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Sister Damien Marie Savino, F.S.E., Ph.D.

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Sister Damien by plants

AQ’s new Dean of Science and Sustainability, Sister Damien Marie Savino, F.S.E., Ph.D., took a break from unpacking boxes to chat with Aquinas Magazine’s Lauren Fay Carlson ‘12 about her passions, her new position and the beauty of the natural world.

YOU HAVE QUITE A RESUME IN DIVERSE ACADEMIC DISCIPLINES: A PH.D. IN CIVIL (ENVIRONMENTAL) ENGINEERING, A M.S. IN THEOLOGY, AND A M.S. IN SOIL SCIENCE. WHAT LED YOU TO PURSUE EACH OF THESE?
I sort of “fell into” them as life unfolds – followed my heart, you might say. When I was studying for my undergraduate degree in Biogeography at McGill University in Montreal, I took a course on soils and was amazed at the beauty and complexity of soils, so that led me later to pursue the Master of Science degree in Soils at University of Connecticut. I always wanted to know more about my faith and to integrate my love of the faith with the sciences, so that led me to the M.S. in Theology at The Catholic University of America. My religious community, the Franciscan Sisters of the Eucharist, wanted me to stay in the sciences and at The Catholic University of America, the Dean of the School of Engineering was interested in my proposal to do interdisciplinary work in environmental engineering and theology, so that is the route I took for my doctoral studies.

WHICH WOULD YOU SAY IS YOUR GREATEST PASSION?
I would say creation is my greatest passion. Ever since I was a child I loved nature and the outdoors. That passion opened up in me the desire to protect the beauty and diversity of the natural world. It also led me to questions about who is the author of this beautiful nature, which ultimately led me to my vocation as a Franciscan Sister of the Eucharist.

DESCRIBE YOUR DUTIES IN YOUR NEW POSITION AS DEAN OF SCIENCE AND SUSTAINABILITY, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR OF ENGINEERING.
I will be responsible for the science departments and Center for Sustainability. I will be working to support the sciences and to build new collaborative initiatives and programs, especially as we build the new science building, as well as to increase the integration of sustainability in the sciences and across campus.

IF YOU COULD RECOMMEND ONE BOOK THAT WOULD ILLUMINATE FOR OUR READERS YOUR ACADEMIC SPECIALTIES, WHAT WOULD IT BE?
St. Bonaventure, the great Franciscan saint of the 13th century, wrote a spiritual document called the Itinerarium, or Journey of the Soul to God, which is very close to my heart. For him the spiritual pilgrimage has seven stages, and the first two involve seeing God in and through the created world. He didn’t have the sciences as we have them today, but I believe a modern reading of the Itinerarium could understand the sciences as being key in those first two steps of the journey.

ANY OTHER INTERESTING TIDBITS ABOUT YOURSELF THAT YOU’D LIKE TO SHARE?
• I recently completed work on a documentary series called “Creation” with Salt and Light TV. In six one-half hour episodes we explore, through the eyes of science and faith, our human responsibility for creation. See saltandlighttv.org/creation.

• In the summer of 2011, I walked the Camino de Santiago in Spain with a group of students from University of St. Thomas on our way to World Youth Day in Madrid.

• I love lakes!

Sr. Damien Marie Savino
Dean of Science and Sustainability
Email: dms002@aquinas.edu
Phone: (616) 632-2056
>Download Sr. Damien's CV