College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Welcomes Inaugural PhD in Theology Class

Theology PhD Launch

Villanova, Pa –Villanova University’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences officially welcomed the inaugural class of its new doctoral program in Theology. The students were recognized at a special on-campus gathering on Oct. 20, celebrating the launch of the PhD in Theology program. Among those offering remarks at the occasion were University President, the Rev. Peter M. Donohue, OSA, PhD, and Adele Lindenmeyr, PhD, Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

“I could not be more pleased with our success in recruiting the inaugural class of PhD students,” said Adele Lindenmeyr, PhD, Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. “Although the PhD program is brand new, it rests on a strong, broad foundation built here at Villanova over many years. Our Theology Department has offered a widely recognized and respected master’s program for decades, and the doctoral degree will take that tradition of excellence to the next level.”

This rigorous, six-year program prepares graduates to have a profound impact as college and university professors, leaders and practitioners of ministry, interdisciplinary researchers and innovative theologians. The curriculum challenges the students to relate faith and culture to their times. It offers five distinct areas of concentration—biblical theology, systematic theology, historical theology, Christian ethics and Christian spirituality.

The six PhD students are both academically and professionally accomplished. They hail from diverse backgrounds and have a wide range of research interests.  

Amanda Burtka

Amanda Burtka is a PhD candidate in Theology with specializations in Historical Theology and Christian Spirituality at Villanova University. She is an alumna of Regent University where she received a BA in English Literature with a Biblical Studies concentration. Her research interests include Medieval Literature and Theology, Medieval Exegesis, the Christian Mystical Tradition, Women and Religion, and Eastern Orthodox Theology.

Elisha Chi

Elisha Chi is a first generation college student, with a background in non-profit work and community mediation. After a BA in Liberal Studies at Seattle University, she came to Villanova to pursue a Master of Theological Studies degree before deciding to apply to the newly founded doctoral theology program. As her studies progress, Elisha hopes to delve more deeply into the fields of ecclesiology and biblical studies, bringing her unique perspective as a community mediator and woman to bear on both fields.

Jacob Given

Jacob Given earned his undergraduate degree in Humanities and Biblical Studies at Columbia International University, and his Master’s Degree in Theology and Religious Studies from Villanova University. His interests lie at the intersection of spirituality and fundamental theology. Particularly, he is interested in phenomenology of religion, hermeneutics, the Christian mystical tradition, and the writings of Søren Kierkegaard.

Jeffrey Mayer

Jeffrey Mayer is a graduate of Villanova with a BA in History and Minors in Theology and Religious Studies and Sociology. After teaching in the secondary school system of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, he returned “home” to Villanova to complete an MA in Theology in 2011. Since 2011, he has been a member of the Theology Department at Merion Mercy Academy and chair of the department since 2014. His academic and research interests include the intersection of Christian spirituality and theological ethics, post-Vatican II resourcing of lay medieval spiritualties, virtue ethics and liberation theologies in global solidarity education, and the role of Church agencies and the ethos of justice in conflict transformation and peacebuilding.

Jacob Nielsen

Jacob Nielsen, who hails from Washington State, received his BA in Philosophy from the Templeton Honors College at Eastern University. As a PhD candidate in Theology at Villanova University he specializes in Historical Theology and Christian Spirituality. His research interests include the History of Doctrine, Patristic and Medieval Exegesis, the Christian Mystical Tradition, Eastern Orthodox Theology and Philosophical Hermeneutics.

Mathew Verghese

Mathew Verghese is returning to Villanova after having received his MA in Theology and MS in Counseling in May 2015. While at Villanova, he also worked in Campus Ministry and Residence Life as a graduate intern. Prior to Villanova, Mathew attended Saint Joseph’s University, where he studied Psychology. Having taken a year to work at the University of Notre Dame, Mathew looks forward to beginning his doctoral study in the areas of systematic and foundational theology and ethics, with a focus on sacraments and liturgy.

About Villanova University’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences:  Since its founding in 1842, Villanova University’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences has cultivated knowledge, understanding and intellectual courage for a purposeful life in a challenged and changing world.  With 39 majors across the humanities, social sciences and natural sciences, it is the oldest and largest of Villanova’s colleges, serving more than 4,500 undergraduate and graduate students each year. The College is committed to a teacher-scholar model, offering outstanding undergraduate and graduate research opportunities and a rigorous core curriculum that prepares students to become critical thinkers, strong communicators and ethical leaders with a truly global perspective.

Media Contact

Jennifer Schu

Director of Communications, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

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