Sarah Schnitker, Ph.D. (Associate Professor, Fuller School of Psychology)
COURSE SUMMARY: The course guides students through critical analysis of traditional and contemporary practices of spiritual formation within Christianity. Students will explore the psychological mechanisms underlying specific spiritual disciplines (e.g., prayer, fasting, Sabbath) while also denoting how these practices cannot be reduced to their psychological explanations. The course contains an experiential component whereby students will try new spiritual practices, and students will reflect on their own spiritual formation. Another key component of the course is, in effect, a grant competition between teams of student who will propose a research study and related ministry application on psychology and spiritual formation. Part of the course development grant institutional award shall be used to fund the student grant competition (a minimum of $2,500/class for the 2 course offerings). Teams will be constructed to facilitate inter-disciplinary learning between psychology, theology, and intercultural studies students, who will learn to connect research and ministry application.
BIO: Dr. Sarah Schnitker is an Assistant Professor in the Thrive Center for Human Development at Fuller Graduate School of Psychology in Pasadena, CA. She holds a PhD and an MA in Personality and Social Psychology from the University of California, Davis, and a BA from Grove City College. Schnitker studies virtue and character development in adolescents and emerging adults, with a focus on the role of spirituality and religion in virtue formation. She specializes in the study of patience, self-control, gratitude, and thrift. Schnitker recently received a grant from the John Templeton Foundation to examine the efficacy of virtue interventions in adolescent athletes. Schnitker is on the editorial board for The Journal of Positive Psychology and previously served as the journal’s editorial assistant. She is also an ad hoc reviewer for Psychology of Religion and Spirituality, International Journal for the Psychology of Religion, and the Journal of Psychology and Theology.
Mary Frohlich, R.S.C.J. (Associate Professor of Spirituality, Catholic Theological Union)
COURSE SUMMARY: This course takes the perspective that the ultimate challenge of Christian spiritual formation is the purification and re-ordering of desire in the Spirit. Students are engaged in an intensive dialogue between psychology and theology as they approach it at the practical level of how to re-form human desire through spiritual community and practices. On the basis of a fundamentally theological view of the human person, the course explores how psychospiritual desire is manifested and transformed within stories, intimate relationships, community-building, Eucharistic worship, contemplative prayer, and social compassion. An eclectic range of psychological and neurobiological theories are examined in search of what each may offer to enhance the effectiveness of Christian spiritual formation. Students learn to recognize and evaluate the assumptions and methods behind these various theories, while keeping their main focus on developing a coherent Christian spiritual formation program.
BIO: Professor Mary Frohlich, R.S.C.J. (B.A., Antioch College; M.A., Ph.D., Catholic University of America) is a Sister of the Society of the Sacred Heart and Associate Professor of Spirituality at Catholic Theological Union. Her research interests include mystical dimensions of “conversion of the Earth,” contribution of women in seventeenth century French Spirituality, methodological issues in spirituality, and Carmelite Spirituality. Each year at the Summer Seminar in Carmelite Spirituality, she offers lectures and workshops with a particular focus on the women of Carmel. Her publications include essays on spirituality as a discipline, Carmelite spiritual writers, and topics in ecospirituality. Frohlich has edited two collections, The Lay Contemplative (St. Anthony’s Messenger, 2000) and St. Therese of Lisieux: Essential Writings (Orbis, 2003). She has written two books, authored over thirty journal articles, and contributed more than ten chapters to books, including: “The Space of Christic Performance: Teresa of Avila through the Lens of Michel de Certeau” in Elina Gertsman, ed., Visualizing Medieval Performance: Perspectives, Histories, Contexts (Ashgate 2008); “Barbe Acarie and the Founding of Carmel in France.” in three parts in Spirituality 13 (2007), 14 (2008); “Critical Interiority,” Spiritus 7/1 (Spring 2007);"Therese of Lisieux and Jeanne d'Arc: History, Memory and Interiority in the Experience of Vocation" Spiritus 6/2 (Fall 2006); “‘The Myth of the Garden’ and Spiritual Ministry in Postmodern America” in Edward Foley and Robert Schreiter, eds.,The Wisdom of Creation (Liturgical Press, 2004);“Teresa, Foundress and Storyteller: Reading the Foundations,” Review for Religious 61/1 (Jan.-Feb. 2001);“Spiritual Discipline, Discipline of Spirituality: Revisiting Questions of Definition and Method,” Spiritus 1 (2001), republished in: Elizabeth A. Dreyer and Mark S. Burrows, Minding the Spirit: The Study of Christian Spirituality (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2005); “Desolation and Doctrine in Thérèse of Lisieux,” Theological Studies 61 (2000).
