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Faculty Profiles


Viki Matson

"I like to think of my work as being situated at the intersection of many busy thoroughfares ... Field Education is in the thick of all of this, sometimes connecting dots or facilitating integrative thinking, sometimes pointing out alternative paths for thinking or doing, always listening carefully to the concerns of each constituent who enters the intersection."

Viki Matson

Assistant Professor of the Practice of Ministry & Director of Field Education

 

What space in a theological curriculum does Field Education occupy? Over the years I have been grieved that my profession as a whole tends to view our work as taking the place on the margins of theological education. At the national gatherings of our guild it is not uncommon to have workshops and plenaries and even keynote speeches on such topics as “Teaching From the Margins” or “embracing the Position of Exile”. While I understand the source of this perspective as many Field Educators are treated as second class citizens at their schools, and while I deeply appreciate the hermeneutical move across disciplines to honor the (often silenced) voices from the margins, I do not find the spatial metaphor of “margin” or “exile” helpful for the work I do.

Rather, I like to think of my work as being situated at the intersection of many busy thoroughfares. At these intersections I encounter a range of theological claims as well as the embedded theology of congregations and other sites, a wide variety of contexts in which religious leadership is explicitly or implicitly practiced, the vocational inklings of our students (some clear, some murky), the hopes and expectations of churches and other communities, and the variety of texts that define a theological curriculum (traditional textbooks as well as the “texts” of living, complicated dilemmas that human beings face). Field Education is in the thick of all of this, sometimes connecting dots or facilitating integrative thinking, sometimes pointing out alternative paths for thinking or doing, always listening carefully to the concerns of each constituent who enters the intersection.



Stacey Floyd-Thomas

Thus, my pedagogical challenges and their measures of success have always been involved identifying, procuring, and often creating from scratch the resources and tools needed to transform my classroom into this living laboratory – that is, into a space in which students can gain experience confronting and resolving real world issues so as to prepare them to face similar challenges in the real world outside of the classroom with clarity of thought, relevant theology and confidence of character.

Stacey Floyd-Thomas

Associate Professor of Ethics and Society

I am inspired as a faculty member to teach at VDS, the place we affectionately call “School of the Prophets.” Here, I am empowered to see my role as a teacher to be inextricably linked to saving lives without losing minds. Living in an era of increased diversity, economic anxiety, and rapid global transformation, I believe that, as teachers, we who engage in the fight for social justice must ask ourselves a fundamental, existential ethical question: "How does my teaching realize social justice for those people who see justice as an impossible reality in their lives?" This social justice sensibility in my teaching-learning process involves inviting my students into a “living laboratory” classroom context wherein we collectively seek to transform the world in which we live by examining and understanding the ways people believe, feel, know and understand the sacred in their lives. Thus, my pedagogical challenges and their measures of success have always been involved identifying, procuring, and often creating from scratch the resources and tools needed to transform my classroom into this living laboratory – that is, into a space in which students can gain experience confronting and resolving real world issues so as to prepare them to face similar challenges in the real world outside of the classroom with clarity of thought, relevant theology and confidence of character.

My philosophy in teaching and research stems from eight tenets: (1) the personal is, indeed, political; (2) learning and teaching raise the most essential questions about human existence; (3) scholars must generate strategies that demand both critical reflection and accountability – be it personal, social, or institutional; (4) the learning process is one in which the theoretical lends itself to the practical; (5) relevant religion must grapple with issues such as freedom of choice, conscious action, personal character, and considerations of moral responsibility; (6) the link between the theory and practice of human relationships becomes much more evident when the teaching moment strives to understand why people do what they do in order to figure out what ought to be done; (7) my beliefs about scholarly activism stem from the core of what I do and who I am; and most importantly, (8) the teacher’s main goal (like the scholar and religious leader) should be to meet students where they are, in order to take them where they need to go.



Choon-Leong Seow

I have been energized by and learned from students who are curious, creative, and passionately committed to making the world a better place through their various ministries.

Choon-Leong Seow

Distinguished Professor of Hebrew Bible

After more than three decades of teaching at another institution, I have come to join the vibrant and diverse community at Vanderbilt. Here I find myself in the company of distinguished theological educators as well as scholars in a wide variety of fields in the university. As a biblical scholar, I am proud of the diverse offerings we have, including those in ancient Near Eastern languages and cultures, biblical exegesis, hermeneutics that attend to contemporary communities, and the cultural histories of scriptures. I have been energized by and learned from students who are curious, creative, and passionately committed to making the world a better place through their various ministries.



Bruce Morrill

How to start over and again, in ever new or changing circumstances, to enter interpersonal and social relationships across sometimes profound differences, poised to listen before stating, expecting to meet the divine in human experiences of happiness and suffering?

Bruce Morrill

Edward A. Malloy Chair of Catholic Studies
Professor of Theological Studies

As I reflect back over my first five years now on the Vanderbilt Divinity faculty I find myself grateful for the many students who’ve given me the privilege of sharing one, two, or more years of their lives—students with a range of commitments to the service of faith and the promotion of justice. None of us can be all things to all people, and so not surprisingly I’ve observed how various students find mentorship and friendship with particular faculty, staff, and peers, but the most inspiring and enjoyable are those willing and able to undertake the rewarding, at times hard work of study, service, and solidarity. How to become a closer, critical, yet generous reader of texts? How to learn from histories and engage theories in ways that strengthen and integrate practices? How to start over and again, in ever new or changing circumstances, to enter interpersonal and social relationships across sometimes profound differences, poised to listen before stating, expecting to meet the divine in human experiences of happiness and suffering? “Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy?” (Is 55:2). These are not forbidding problems but grace-filled invitations for joining in a rich educational venture.