Welcome to the “Alumni Spotlight” series. Learn how our Union Institute & University (UI&U) graduates are living the UI&U mission of engagement, enlightenment, and empowerment.
Featured this month: Nancy Lynne Westfield, Ph.D.
Education: Union Ph.D. 1999
Profession: Director Wabash Center for Teaching and Learning in Theology and Religion.
Nancy Lynne Westfield, Ph.D. 1999, is the new leader at Wabash Center for Teaching and Learning in Theology and Religion.
“The mission of the Center is to enhance and strengthen education in theology and religion in North American theological schools, colleges, and universities. All of our programs are funded by Lilly Endowment Inc.,” said Dr. Westfield. “We support teachers of religion and theology in higher education through meetings and workshops, grants, consultants, a journal and other resources to make accessible the scholarship of teaching and learning.”
Dr. Westfield credits her Union doctoral experience for giving her the freedom to think on her own. She also calls her program at Union transformative.
“This was the first time in my academic career I was asked to form my own thinking. I was encouraged to explore my own curiosity,” said Dr. Westfield. “While I was asked to think on my own, I was never alone in my thinking. The faculty and my peers were communal and nurturing.”
Dr. Westfield explains why religious education is important.
“Religious education is an interdisciplinary approach to the bigger questions in life. The study of religion and religious people is an important lens on history, culture, and community,” said Dr. Westfield. “The formation of faith is important especially where society is fractured and people are divided.”
Dr. Westfield is an ordained deacon of the United Methodist Church.
“I was raised in church as part of the African American tradition. My parents, Nancy and Lloyd, encouraged curiosity. Spiritual questions were not frowned upon. We read the Bible critically and maturely.”
She embraces the womanist approach and is passionate about sharing the religious, educational and spiritual experiences of African Americans, especially women.
Her new position as Director of the Center is exciting and humbling.
“I am humbled to continue this life-giving, critical work for scholars of theology and religion. The work of leading the Center is my joy.”
Dr. Westfield is the author, co-author or editor of several books. Among her works are Being Black, Teaching Black: Politics and Pedagogy in Religious Studies (Abingdon Press, 2008), Black Church Studies: An Introduction (Abingdon Press, 2007), and Dear Sisters: A Womanist Practice of Hospitality (Pilgrim Press, 2007).
In addition to her Ph.D. from Union, she is a graduate of Murray State University in Kentucky. She earned a master’s degree in Christian education from the Scarritt Graduate School in Nashville, and a master’s degree in theological studies from the Drew Theological School, Madison, New Jersey.
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