Walsh University Blouin Scholar Cohort Featured in Canton Repository

Blouin Scholars' carbon-footprint findings, recommendations will be presented to the Youngstown Diocese in the fall

Charita M. Goshay

Canton Repository

NORTH CANTON − In his 2015 encyclical letter, "Laudato Si," Pope Francis essentially writes that the health of the environment and care for the world's poor are inextricably linked.

In keeping with the pontiff's view, a team of Walsh University's Brother Francis Blouin Scholars traveled to the England this summer to help four Catholic dioceses measure their carbon footprint and make recommendations for ways they can become carbon-neutral.

Read the full article in the Canton Repository.

photo: Blouin Scholars students in a garden in London

A "carbon footprint" is the measurement of carbon dioxide emissions and greenhouse gasses produced by the consumption of fossil fuels by individuals, groups or institutions. Greenhouse gases, which can be man-made or natural, trap and release heat, which is beneficial to growth. However, too much results in increased climate temperature.

Founded in 2012, Blouin Scholars Program is named after late Brother Francis Blouin, Walsh's third president and a member of the Brothers of Christian Instruction, who founded Walsh in 1960.

Areas of study in the four-year curriculum include global health care, genocide, reconciliation and justice, technology and social entrepreneurship, education, equity and justice, water access and quality, human trafficking and mental health.

Blouin Scholars fight hunger

Walsh students launch campus kitchen to help feed Stark County hungry

The UK team's cohort, or specific area of study, focuses on food, hunger and sustainability.

In conjunction with Professor Roland Daw and the Guardians of Creation Project at St. Mary’s University in Twickenham, England, the 21 students worked in teams to calculate the carbon footprints in the dioceses of Bristol, Northampton, Clifton and the Archdiocese of Birmingham. They also worked with Oxford University's Laudato Si Research Institute, which was created in response to the pope's encyclical.

"They were given an Excel spreadsheet that had several hundred locations with energy usage, and then they had to calculate how, with a conversion factor, how that calculated into an overall footprint," said Walsh Associate Business Professor and Blouin Scholar adviser Karen Stock, who coordinated the project. "So, once they had that baseline, then the dioceses were able to look at ways they can reduce that footprint."

The students' recommendations were varied, from "smart" meters and replacement windows to collaborative community partnerships.

"But that was all secondary," Stock said. "The primary focus was to determine where we are today, so we know how we can improve."

Stock said that prior to traveling to England, the students did some advance research; however, because some of the data was not available, they had to improvise.

"What missing data there was, they had to make assumptions about, and troubleshoot with Dr. Daw and the faculty that we brought with us so that could help them go back and deliver their final work," Stock said. "It's a real-world skill because you're not always given 100% instruction on what to do and how you need to do it. So, the pre-work was important to build skills, but we really didn't know until we were there what the exact project would entail. It was up to the students to meet the challenge. Typically, a study-abroad trip involves things that are similar to study in the U.S. We wanted to make this a richer experience where they had hands-on work to do, that would have an impact."

The scholars were divided into teams that were balanced according to their skills and talents.

"We tried to mix it up," Stock said. "But it really was up to the students to go out and meet with (church officials) and act as consultants and find out what the needs were, and deliver back."

The people behind the numbers

Nursing student Hannah Olszewski, an incoming senior, said the project helped her to stretch her skill set.

"For me, it was really transformational," she said. "I'm a nursing major, so the whole world of business and Excel spreadsheets was new to me, was way out of things I normally do. So, it was really interesting to me to see the interdisciplinary approach, what we were able to accomplish with all of us being different majors and having different specialties."

She noted that the British seem fairly united that climate change is real problem, compared to the U.S., where a person's views on the issue often depends on their politics.

Olszewski added that for her, the trip was about more than the science.

"One thing that really got talked about in our group was seeing the humanity behind what we were doing," she said. "We weren't just dealing with numbers and carbon accounting, which I didn't fully understand until this trip. But we were dealing with the impact that this has on people. 'Laudato Si,' the document that Pope Francis wrote, talks about the common call for us to care for our creation because it's our home. I think, in this work, we were able to see the direct impact that we have; how we can make changes, and the ways in which we can be inspired to come together, even from different cultures literally across the world."

Blouin Scholars and incoming seniors MaryBeth Edmundson, a professional writing major, and Anthony DiGicacomo, who's studying supply-chain management, were on the same research team in the Clifton Diocese.

"Our diocese really wanted us to focus, along with the carbon footprint, on what they could do practically to become a more sustainable diocese as a whole," Edmundson said. "One of the biggest things that we wanted to focus on that was attainable financially and culturally, was actually making changes within the behaviors of the people in the parishes, so not only doing small things like reminding them to turn off the lights, but actually really having a more sustainable mindset, so drawing back to what Hannah said about the people behind the project."

DiGiacomo said there were some parishioners who didn't think much could be done because many of the churches were historic buildings. While there, the students also visited a food bank, and several historical churches and cathedrals.

"They never thought they could do anything to them, but we showed them graphs of how the big projects they did that really saved them money, and it was kind of an assurance to them that this stuff actually does work, that there are ways to work around, like changing the windows, or changing the way they heat it," DiGiacomo said. "So, it was really making them see clearly that it can actually work."

DiGiacomo, who is familiar with spreadsheets because of his major, said his team produced a year-by-year carbon footprint for their diocese, which didn't have that information.

Nick Morris, the Blouin Scholars Program faculty director, said the carbon footprint project is in keeping with the public scholarship these students do. There are plans for the students to present an adopted plan this fall to the Diocese of Youngtown's Office of Peace and Justice based on their research in the UK.

Public scholars

"What our students just did was essentially position themselves as public scholars," Morris said. "And they're taking what they've learned from an academic or scholarly perspective, and are contributing back to the community. They've taken domestic trips outside of Ohio, come back, and worked that with new knowledge, and now they have international experience. They're now prepared to come back to the Diocese of Youngstown as experts on this topic, which is entirely different than just simply being service-oriented students. They're coming in with expert experience, with a global perspective and a very Catholic perspective on how to address these types of issues."

Morris, who also accompanied the scholars, said the project also examined the extended carbon footprint of a diocese.

"So, if we're talking about a carbon footprint and sustainability from a faith perspective, we have to also think about how the church communicates and carries that culture beyond its doors and its building facilities," he said.

To address this, the students created fliers that the churches distributed at Masses featuring a QR code so parishioners could find their personal carbon footprint, and a second code if they wanted to share that information with their diocese.

"So, in this way, they'd be actually able to capture what sort of carbon footprint their parishioners have," Morris said. "So, again, kind of extending that culture of sustainability beyond the measurements or required components that are part of the goal of being carbon-neutral, and looking at how their mission of building faith in the community is actually moving forward. It seemed to be well-received."

Stock noted that the two-week project took a year to plan, adding that they've heard from universities in other countries interested in duplicating it.

Morris said the UK project has transformed the students.

"They've gone from being students interested in service, to students who are competent in service-learning, to leaders in service and now contributing members of public scholarship," he said.

To learn more about the Blouin Scholars program, contact Morris at 330.490.7600 or

Reach Charita at 330.580.8313 or charita.goshay@cantonrep.comOn Twitter: @cgoshayREP