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Misc. VDS Events

On Care For Our Common Home
Engaging Laudato Si, Pope Francis’s Ecological Justice Encyclical


Eos Fellow - Bruce T. Morrill, Ph.D, 
                          Edward A. Malloy Professor of Catholic Studies

Bruce T. Morrill
Bruce Morrill focuses his theological scholarship in the area of liturgy and sacraments, drawing on a range of interdisciplinary resources (systematic and historical theology, ritual studies, cultural anthropology, political theologies, and biblical studies). His eight books include Divine Worship and Human Healing: Liturgical Theology at the Margins of Life and Death (2009), Anamnesis as Dangerous Memory: Political and Liturgical Theology in Dialogue (2000), and the forthcoming Essential Writings of Bernard Cooke: A Narrative Theology of Church, Sacraments, and Ministry (May 2016). He has held a number of visiting chairs and fellowships and lectured widely in North America, Europe, and Australia. A Catholic priest and member of the Jesuit order, he has for many years made pastoral service trips to Yup’ik eskimo villages along Alaska’s Bering Seacoast.


Kevin Ahern, Ph.D.

Kevin Ahern Kevin Glauber Ahern, PhD is an assistant professor of religious studies at Manhattan College. He defended his doctoral dissertation in theological ethics from Boston College in 2013. His dissertation was entitled “Structures of Grace: Catholic NGOs and the Church’s Mission in a Globalized World.” From 2003 to 2007, Kevin Ahern served as the President of the International Movement of Catholic Students (IMCS-Pax Romana), an international network of students in over eighty countries. He continues to be active on the boards of several national and international networks, including he Catholic Common Ground Initiative, the board of directors of America Press and as a Vice-President of the ICMICA-Pax Romana, He has edited the Radical Bible and Visions of Hope: Emerging Theologians and the Future of the Church, both with Orbis Books. When not teaching, writing, or going to international meetings, Kevin enjoys hiking, Cape Cod, and spending time with his wife. Follow him on twitter at @kevin_ahern and at

Nichole Flores, Ph.D.

Nichole FloresNichole M. Flores, assistant professor of religious studies at the University of Virginia, earned an A.B. in Government from Smith College, a M.Div. from Yale Divinity School, and a Ph.D. in Theological Ethics from Boston College. Previously, she was Instructor of Theology at Saint Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire. Her research emphasizes the contributions of Catholic and U.S. Latino/a theologies to notions of justice, emotion, and aesthetics as they relate to the common good within plural socio-political contexts. Her work in practical ethics addresses issues of migration, labor, bioethics, consumption, race and ethnicity, family, and politics.

Her published academic work appears in the Journal of the Society of Christian Ethics and Feminist Catholic Theological Ethics: Conversations in the World Church. Other writing of hers have been featured in America Magazine and on the Washington Post On Faith Blog. 

In 2015, she was the recipient of the Catherine Mowry LaCugna Award for Best Essay in Academic Theology from the Catholic Theological Society of America and the Circles of Change Award for positive contribution to social transformation through community engagement. 

Carwil Bjork-James

Carwil Bjork-JamesDr. Bjork-James is a cultural anthropologist whose work focuses on strategies of grassroots autonomy and disruptive protest in Latin America. His primary research project studies the takeover and use of urban space by grassroots social movements in Bolivia, particularly in the city of Cochabamba. Using both anthropological and historical methods, he explores how pivotal public events generate political legitimacy, contribute to major (sometimes revolutionary) transformations in the balance of power, and provide models for future political action. The ethnographic evidence collected about these events—of social life as experienced through the human body, the meanings attached to places, and social movement practices—explains how grassroots movements exert leverage upon the state through protest. Some broader issues of interest in his research are evolving ideas of collective rights (including the right to strike, and the rights of peasants and indigenous peoples), strategic and tactical questions in collective mass action, and the role of urban space in reproducing and challenging racial and state power. 

He has taught at Hunter College, Baruch College, and New College of California. He worked for several years supporting indigenous communities affected by oil drilling in Colombia, Nigeria, and Alaska. His writing has appeared in the Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Anthropology, the Journal of Peasant Studies, andAnthropology Now.

Douglas Perkins, Ph.D.

Douglas PerkinsAfter getting degrees in Psychology (and minoring in Sociology & Anthropology) at Swarthmore College and MA and PhD in Community Psychology at New York University, Professor Perkins taught in Criminal Justice at Temple University, and later Environment & Behavior in the Department of Family & Consumer Studies at the University of Utah. Arriving at Vanderbilt in 2000, he was the founding director of the Ph.D. Program in Community Research & Action, of Graduate Studies in Human & Organizational Development, and of the interdisciplinary Center for Community Studies at Peabody College, Vanderbilt. He is a Fellow of the Society for Community Research and Action. He has conducted collaborative research with community and university partners in the U.S. and Europe, and organized participatory student Fieldschools in Intercultural Education & Research in China and South Africa).

Emilie M. Townes, Ph.D.

Emilie M. TownesThe Rev. Dr. Emilie M. Townes, a distinguished scholar and leader in theological education, is dean of Vanderbilt Divinity School. She is also the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Professor of Womanist Ethics and Society.

Townes' broad areas of expertise include Christian ethics, cultural theory and studies, postmodernism and social postmodernism. She has been a pioneering scholar in womanist theology, a field of studies in which the historic and current insights of African American women are brought into critical engagement with the traditions of Christian theology. Townes has a strong interest in thinking critically about womanist perspectives on issues such as health care, economic justice, poetry and literary theory.

She is the author of the groundbreaking book Womanist Ethics and the Cultural Production of Evil  (Palgrave Macmillan Press, 2006). Other books include Breaking the Fine Rain of Death: African American Health Care and A Womanist Ethic of Care(Continuum, 1998), In a Blaze of Glory: Womanist Spirituality as Social Witness(Abingdon Press, 1995) and Womanist Justice, Womanist Hope (Scholars Press, 1993). She co-edited Womanist Theological Ethics: A Reader (Westminster John Knox Press, 2011) with Katie Geneva Cannon and Angela D. Simms. In addition,Religion, Health, and Healing in African American Life (Praeger, 2008) was co-edited by Townes with Stephanie Y. Mitchem.

Michael Vandenbergh

Michael VandenberghMichael Vandenbergh is a leading scholar in environmental and energy law whose research explores the relationship between formal legal regulation and informal social regulation of individual and corporate behavior. His work with Vanderbilt’s Climate Change Research Network involves interdisciplinary teams that focus on the reduction of carbon emissions from the individual and household sector. His corporate work explores private environmental governance and the influence of social norms on firm behavior and the ways in which private contracting can enhance or undermine public governance. Before joining Vanderbilt’s law faculty, Professor Vandenbergh was a partner at a national law firm in Washington, D.C. He served as Chief of Staff of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency from 1993 to 1995. He began his career as a law clerk for Judge Edward R. Becker of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in 1987-88. In addition to directing Vanderbilt’s Climate Change Research Network, Professor Vandenbergh serves as co-director of the law school’s Energy, Environment and Land Use Program. He was named a David Daniels Allen Distinguished Professor of Law in fall 2013. A recipient of the Hall-Hartman Teaching Award, he teaches courses in environmental law, energy, and property. Professor Vandenbergh has been a visiting professor at the University of Chicago Law School and at Harvard Law School.