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College to host conference on transformative collaboration

A conference at St. Scholastica in June will highlight a pioneering approach to collaboratively serving people and communities in the areas of health care, neuroscience, education, social justice and the environment.

The "Transforming Community: The Radical Reality of Relationship" conference introduces Relational-Cultural Theory, which embodies the transformative power of relationship and mutual dialogue.

The conference will take place Thursday, June 9 through Sunday, June 12. Cost is $350, or $175 for seniors and students. Per diem cost is $150. Scholarships are available; contact St. Scholastica's Julie Zaruba Fountaine for more information at The application deadline for scholarships is June 1.

Continuing education units are available for social workers, educators and psychologists.

"Relational-Cultural Theory is based upon the insight that relationships are a central human necessity and their absence leads to disempowerment and pain," said conference organizer Connie Gunderson, associate social work professor at St. Scholastica. "RCT addresses the need for empathy, mutuality and respect in our personal lives and social institutions. This conference offers radical approaches for sustainable solutions to humanitarian and environmental crises around the world. Through lectures and dialogue groups, participants will connect across professional disciplines and communities to envision and create new possibilities for inclusive healing and community transformation."

RCT has been identified as one of the top 10 psychological theories by a leading member of the American Psychological Association, Gunderson said, and has transformed individuals, organizations and communities.

The theory was developed at the Jean Baker Miller Training Institute (JBMTI) at Wellesley Centers for Women in Wellesley, MA. Scheduled to speak are Gunderson, Judith Jordan, a founding scholar of RCT, along with other RCT scholars including the JBMTI's Maureen Walker, Amy Banks, Karen Craddock, and Harriet Schwartz.

Duluth Mayor Emily Larson will welcome the conference attendees at 1 p.m. Thursday, June 9, in the Mitchell Auditorium on campus.

Among the conference highlights will be a community event at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, June 9. Psychologist Maureen Walker will give a presentation on "Disruptive Empathy: Cultivating Healing and Hope for our Troubled Times" in the Mitchell Auditorium on campus. Free and open to the public, the event is in cooperation with the College's Alworth Center for the Study of Peace and Justice. Walker is director of program development at JBMTI, as well as director of MBA Support Services at Harvard Business School. She has an independent practice in psychotherapy and multicultural consultation, is co-editor of the books "How Connections" Heal" and "The Complexity of Connection" and has published numerous articles, papers and textbook chapters.

Dolores Finger Wright, an organizer and picketer during the historic civil rights demonstrations and lunch counter sit-ins in Greensboro, N.C. in the 1960s, will attend and participate in the conference.

"Ms. Wright's important early work in the civil rights movement helped create peaceful, collaborative, radical and highly effective actions," Judith Jordan said. "That work informed her subsequent academic career, which has embraced and exemplified RCT. We are thrilled to have her be with us."

For more information about the June conference, including a full agenda, registration details, and information on RCT, visit or contact Gunderson at or Judith Jordan at

The conference is sponsored by The College of St. Scholastica, St. Scholastica's Department of Social Work, the JBMTI, Essentia, the Feminist Theologies Committee of The St. Scholastica Monastery, WellU, The Duluth - Superior Area Community Foundation, Whole Person Associates, and St. Louis County Health and Human Services.