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Good people of many persuasions wonder how a thinking person can still believe in God. Still others wonder whether a university, as an academic institution, is a place where "God" should be openly discussed at all. Often enough, such questions make presumptions about faith that are frequently untrue. Attention to the real fragility of faith can open spaces for different kinds of discussions entirely.
Michael McCarthy, S.J. began his undergraduate career at Stanford University but then entered the Jesuits and received his B.A. from Santa Clara University in 1987, attended Oxford University to complete the 4-year M.A. in Literae Humaniores, received a Master's in Divinity from the Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley in 1997, and earned his Ph.D. in Theology from the University of Notre Dame in 2003. Currently, he is the Executive Director of Santa Clara University's Ignatian Center for Jesuit Education. Fr. McCarthy holds the Edmund Campion, S.J. Professor endowed chair. He is also an associate professor with a joint appointment in the Religious Studies and Classics Departments as well as the Director of the Catholic Studies Program. His research focuses primarily on Early Christianity, including the concept of church in ancient Christianity, early biblical exegesis, Augustine, religious authority/belief in fourth and fifth centuries, early asceticism/spirituality.
Religion was once at the center of American higher education. But educational reforms instituted over a century ago pushed it to the margins. Professor Reuben will consider these reforms and the dilemmas they pose for religious engagement in the university. Professors Jacobsen and Hustedt Jacobsen will then consider how in the early twenty-first century, universities are rediscovering the importance of religion in societies and in the lives of individuals. This is not a matter of turning back the clock. Rather than undermining academic rigor, as some educators had feared, this new engagement with pluriform religion is helping to deepen learning and to better prepare students for life in a globally interconnected world. Religion in the university today is different from the past, including many nontraditional forms of spirituality as well as various traditional “organized” religions.
Julie Reuben is a historian interested in the intersection between American thought and culture and educational institutions and practice. She is the author of Making of the Modern University: Intellectual Transformation and the Marginalization of Morality as well as a number of articles related to campus activism in the 1960s and the history of civics in public schools. She is currently researching social science instruction in postWorld War II America. She is the Charles Warren Professor of the History of American Education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.
Douglas “Jake” Jacobsen (Ph.D., University of Chicago) is Distinguished Professor of Church History and Theology at Messiah College in Mechanicsburg, PA. With wideranging interests encompassing American and global religiosity, Jake is the award-winning author of Thinking in the Spirit: Theologies of the Early Pentecostal Movement (University of Indiana Press, 2003) and of The World’s Christians: Who They Are, Where They Are, and How They Got There (Wiley/Blackwell, 2011).
Rhonda Hustedt Jacobsen (Ed.D., Temple University) is Director of Faculty Development and Professor of Psychology at Messiah College in Mechanicsburg, PA. A former public school counselor, Rhonda has been the recipient of both national and campus teaching awards and has received several grants from the John Templeton Foundation to support her efforts to bring science and religion into dialogue in the classroom. Together Jake and Rhonda co-direct the Religion in the Academy Project, a major research initiative examining the roles of religion in higher learning. They have collaborated on three books, all of them published by Oxford University Press: Scholarship and Christian Faith: Enlarging the Conversation (2004), The American University in a Postsecular Age (2008), winner of the Lilly Fellows Book Award, and No Longer Invisible: Religion in University Education (2012).
Is there a role for God talk outside religious studies? What is the nature and substance of interdisciplinary engagement around the God question at Santa Clara University? This panel is comprised of four faculty members from a range of academic disciplines, all considering the question of What Good is God? from the perspective of their own scholarship and teaching at Santa Clara, as well as the related disciplinary and interdisciplinary questions of their fields more broadly. Phyllis Brown, Associate Provost for Undergraduate Studies and Professor in the Department of English, Santa Clara University, will facilitate this panel.
Phyllis R. Brown (Ph.D., University of Oregon, 1979) is Professor of English and Associate Provost for Undergraduate Studies at Santa Clara University. Her area of scholarly expertise is medieval and early-modern literature, especially poetry by women. Among her favorite courses to teach are first-year writing, Introduction to Poetry, and a seminar Medieval Women Writers and Writing. Before becoming Associate Provost, Brown served as Director of the Medieval and Renaissance Studies Program, of the Peer Educator Program, of the Undergraduate Core Curriculum, and as Chair of the English Department.
