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Drexel Experts Available to Comment on Pope's Visit to Philadelphia

PHILADELPHIA 8/4/2015 2:45:51 PM

Pope Francis – and an estimated 1.5 million people – will descend upon the city of Philadelphia in late September as the capstone to the weeklong, international World Meeting of Families event, during which the Pope will deliver a public mass on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. From concerns about security measures to transportation, anxiety is already on the rise among Philadelphians regarding how the city will handle the influx of tourists expected to double the city’s population.

Drexel University experts are available to comment on a range of issues related to the visit including safety, public health, environmental impact, infrastructure preparedness and tourism. Experts also are able to weigh in about what this once-in-a-lifetime event – and the Pope’s progressive views – mean for the Catholic church.

Security and Infrastructure

Security Procedures:

Scott White, PhD,an associate clinical professor of homeland security and security management in Drexel’s College of Computing and Informatics, can comment on security measures the city is taking during the Papal visit. As a former officer with Canada’s military intelligence service, White has been part of managing large security details. He previously commented on large-scale security efforts at the Olympic games in London and Vancouver.


Joseph Martin, PhD, a professor in the College of Engineering with expertise in transportation project management and infrastructure evaluation, can comment on the preparedness of the city’s infrastructure to deal with the massive influx of people surrounding the Papal visit. He can also discuss strategies being employed by public transportation to ensure safety and efficiency that week.

Communication Infrastructure:

Kapil Dandekar, PhD, a professor in the College of Engineering and director of the Drexel Wireless Systems Laboratory, can comment on how cellular communication and mobile device connectivity could be affected during high-usage events, such as the World Meeting of Families and the Papal Mass.

Public Spaces:

Harris Steinberg, executive director of the Lindy Institute for Urban Innovation and a distinguished teaching professor of architecture and interiors in the Westphal College of Media Arts & Design, can comment on how Philadelphia’s public spaces and transportation systems will accommodate both the Pope and the crowds – and how best to show off Philadelphia while in the international spotlight.

Health and Safety

Environmental Impact:

Charles Haas, PhD, a professor in the College of Engineering and head of the Civil Architectural and Environmental Engineering Department, can address environmental impacts of the influx of people during the Pope’s visit, including stresses on wastewater management.

Public Health and Emergency Medical Preparedness:

Esther Chernak, MD, MPH, an associate research professor and director of the Center for Public Health Readiness and Communication in the Drexel University School of Public Health, can comment on public health preparedness issues and readiness of the health care system to manage issues associated with mass gatherings.

Richard Hamilton, MD, a professor in the College of Medicine and chair of the Department of Emergency Medicine, can comment on comment on the city’s readiness for any mass casualty incidents that could occur, including preparation and staging of triage areas and dealing with extreme weather-related incidents.

Health Impacts of Religion:

Rabbi Nancy Epstein, MPH, an associate professor in the Drexel University School of Public Health, can comment on the impact of religion on health.

Hospitality and Tourism


Linda Forristal, PhD, an assistant teaching professor of hospitality and tourism who specializes in such areas as destination management, tourism marketing, place branding with native species and tourism mobility and transit connectivity, can discuss how Philly’s hospitality and tourism fields are going to be impacted.


Joel Maxcy, PhD,an associate professor in the Center for Hospitality and Sport Management, can comment on the economics of hosting such a large-scale event, including the impact on the Airbnb vacation rental website.


Paul O’Neill, director of special projects for Drexel’s Center for Hospitality and Sport Management, can comment on how restaurants in Philadelphia will be affected by the influx of people to the city and what restaurants tourists should try.

Religion and Papal Views

History of Religion and Faith vs. Science:

Jonathan Seitz, PhD,an associate teaching professor of history in the College of Arts and Sciences and an expert in early modern European religion, can comment on Pope Francis’ often controversial stances on religious issues, particularly in relation to science. He can discuss how the Pope’s stances on such issues as climate change and evolution build on the deep traditions of Catholicism while also seeking harmony with scientific ideas.

Climate Change:

Environmental sociologistRobert Brulle, PhD, a professor of sociology in the College of Arts and Sciences and a leading expert on human responses to environmental issues, can comment on Pope Francis’ recent statements about the dangers of global warming and how his stance will affect public opinion on climate change.


Doug Porpora, PhD, a professor of sociology in the College of Arts and Sciences who studies religion, can discuss the Pope's social agenda and its continuity with prior Catholic social thought.