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Student Life Discussion Nights: 2023-2024

Featuring Philosophical and Theological Presentations by CDU Professors and Special Guests


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About the Presenters

headshotMaria Sophia Aguirre, PhD

Dr. Aguirre earned a Ph.D. in Economics from the University of Notre Dame. Formerly a tenured Professor of Economics at The Catholic University of America, and took the helm of Catholic Distance University in July 2023. Dr. Aguirre has 30 years of teaching, research, and leadership experience. Her specialization is in international finance and economic development and she has researched and published in the areas of exchange rates and economic integration, as well as on theories of population, resources, and family as it relates to economic development.  Dr. Aguirre has lectured at both the national and international level.  Since 1994 International Conference on Population and Development, she has actively participated in UN Conferences. She has testified in front of Congresses and Parliaments on issues related to population, family and health both nationally and internationally.  She has also advised several governments on women's education, family policy, and health.  She is a presidential appointee to the US Advisory Commission on Foreign Diplomacy.

headshotDavid Bonagura, MA

David G. Bonagura, Jr. has served as Adjunct Professor of Theology at CDU since 2011. He also teaches at St. Joseph’s Seminary in New York. Prof. Bonagura is the author of Steadfast in Faith: Catholicism and the Challenges of Secularism and Staying with the Catholic Church: Trusting God’s Plan of Salvation. He is the translator and editor of Jerome’s Tears: Letters to Friends in Mourning. He is the religion editor of The University Bookman. His work has appeared in numerous print and online publications, including Antiphon, Aleteia, AmericaCatholic World Report, Crisis, First Things, National Review Online, New Blackfriars, Nova et Vetera, The Catholic Thing, and The Wall Street Journal. He lives on Long Island, NY, with his wife and seven children.


Rev. Dr. Avelino Gonzalez-Ferrer

Rev. Dr. Avelino Gonzalez-Ferrer, Catholic priest of the Archdiocese of Washington and former Vatican official for the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, holds a doctorate in Sacred Theology from the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas in Rome, Italy. Rev. Dr. Gonzalez-Ferrer has served as a member of the Theological Advisory Council and as Director of the Office of Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs for the Archdiocese of Washington. He has also served as President of the Interfaith Council of Metropolitan Washington, the oldest and largest organization of religious leaders in the Washington, D.C., area, working towards greater interfaith dialogue and peace building. Rev. Dr. Gonzalez-Ferrer is the author of several articles written for L’Osservatore Romano, the daily newspaper of Vatican City State, and other online journals. He has also served as guest commentator for Vatican News and EWTN, News Nightly with Brian Patrick, on ecumenical dialogue and U.S.-Cuba relations. He also served as guest television commentator on the occasion of Pope Francis’ visit to Washington, D.C., in 2015 for WUSA-TV Channel 9. />

photo of Dr. Daniel Koenemann
Daniel Koenemann, PhD

Daniel Koenemann is an educator and author. He holds a doctorate from Howard University and has been an educator at the undergraduate and graduate levels since 2020. He is currently an Assistant Professor of Biology at Claflin University in Orangeburg, South Carolina. Dr. Koenemann's biological interests are in plant diversity, in all of its various forms: taxonomic, ecological, genetic, metabolic, and morphological. His research has typically focused on plant classification and evolution below the genus level, floristics (plant inventories/surveys), and the evolution of plant sexual/breeding systems. He has written a number of scholarly articles in these areas. His theological interests are in Catholic dogma. He has written on the narrative reconciliation of contemporary theories of biological evolution with the texts of the early chapters of the Book of Genesis. He has also written popular articles examining the intersection of the Catholic faith and science/culture at the blog OnePeterFive.


Elizabeth Shaw, PhD

Elizabeth Shaw, who also serves as Interim Provost, received a BS in mathematics from Georgetown University, and an MA and PhD in philosophy from The Catholic University of America, with a specialty in American philosophy. Dr. Shaw teaches philosophy at The Catholic University of America and is associate editor of the quarterly journal The Review of Metaphysics. Dr. Shaw’s publications include Social Justice Isn’t What You Think It Is (2015; Michael Novak and Paul Adams, coauthors) and three edited volumes: Interpretations: Using the Past to Understand the Present (2018; essays by Jude P. Dougherty), An American and Catholic Life: Essays Dedicated to Michael Novak (2015), and The Myth of Romantic Love and Other Essays (2013; essays by Michael Novak). She is also the author of several scholarly articles, reviews, and book chapters.