Skip to main content Skip to site navigation Skip to contact information
School of Theology and Ministry

Center Scholars

These theologians and social scientists bring a unique combination of interdisciplinary curiosity, community engagement and interfaith collaboration. They represent a distinctive kind of scholarship that is meaningfully grounded in the needs and concerns of their communities.

Center scholars are currently working on their research projects related to homelessness and the affordable housing crisis and are in dialogue with members of the Puget Sound Interfaith Network for Public Theology through videoconference sessions and via Canvas, the university’s learning management system.

Paul Blankenship

Graduate Theological Union
Berkeley, CA, U.S.A.

Paul Houston Blankenship is a doctoral student at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley. His dissertation is an ethnography on the spiritual lives of people experiencing homelessness in Seattle. Since 2016, Paul has served as an adjunct professor at Seattle University and as a visiting scholar at the University of Washington. Prior to entering the academy, Paul was a social worker in San Diego and Santa Ana. In his spare time, Paul enjoys photography, nature, and walking around the universe in wonder with his beloved partner.

Jeremy Brown, Ph.D.

University of San Francisco
San Francisco, CA, U.S.A.

Jeremy Phillip Brown earned his Ph.D. in Hebrew and Judaic Studies from New York University. His primary area of research is Jewish mysticism. He teaches at University of San Francisco in the Department of Theology and Religious Studies, in the Swig Program in Jewish Studies & Social Justice, and with Berkeley-based Lehrhaus Judaica. He lives in Oakland, California with his partner Valeria and son Rafael.

Sathianathan Clarke, Th.D.

Wesley Theological Seminary
Washington, D.C., U.S.A.

Sathianathan “Sathi” Clarke is Bishop Sundo Kim Chair in World Christianity and Professor of Theology, Culture and Mission, at Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C. For the last 30 years, his vocation has been a unique blend of the joy of Church ministry, passion for working with communities of the poor and other religious faiths, and love of academic research and teaching. Clarke started his ministry in the Church of South India as a social worker and priest for the Diocese of Madras among Dalit communities in rural India. He has graduate degrees from Madras University (M.A.), Seramapore University (B.D.), Yale Divinity School (S.T.M.) and Harvard Divinity School (Th.D.), and is the author of two books: Dalits and Christianity: Subaltern Religion and Liberation Theology in India and a forthcoming book entitled Competing Fundamentalisms: Violent Extremism in Christianity, Islam, and Hinduism (Westminster John Knox, Spring 2017).

Shawnee Daniels-Sykes, Ph.D.

Mount Mary University
Milwaukee, WI, U.S.A.

Born and raised in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Shawnee M. Daniels Sykes, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor of Theology and Ethics at Mount Mary University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Also an adjunct Associate Professor for the Institute for Black Catholic Studies, during summer weeks she teaches the graduate course Moral Questions in the Black Community. A Registered Nurse by trade, Dr. Daniels-Sykes is the only Black Catholic female Health Care Ethicist in the United States. As a Catholic theological ethicist, her research interests lie in beginning of life issues, middle of life issues, and end of life issues, especially as these relate to institutionalized race, class, and gender oppressions. She has an array of items in print media and verbal communications, such as book chapters, articles in peer reviewed journals, popular journals, podcasts, radio interviews, and webinars.

Karen Enriquez, Ph.D.

Loyola Marymount University
Los Angeles, CA, U.S.A.

Dr. Karen Enriquez is Assistant Professor in Theological Studies at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, CA. She received her Ph.D. in Comparative Theology (Buddhist and Christian) from Boston College, where she focused on the comparison of spiritual practices in Buddhism and Christianity, the transformation of the self and society, and dialogue among religions.  Before coming to LMU, she taught at two other Jesuit universities, Xavier University and Ateneo de Manila university in the Philippines. She has taught courses on Buddhism, Buddhist-Christian comparative theology, and religion, gender, and violence, and previously worked with an organization combating gender-based violence in Cincinnati.  Part of her research agenda is to contribute to the field of Philippine and Philippine-American theology with a focus on the intersection of social justice and spirituality, and to work in the area of Buddhist-Christian dialogue on spiritual and social practices that lead to critical engagement with our world today.

Michael R. Fisher, Jr.

Vanderbilt University
Nashville, TN, U.S.A.

