Tuesday December 13, 2016

University Professor of Faith and Culture

The University of Dayton appointed Sandra Yocum the University Professor of Faith and Culture. Yocum is an associate professor in the department of religious studies who joined the faculty in 1992. She begins her new role in January.

The University Professor of Faith and Culture serves as an intellectual leader at the University of Dayton and throughout Catholic higher education. The Chair is charged with advancing a program of high-quality scholarship, teaching and faculty development that examines the roles of faith in addressing major issues in contemporary culture, drawing upon the resources of the Catholic intellectual tradition.

Jason Pierce, College of Arts and Sciences dean, said Yocum’s extensive research and scholarship related to the intersection of faith and culture within the context of the Catholic intellectual tradition will serve her well as endowed chair.

“I am thrilled that Dr. Yocum will serve in this important role for the University,” Pierce said. “Her research and writing have deeply examined how Roman Catholic life and thought have found expression in and interacted with American culture.”

The author of three books and more than 30 journal articles and book chapters, Yocum has published widely on Catholicism’s intersection with American culture, including “On the Backroads: Searching for American Catholic Intellectual Traditions” in American Catholic Traditions: Resources for Renewal (1997) and “North American Catholicism” in The Blackwell Companion to Catholicism (2007).

Yocum explored more than five decades of Catholic theology and intellectual life in writing Joining the Revolution in Theology: The College Theology Society, 1954-2004 (Rowman & Littlefield, 2007). She also showed her willingness to address more troubling aspects of faith and culture in the publication Clergy Sexual Abuse: Social Science Perspectives (Northern University Press, 2013), co-edited with Claire Renzetti.

Her leadership experience includes serving as the department of religious studies’ director of graduate studies from 1996 to 2002, and as department chair from 2003 to 2012.

“She is an innovative thought leader, illustrated recently by a collaborative project with assistant professor of art and design Darden Bradshaw called ‘Living Glass,’ where stained glass from the University Chapel of the Immaculate Conception was repurposed into new works of art,” Pierce said.

Yocum plans to seek out the perspectives and concerns of key academic leaders from across the College, the professional schools and University’s centers and institutes. She hopes to gain a better understanding of their Catholic intellectual tradition-related initiatives in order to complement and support them.

She also intends to organize an international academic conference about faith and virtual culture, inspired in part by the recent presidential election. The campus event would include scholars from across the University and from other institutions.

In addition, she is considering an interfaith symposium on a topic such as peace and nonviolence that would explore the issue’s theoretical and practical aspects from Christian, Judaic and Muslim perspectives.

Yocum noted that 2017 marks the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s 95 Theses, which led to the Protestant Reformation.

“As the University Professor of Faith and Culture, I need to pay attention to that and think of ways to have some kind of ecumenical dialogue or reflection back on it,” she said.

Yocum also hopes to foster a sense among students that they can help shape and contribute to modern Catholic intellectual tradition.

“I’m not going to be here forever and I would like to be able to hand this over to younger faculty, staff and students and have them take this up from their perspective and in their context with some knowledge and mentoring not just by me, but from other faculty and staff as well,” she said.

In addition, she hopes to reinvigorate the Forum on the Catholic Intellectual Tradition Today as a venue for expressing views and encouraging debate.

Bro. Ray Fitz, S.M., the Fr. Ferree Professor of Social Justice and former University president, chaired the search committee. Its members included Fr. Joe Kozar, S.M., Katie Kinnucan-Welsch, Mark Masthay, Jill Morgan, Andy Slade and Kim Trick.

- Dave Larsen, communication coordinator, College of Arts and Sciences

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