St. Thomas of Villanova Church

The University recently announced that it received a $5 million gift from the Lorenzini Family Foundation, which will be put towards a new Intergroup Dialogue Center. The Intergroup Dialogue Center will focus on curricular transformation, faculty training and will be dedicated to building communication and understanding, bridging differences and preparing students to thrive in a diverse world.

“We believe that the willingness and ability to participate in thoughtful, open discussions with a goal of understanding, rather than conquering, is fundamentally critical to forming healthy human relationships,” the Lorenzini family said in a press release issued by the University last Tuesday.

“We’re excited to partner with Villanova and ODEI (the Office of Diversity Equity and Inclusion) to champion those values through the expansion of IGR (Intergroup Relations) to every student at Villanova. This is all possible because of the exceptional work that Dr. Teresa Nance and her team have done with IGR, and we look forward to the formation of the Intergroup Dialogue Center. Our wish is that the whole Nova Nation is armed with this critical skill set as they move through the world, so they can be the champions of real, lasting change.”

The center is based on the Intergroup Relations (IGR) program that the University began in 2010. The program includes a series of one-credit classes, covering topics including race, gender, religion/faith, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation and ability, where students learn communication skills on careful listening and productive dialogue. The program has hosted several workshops and has worked with faculty across campus. The center will also serve as a general resource for faculty and staff in applying IGR’s techniques and approaches in their classrooms and offices. 

“This incredible gift from the Lorenzini Family Foundation provides crucial support to an area of utmost importance to the University,” Senior Vice President for University Advancement Michael O’Neill said. “Villanovans have spoken up about how our university can and must do more to support our community members of color. Villanovans today and in the future will be positively impacted by the Lorenzinis’ generosity.”

Over the summer, University President Rev. Peter M. Donohue, O.S.A., Ph.D., announced a new task force, “Aequitas: The Presidential Task Force on Race,” that he charged with working to develop a University diversity course experience and to adjust the University’s Learning Goals to include a goal on anti-racism education and cultural competence. The support from the Lorenzini Family Foundation allows the Intergroup Dialogue Center to move forward with working to develop a new curriculum featuring IGR, working closely with leaders and faculty members across campus.

Donohue applauded the family for their generosity and vision.

“At Villanova, we are always striving to answer St. Augustine’s call to create an authentic community, but building community takes work,” he said. “It necessitates a deeper understanding of ourselves and one another—our similarities, but, even more importantly, our differences. With the Lorenzinis’ gift, the Intergroup Dialogue Center at Villanova is a first step in that process toward building a more complete, inclusive community on our campus and beyond.”

“The Lorenzinis’ gift is turning our highest aspirations for IGR into reality at Villanova,” Dr. Theresa Nance, University’s Chief Diversity Officer, said. Dr. Nance was also named Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion over the summer.

“We are fortunate to have partners who believe so deeply in the work we are doing and who see the urgency as well as the incredible potential of this moment,” she said. “We are grateful for their vision, their passion and their faith in Villanova to seed real change.”