those not receiving support through targeted programming. Collectively, findings emphasize the value in structured support programming for undergraduate students with learning disabilities.  


Yi Ding: Yi Ding, Ph.D., NCSP, is a professor of School Psychology at Fordham University. She is a Nationally Certified School Psychologist (NCSP) and a licensed psychologist in the State of New York. Her research interests include reading disabilities, mathematics learning disabilities, developmental disabilities, STEM learning, and special education and school psychology issues based on a multicultural perspective. 

Amanda Siegel: Amanda Siegel, M.A., is a third-year School Psychology Ph.D. student at Fordham University. Prior to attending Fordham, Amanda earned a B.A. in Education Studies and Child Development and an M.A. in Interdisciplinary Learning Disability Studies from Brown University. Her research interests include learning, attention, and behavior disabilities and how to best support students with disabilities in educational settings.