Course Development Grants

Professors: Apply Now for $15,000 Course Development Grants for Suffering and the Good Life

2017-2018 Course Development Grant Description

Biola University’s Center for Christian Thought invites applications for a course-development grant on its focal theme for the 2017-2018 year, “Suffering and the Good Life.”

This course development grant is intended to stimulate the development and implementation of courses, or course segments, on these and related questions about suffering and it's role in human flourishing:

Focal Questions

  • What are the conditions under which suffering plays a role in bringing about human flourishing?
  • In what ways is flourishing in the context of suffering contingent on the response of the sufferer?
  • What are the psychological effects of suffering and which of these are conducive to character development?
  • Are there intentional practices the sufferer can adopt to raise the likelihood that suffering conduces to positive growth and change?
  • What light do recent studies on post-traumatic growth shed on the foregoing questions? What further scientific work bears on them?
  • What is the relationship between suffering and pain?
  • Is there a distinctly Christian approach to the experience of suffering and its connection to happiness?
  • How might churches and other voluntary associations help their members harness suffering for good in their lives?

The program will provide two awards to faculty members who would like to develop and teach an undergraduate or graduate-level course on suffering and the good life. Applicants will provide evidence that the course can be taught at least twice during the four year span after the course award is made and will submit a detailed syllabus for the course being considered for the award. Winners will be notified by March 1, 2017. Evaluators will offer feedback on each winning syllabus, with advice on readings, course topics, etc.


There are two parts to each Course Development Grant:

  1. Faculty Awards ($5,000/grant): 1/3 of the award goes directly to the winning faculty member(s).
  2. Host Institution Award ($10,000/grant): The remaining 2/3 of the award goes to the host institution, with the understanding that at least half of the institutional award will be set aside for professional development or course enhancement opportunities for the award-winning faculty member.


Intended applicants are university and college faculty in the sciences, humanities, and theology. To be eligible, applicants must hold a Ph.D. or equivalent terminal degree and identify themselves as members of the Christian tradition (broadly construed). Selection criteria include: fit of research proposal with focal theme and questions and coherence of intended course plan.

Application Instructions

Applicants are asked to submit the following by November 15, 2016:

  • Cover letter
  • Curriculum vitae
  • A detailed syllabus for the course or course-segment proposed
  • A 150-word summary description of the course
  • A letter from the applicant’s dean or department chair indicating that the course can be taught at least twice during the four year span after the course award is made.

Award winning faculty will be asked to provide a revised syllabus based on feedback before the financial award is made.

Completed applications should be submitted electronically to CCT's Director, Evan Rosa, at


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Past Recipients


Jeannine Brown (Professor of New Testament, Bethel Seminary)


COURSE SUMMARY: The Meaning of Love is an interdisciplinary psychology course designed to consider the big question, “What is Love?” Drawing from the expertise of faculty and professionals from multiple disciplines – psychology, theology, religion, philosophy, history, medicine & bioethics, and human development & family studies - we will study and compare definitions, concepts, theories, and research designed to understand, describe, and, especially, to encourage love and prosocial behavior. The course incorporates application and reflection on benevolent practices using individual and group writing assignments, service learning and field experiences, and group production of educational films.

BIO: Dr. Jeannine K. Brown is Professor of New Testament at Bethel Seminary in San Diego, CA. Her areas of interest include biblical hermeneutics, the Gospels and particularly Matthew studies, 1 Peter and issues of contextualization, and integrative work with colleagues in theology and the social sciences, both in the classroom and in collaborative writing.

Sandra Willis (Professor of Psychology, Samford University)


COURSE SUMMARY: The Meaning of Love is an interdisciplinary psychology course designed to consider the big question, “What is Love?” Drawing from the expertise of faculty and professionals from multiple disciplines – psychology, theology, religion, philosophy, history, medicine & bioethics, and human development & family studies - we will study and compare definitions, concepts, theories, and research designed to understand, describe, and, especially, to encourage love and prosocial behavior. The course incorporates application and reflection on benevolent practices using individual and group writing assignments, service learning and field experiences, and group production of educational films.

BIO: Dr. A. Sandra Willis is Professor of Psychology in the Howard College of Arts and Sciences at Samford University. She is an active scholar, with many articles, papers, book chapters and presentations. Her professional memberships included the Alabama Paleontological Society, Association for Psychological Science, Southeastern Psychological Association and American Psychological Association. Willis teaches Directed Research, General Psychology, Health Psychology, Internship, Life-Span Development, Research Methods, Senior Seminar, Social Psychology, Special Topics Psychology, Health and Faith, Measurement and Assessment, Literature and the Psychology of Gender, Abnormal Psychology, Problem-Based Learning, focused General Psychology, Adjustment, Childhood and Adolescence, and Dimensions of Personal Wholeness.


Glenn E. Sanders (Professor of History, Oklahoma Baptist University)


COURSE SUMMARY: This hands-on course aims to identify and cultivate the intellectual and moral virtues necessary for civil discourse in modern communities. Regularly emphasizing traditional Christian practices (e.g., hospitality, stewardship, and testimony) as a means for identifying and enacting those virtues, readings and discussions during the first half of the semester will explore the necessity and character of civil discourse and outline the nature of select virtues. During the second half students will learn about concrete virtues from off-campus visits with figures in local, regional, national, and international governments and agencies regularly pursuing civil discourse. The final project will be a mock public session on a specific political or social problem in which students will demonstrate the place of particular virtues in civil discourse.

BIO: Dr. Glenn E. Sanders is Professor of History at Oklahoma Baptist University. His work focuses on pedagogy, Christian practice, historical narrative, among other topics in history and Christian theology.

James Taylor (Professor of Philosophy, Westmont College)


COURSE SUMMARY: Our society, universities, and churches are insufficiently characterized by wisdom and good will. Instead, they often manifest irrationality and incivility. Our age of information, individualism, and ideology tends to be devoid of discernment, diplomacy, and dialogue. This course addresses these deficiencies by providing students with a theoretical context that will enable them to understand the topics of intellectual virtue and civil discourse. It also offers students concrete illustrations of people who have succeeded and people who have failed to practice intellectual virtue and civil discourse. These illustrations are intended to further students’ understanding of these topics and to acquaint them with examples to inspire and motivate them to become intellectually virtuous and to engage in civil discourse themselves. Finally, the course will give students opportunities to practice attempting to be intellectually virtuous and civil in conversations with each other about important issues that are currently debated in the public square.

BIO: James E. Taylor is Professor of Philosophy at Westmont College. Previously, he was Associate Professor of Philosophy at Bowling Green State University. He received his B.A. in philosophy at Westmont, an M.A. in theology at Fuller Theological Seminary, and an M.A. and Ph.D. in philosophy at the University of Arizona. Taylor’s publications include essays on topics in epistemology and philosophy of religion that appear in Synthese, Philosophical Studies, American Philosophical Quarterly, Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, Noûs, Philosophia, Philosophical Papers, and Philosophy Compass. He has also written a book entitled Introducing Apologetics: Cultivating Christian Commitment (Baker Academic, 2006). Taylor has been a member of the Society of Christian Philosophers since its founding in 1978, and he has attended many meetings of the Society over the years in all three regions. He served on the Executive Committee of the SCP from 2003 to 2006 and then again from 2012 to 2015. He also directed the Philosophy Symposium at the 2008 C.S. Lewis Oxbridge Summer Institute.


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.

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