Michael R. Fisher, Jr. is a Ph.D. candidate in Ethics and Society and a Theology and Practice Fellow in the Graduate Department of Religion, as well as a Graduate Teaching Fellow at the Center for Teaching at Vanderbilt University. Michael’s research lies at the intersection of religion, ethics, and urban studies in the United States. His current research analyzes the social, moral, and religious significance of neoliberal urban redevelopment in U.S. cities and its devastating effects on poor, black urban communities. Using Washington, D.C. as a case study, Michael draws on his knowledge and experience as a community organizer, activist, public policy advocate and ordained clergyman to explore what public theology and an ethics of social solidarity bring to a critical analysis of neoliberal urban redevelopment that concretely aims toward the shaping of urban spaces that are more social, inclusive, and democratic. Before coming to Vanderbilt, Michael was the director of advocacy and policy for a local nonprofit organization dedicated to the elimination of chronic homelessness in the nation’s capital.

Jason Hays, Ph.D.

Naropa University
Boulder, CO, U.S.A.

Jason Hays serves as Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at Naropa University where he teaches aspiring chaplains and congregational leaders in constructive public theology, contemplative Christian traditions and pastoral/spiritual care. As a scholar-practitioner deeply committed to postmodern theological theories of personal and communal change, Jason is interested in non-pathologizing models of spiritual transformation in congregational, nonprofit and institutional spaces. His research interests include postmodern approaches to pastoral/spiritual care, gender and sexuality, and contemplative interspiritual community leadership. Prior to joining the faculty at Naropa University, Jason served as a pastor with congregations in Maryland, Virginia and Colorado.  He currently serves as Board Chair of Boulder Outreach for Homeless Overflow, a non-profit service provider partnering with local religious communities to leverage community assets and interfaith relationships to meet unmet needs in basic shelter and care.

Nancy Khalil

Harvard University
Cambridge, MA, U.S.A.

Nancy A. Khalil is an Instructor of Muslim Ministry at Harvard Divinity School and a Ph.D. candidate in Anthropology at Harvard University. Her current research focuses on the politics of American Islam with an emphasis on the profession of the Imam in America. Other research projects she has worked on include research on migrant and second generation political and civic engagement, Muslim students on U.S. college campuses, as well as a large project specific to the Muslim community in Boston.  Her academic work has been supported by several foundations, some include the National Science Foundation, Social Science Research Council, Bucerius Zeit-Stiftung, and the Islamic Scholarship Fund.  Prior to her doctoral studies, she worked as Muslim Chaplain at Wellesley College and Advisor to their Multi-faith Living and Learning Community.

Lauren Lawson, R.N., D.N.P.

Seattle University
Seattle, WA, U.S.A.

Lauren Valk Lawson, D.N.P., R.N. is the Lead for the Community/Public Health Track of the Seattle University College of Nursing’s Graduate Program. Since 2008, Dr. Lawson and her nursing students have worked in partnership with Seattle Mennonite Church’s Community Ministry in their provision of services to people experiencing homelessness in Lake City. Dr. Lawson’s doctorate of nursing practice capstone focused on implementing a community-based participatory research project with the neighborhood to build capacity and design recuperative care services for those who were homeless. Recently, Dr. Lawson joined the Seattle University Center for Community Engagement in a collaborative effort to engage students from the College of Nursing in the Seattle University Youth Initiative and their community partners. Dr. Lawson lives in Seattle with her family.  She is a member of the Bahá’í Faith, whose principles inform her life.

Roberto Mata, Th.D.

Santa Clara University
Santa Clara, CA, U.S.A.

Roberto Mata is an Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at Santa Clara University. He specializes in the Book of Revelation and contextual biblical interpretation. Using Latino/a Borderlands, postcolonial, and critical race theories, Dr. Mata explores the intersection of colonialism, race/ethnicity, and migration in early Christian texts. He received his M.Div. and Th.D. from Harvard Divinity School, where he wrote his dissertation under Elisabeth Schüssler-Fiorenza. He is a recipient of Harvard’s Derek Bok Center Award for teaching excellence and the prestigious William’s Fellowship. He has also received fellowships from the Hispanic Theological Initiative (HTI) and the Forum for Theological Exploration (FTE).

Bruce Miller, Ph.D.