William Struthers (Professor of Psychology, Wheaton College)
COURSE SUMMARY: This course is designed for advanced level undergraduates who have a background in general education courses in Psychology, Christian Thought/Theology and Philosophy. The course will have two foundational sections issues about the nature of theological anthropology and the soul in theology, as well as philosophical positions on the nature of the mind and soul (Section 1), and perspectives on relevant neuroscience research and its limitations (Section 2). Both sections will have relevant guest speakers who will address their own contributions to the discourse. The final section (Section 3) is designed to focus on case studies (e.g. brain tumors, psychopathology) and neuropsychological syndromes (i.e. Autism) to examine practical, 'real-world' relevance of the course question, 'What is the link between the brain and the soul?' Potential award funds would be used pay for off-campus speaker expenses who would also give evening lecture for the broader campus community and general public. Click here to read Dr. Struthers' post "Do We Have Souls?: On Teaching Neuroscience and the Soul"
BIO: William Struthers (Ph.D., University of Illinois, Chicago) is Professor of Psychology at Wheaton College, in Wheaton, IL. Dr. Struthers' lab research interests are in the neural mechanisms that underlie behavioral arousal and the processing of novel environments. His research employs the use of stereotaxic surgery, immunochemistry, and behavioral manipulations to investigate gene expression in the cingulate cortex and basal ganglia. He is actively involved in the campus Animal Care and Use Committee and the Institutional Review Board which oversee the ethical treatment of animals and human subjects respectively in research conducted at Wheaton College. Dr. Struthers' animal lab research is on the effects of environmental enrichment on neural responses to novelty challenges. His clinical research is in the area of compulsive sexuality and pornography use. In addition to this empirical work, Dr. Struthers' theoretical research interests are in the areas of neuroethics, the biological bases of spirituality and personhood, and science/faith dialogue issues. In addition to his research, Dr. Struthers speaks internationally as an advocate against sexual exploitation (i.e. pornography, prostitution, trafficking).
Adam Green (Assistant Professor of Philosophy, Azusa Pacific University)
COURSE SUMMARY: This course will give students the resources to assess, critique, and explore the intersection of neuroscience, philosophy, and theology. The course will utilize both high end (for the classroom) and low-end (for student practice and presentation) neuroanatomy software to provide an enhanced, multi-modal learning environment. This course will focus on two broad areas where empirical work and Christian interests intersect. The first area concerns the nature, scope, and moral status of human agency. The second area concerns the epistemology of recognizing qualities associated with the soul. Topics include: the role of the concept of “soul” in Christian theology and philosophy, the relevance and limit of the brain-computer analogy, the unique contributions of the frontal lobes and hemisphere lateralization in the human brain, automaticity, the origin of action, neuroethics, cognitive dissonance, confabulation, mirror neurons, near-death and out of body experiences, and the relation of temporal lobe activity to religious experience.
BIO: Adam Green (PhD Saint Louis University) is an assistant professor of philosophy at Azusa Pacific University. His work focuses on the nature and value of human interdependence. He recently completed a Templeton research postdoc in Innsbruck, Austria where he looked into what makes groups of people smarter or dumber than the individuals that compose those groups. Before that, he did a doctoral thesis on what it means to know another person and how research on autism, mirror neurons, and cognitive development bears on that question.