Brian Buckley is a Lecturer in the Department of Philosophy at Santa Clara. Brian grew up right down the street from the Santa Clara campus and used to attend Mass at the Mission before he left for college in Seattle. After earning a Bachelor’s degree in the Northwest, Brian moved to Washington DC to work on a law degree. Along the way, he figured out that his life would be empty without philosophy, so he did further extensive graduate work in philosophy and earned his PhD in Chicago. His teaching and research are centered in the integrity of the human person and justice as the virtue that protects such persons and also promotes the common good. Brian has four degrees from Catholic universities and Santa Clara is the fourth Jesuit school where he has taught. He has been teaching at Santa Clara since the fall of 2007.
Kristin Kusanovich is a modern dancer who has directed, choreographed and produced over one hundred solo and ensemble works in dance, drama, musical theatre, opera, film and video. She received her MFA in Choreography and Performance from NYU's Tisch School of the Arts and her BA from SCU in Dance with a minor in Mathematics. Currently a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Theatre and Dance and the Child Studies Program, Kusanovich also co-directed the Justice and the Arts Initiative. Her research, which investigates the embodied creative process, involves aesthetics, assessment, education, educational administration, ethics, leadership, mathematics and religion. She has served as a master teaching artist with Arts Council of Silicon Valley where she works with children from the lowest income schools in San Jose.
Leilani Miller Dr. Miller is an Associate Professor at Santa Clara University. She obtained her B.S. degree in Biology from Stanford University, her Ph.D. in Biology from MIT, and her post-doctoral training was in the Developmental Biology Department at Stanford University Medical Center. She has been at SCU since 1994. She teaches courses in Genetics, Molecular Biology, and Biotech Ethics. Since July 2013, Dr. Miller has been Director of the University Honors Program, LEAD Scholars Program, and the Office of Student Fellowships. Research projects in Dr. Miller’s lab have been funded by NIH and NSF and use molecular and genetic techniques to study how cells choose their fates during development in the nematode C. elegans.
Thomas Plante is the Augustin Cardinal Bea, S.J. University Professor and directs the Spirituality and Health Institute at Santa Clara University. He is also an adjunct clinical professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Stanford University School of Medicine. He received his Sc.B. in Psychology from Brown University, his MA and Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from the University of Kansas, and completed a Postdoctoral Fellowship and Clinical Internship at Yale University. He recently served as vice-chair of the National Review Board for the Protection of Children and Youth for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and is past-president of the Society for the Psychology of Religion and Spirituality (Division 36) of the American Psychological Association. He has authored or edited 19 books including Religion, Spirituality, and Positive Psychology: Understanding the Psychological Fruits of Faith (2012, Greenwood), Sexual Abuse in the Catholic Church: A Decade of Crisis, 2002-2012 (2011, Greenwood), and Spiritual Practices in Psychotherapy: Thirteen Tools for Enhancing Psychological Health (2009, American Psychological Association). He has published over 175 scholarly professional journal articles and book chapters as well. He teaches courses in abnormal, clinical, health, and general psychology as well as ethics and maintains a private clinical practice as a licensed psychologist in Menlo Park, CA. ?
Grief and death anxiety are inextricably linked with human existence. In a real sense, loss permeates our lives. According to research in the realm of existential psychology as well as a venerable tradition in existential philosophy, constructive acknowledgement of death anxiety can be a major motivator of positive functioning whereas avoidance or denial of such anxiety can be a source of dysfunctional behavior and even psychopathology. Surprisingly, however, little empirical research has addressed the impact of religious belief on how people experience and cope with loss and death anxiety. Professor Feldman and Professor Gressis will be reporting on their recent research on the role of religious belief on experiences of loss and death anxiety in lay philosophy faculty, Jesuit priests, and undergraduate students. This research study was funded through a What Good Is God? Bannan Institute Research Grant. Faculty seminar will follow luncheon presentation.
David Feldman is Associate Professor, Counseling Psychology at Santa Clara University, where he teaches courses in cognitive-behavioral therapy, brief psychotherapies, and personality theory. He holds a Ph.D. in clinical psychology from the University of Kansas and completed a health psychology fellowship at the VA Palo Alto Health Care System, Palo Alto, California. His research and writings have addressed such topics as hope, meaning, and growth in the face of physical illness, trauma, and other highly stressful events. He is the co-author of The End-of-Life Handbook: A Compassionate Guide to Connecting with and Caring for a Dying Loved One, which addresses the needs of families as they face the life-threatening illness of a loved one.
Robert Gressis, Assistant Professor of Philosophy, California State University, Northridge, completed his Ph.D. from University of Michigan and his research and teaching interests center on Kant, Philosophy of Religion, Ethics, Moral Psychology, FreeWill, History of Modern Philosophy. He is the author of “How to Be Evil: Kant's Moral Psychology of Immorality" in Rethinking Kant: Current Trends in North American Kantian Scholarship (Cambridge, 2008)