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Nancy Lynne Westfield

Alumni Spotlight – Alumna is new leader at prestigious Wabash Center

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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.

Nancy Lynne WestfieldFeatured 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.

Today is the day to explore how a Union Ph.D. will expand and deepen your knowledge and career. Click here to learn more. Your Goals. Your Success. Your Union. We’ve Got U!

February is Black History Month

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A message from the President’s Desk:

It is February, a month caught between the cold dark days of winter and our hope for an early spring. It is also when we celebrate our loved ones on Valentine’s Day. And, certainly for those of us at Union and beyond, February is another chance to reflect upon and celebrate the contributions of African Americans to the life of America.

I was in Washington, D.C. earlier this month and saw the emerging National Museum of African American History and Culture, scheduled to open on the national mall as the 19th museum of the Smithsonian Institution in May 2016.

As a historian, I am gratified that the Smithsonian and its many supporters are finally coming together to recognize the contributions to our history and culture by generations of African Americans who have remained largely invisible in our history books. The museum creates an opportunity to see how important African American history is for each of us by creating a place for recognition, collection, research, teaching, learning, and enjoyment of African American history and culture. Not too far from the new museum is the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial. In my mind, the new museum and its contents will represent the rich fabric of African-American lives over the centuries. The statue represents the power of the mind, body, and soul of a man who inspired all of us to seek the best of our humanity in serving others. Together, the two structures anchor America’s capital with a fitting tribute to the countless contributions of African Americans to America’s greatness.

Since its inception 50 years ago, Union has always been true to its commitment to diversity and providing quality education to people looking for a relevant and rigorous education. A signature offering in our Ph.D. in Interdisciplinary Studies program – and soon to be a certificate program – Union’s Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. specialization brings together scholars, practitioners, faculty, and students – all dedicated to furthering the legacy of Dr. King. Each time I have an opportunity to interact with our MLK scholars, I come away enriched by their fierce compassion for Dr. King’s teachings as well as their drive to make a difference and transform lives and communities as they enhance their education and their careers. Each time I have an opportunity to visit with our faculty, I am impressed with their dedication to Union’s mission and their commitment to mentor and support our students in accomplishing their individual dreams.

America has struggled for many years over issues of race. Last summer, we faced new challenges that need new, creative, and lasting solutions. We hope that Union’s programs and its dedication to each individual will serve as an example of how we can all work together to bridge gaps and gain understanding. Dr. King stated, “The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character—that is the goal of true education.” I urge you to take Dr. King’s words to heart during Black History Month and every month. Think intensively and think critically about his words, your education, and your character. Think about this and the many contributions African-Americans make to our lives every day. Also take a moment to view brief spotlights on just a few of Union’s many notable alumni who, through Union have been engaged, enlightened, and empowered toward a lifetime of learning, service, and social responsibility.

Roger H. Sublett, Ph.D.

Union Institute & University

Some of our most notable alumni and their outstanding accomplishments are featured below; just click on a name to learn more.

Union Notable Alumni