SAU series explores issues of justice in work


By Celine Klosterman

DAVENPORT — During a time when national unemployment figures and economic issues continue to make headlines, most people don’t need to be reminded of the value of work.

But they could perhaps use some encouragement in their commitment to the daily grind, according to Sandra Quinn, an associate professor of criminal justice, women’s studies and Irish studies at St. Ambrose University in Davenport.

“We get up and don’t really want to go to work, but we do it anyway,” she said. “We’d like for people to pat themselves on the back and respect the grit they have to be able to do it.”

Quinn hopes an ongoing series of lectures, concerts, exhibits, theater productions and films at St. Ambrose on the “Ubiquity of Work” helps people do so. The events, taking place throughout this academic year, celebrate work and explore social justice issues in labor.


“This is completely intertwined with principles of Catholic Social Teaching,” she said. One or more of the seven themes of that teaching play into scheduled lectures on topics including welfare, mothers and the workforce, unions and meat production, peaceful living and the spirituality of work. Art exhibits and theater productions showcase creative, sometimes unpaid labor, and one of several concerts offers an educational presentation on “The Music of Work.”  

Quinn said she suggested the theme of labor for St. Ambrose’s third annual Project Series last year amid the recession. “It was really clear that nationally, finding jobs is a problem.”

The timely issue was especially prominent in her mind because she teaches a course using Barbara Ehrenreich’s book “Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America,” which describes the author’s struggle to make a living in low-wage jobs. “And at a university, since we have students who expect to graduate and enter a career, we think about jobs a lot,” Quinn said.

Other issues also inspired her to take the opportunity to study labor: what she said is a lack of appetite for the “collective bargaining” that unions offer, global businesses’ reliance on women for cheap labor and the difficulty for modern families to live off one parent’s income.

And, Quinn said, “Having work contributes to our sense of personal dignity and self-esteem and connects us to our fellows.”

Upcoming “Ubiquity of Work” events

• Oct. 20, 7 p.m., Lecture: “Get to Work: The Rights and Wrongs of Women’s Attitudes Toward Paid Work in the Market Economy”

• Oct. 26, 1:30 p.m. Lecture: “Transformation of Identity: Becoming a Welfare Mother” 

7 p.m. Lecture: “‘Mommy Needs a Job!’: Women Navigating the Public Workforce System”

• Tuesday, Nov. 2

Panel discussions sponsored by the College for Professional Studies:

10:50 a.m.–12:05 p.m. “Transitioning to Work; Life-Long Learning,” Rogalski Center

1:40–2:55 p.m. “Choosing a Career; Life-Long Learning,” Rogalski Center

8–9 p.m.: “Connecting Education, Career and Life-Long Learning” CPS Building, 1950 E. 54th St., Davenport

• Nov. 2, 7 p.m.: Film Festival: “Daughters of Keltoum” (French)

All events are free and held at the Rogalski Center unless otherwise noted. For the full schedule, visit

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