University of British Columbia
Vancouver, BC, Canada

Bruce Granville Miller (BA, Brown University, PhD, Arizona State University) is Professor of Anthropology at UBC. Miller is the author of eight books concerning Indigenous peoples, law, culture, and relations to the state, including Invisible Indigenes; The Problem of Justice: Tradition and Law in the Coast Salish World; Oral History on Trial: Recognizing Aboriginal Narratives in the Courts, and Be of Good Mind: Essays on the Coast Salish. He has worked with Coast Salish people and communities over the last forty years and has served as an expert witness in courts and human rights tribunals. He is the winner of the K.D. Srivastiva Prize for Excellence in Academic Publishing, the recipient of the Killam Teaching Prize, and is a Fellow of the Society for Applied Anthropology and a Jacob Javits Fellow. Miller is the co-founder of the UBC ethnographic field school held in conjunction with the Stó:lō Nation.

Heru Prakosa, S.J., Ph.D.

Sanata Dharma University
Yogyakarta, Indonesia

Heru Prakosa is an Indonesian Jesuit priest who has been trained in Philosophy, Christian Theology and Islamic Studies. His dissertation was entitled Meaning in the Order of Discourse and An Attempt to Approach It: A Study on Al-Râzî’s Nihâyat al-Îjâz fî- Dirâyat al-I`jâz. He now lectures in the Graduate Program of the Theology Department of Sanata Dharma University (Pontifical Faculty of Wedhabakti), in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. He also coordinates several Jesuit-led initiatives that seek to foster dialogue between Christians and Muslims in Indonesia. His interests include contextual theology, interreligious studies and interfaith dialogue, and his approach to these areas of study has been most influenced by Ignatian pedagogy. One of his most cherished experiences was the time when he was invited to give a public lecture in the Seattle University, in February 2014, entitled “To be Religious is to be Interreligious: a Pilgrimage across Religious Boundaries.”

David Slater, Ph.D.

Sophia University
Tokyo, Japan

David H. Slater is a Professor of Cultural Anthropology and Japanese Studies and the Director of the Institute of Comparative Culture at Sophia University, Tokyo. His recent publications include “3.11 Politics in Disaster Japan: Fear and Anger, Possibility and Hope, Micro-Politics of Radiation,” an edited online collection for Cultural Anthropology (2011); Japan Copes with Calamity (edited volume with Gill Steger (2013); “Young Mothers Looking for a Voice in Post–3.11 Fukushima" in Critical Asian Studies (2014); "SEALDs (Students Emergency Action for Liberal Democracy): Research Note on Contemporary Youth Politics in Japan", The Asia-Pacific Journal (2015), and “Social Media, Information and Political Activism in Japan’s 3.11 Crisis” (2016). He is currently using the oral narrative methods to address the issue of homelessness in Tokyo, documenting recipients, aid providers and activists.

Jim Spickard, Ph.D.

University of Redlands
Redlands, CA, U.S.A.

Jim Spickard (B.A., Stanford, M.A., New School for Social Research, Ph.D., Graduate Theological Union) teaches courses on the sociology of religion, social theory, research design, and homelessness at the University of Redlands in southern California. His homelessness course sends students on analytic internships with local social service agencies; it won the University's 2014 Innovative Teaching award. Jim has published widely on religion in contemporary society, human rights, social research methods, social theory, and the social foundations of ethics. His textbook on research design (Research Basics, Sage, 2017) has a chapter on homeless counts. His most recent book, Alternative Sociologies of Religion (NYU, 2017) reimagines what sociologists might notice about religion if they began from Navajo, Confucian, and Khaldunian starting points rather than from Western Christian ones. He is current working on a book on religion’s future in the contemporary world.

Laura Stivers, Ph.D.

Dominican University of California
San Rafael, CA, U.S.A.

Laura Stivers is Dean of the School of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences and Professor of Social Ethics at Dominican University of California. Laura received her Ph.D. from the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, her M.Div. from Pacific School of Religion, and her B.A. from Saint Olaf College. She is the author of Disrupting Homelessness:  Alternative Christian Approaches (Fortress, 2011); Co-author of Earth Ethics: A Case Method Approach (Orbis, 2015) Christian Ethics:  A Case Method Approach (Orbis, 2012); and Co-editor of Justice in a Global Economy: Strategies for Home, Community, and World (Westminster John Knox, 2006). Laura is on the Advisory Board of the Marin Interfaith Street Chaplaincy.