B.S. in mathematics, Georgetown University (1984)
M.A. in theology, Boston College (1997)
Ph.D. in theological ethics, Boston College and Weston Jesuit School of Theology (1999)
I am very interested in moral decision making and how the surrounding culture plays a role, often hidden, in the ways we perceive what is or is not a problem, and the ways in which we choose to interact with the people and problems we encounter. For a long time, I have been interested in the ways consumer society influences our values, our criteria for success, and our notion of what constitutes "the good life." More recently I have studied the ways in which systemic racism and white privilege are operative in the culture, usually without being fully recognized by those in majority groups.
Hovering over these academic pursuits is an ever-growing attentiveness to the scholarship of teaching and learning. How do students learn best? What are the most effective teaching techniques? What kind of curriculum is of greatest value to students in the 21st century? Questions such as these are constantly part of my research agenda.
When I was in college it took me a long time to decide on a major; even at graduation I did not have a well-defined sense of what my career might be. I ultimately chose mathematics and had a vague notion that I would find a job in the business world somewhere, but it took me awhile to find my true calling. Initially I took the business route, hired by IBM as a marketing representative and finding considerable success and enjoyment through seven years in the field.
But my undergraduate courses in the liberal arts left me searching for something more in life, a way to find greater personal fulfillment that also contributed to the good of society in a meaningful way. Experience as a "big brother" to some inner-city kids eventually led me to a full-time volunteer commitment at Covenant House, a crisis center for street kids in the Times Square area of New York which, at the time, was filled with homeless people, drug dealers, prostitutes and their pimps, and street-smart kids trying to survive in harsh and dangerous conditions.
My experience over the next 21 months was transformative on many levels, so much so that I found it very difficult to return to my IBM duties as if I were the same old person. Within a year I resigned from IBM and enrolled in graduate studies in theology and ethics. I initially focused on social justice issues, but over time I also became very interested in sexual and biomedical ethics. All of the questions those issues raise remain with me today, and you will often find me teaching courses that take up the "Big Questions" that I have been thinking about for so many years.
I have also found that looking through a Christian lens can be very helpful in discerning the good that we should pursue in life, and the kind of people we should strive to become. Those of us who work in theological ethics also need to listen to scientists, social scientists, philosophers, physicians, pastoral ministers and people from all walks of life that look at some of the same issues through different lenses. I find the interdisciplinary conversation highly stimulating, and very much in keeping with the long-standing Catholic intellectual tradition that animates the Department of Religious and Theological Studies.