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Note from the Chair

Dear Alumni and Friends,

David GraySpring 2020 has been a time of disruption for all of us. Shortly after the Winter quarter began, we started to learn about a mysterious new virus circulating in China. As the quarter continued, we began to learn about people falling ill with COVID-19 in the United States, with cases coming to light in Washington State, New York City, as well as here in Santa Clara County. Levels of anxiety about this virus accelerated in late February and early March as more and more cases came to light. This culminated with our having to segue to online-only instruction at the very end of the quarter when Santa Clara County announced a shelter-in-place public health emergency on March 17th. This led to a very abrupt change of plans at the end of the quarter, since it was no longer possible to hold in-person classes, exams, or meetings on campus, with all teaching, advising, and collaborative work switching to online venues such as Zoom.

As a result of this national emergency, members of the Santa Clara University community had to rapidly adapt to teaching and learning online. The first week and a half of Spring quarter were dedicated to an online instructional preparation period, to give faculty, many of whom had never taught online previously, the chance to prepare for their Spring quarter classes. Our usual rituals, such as the annual department reception, had to be adapted into an online format, conducted via Zoom. Now that Spring quarter is almost over, I think it is safe to say that while this emergency has been challenging and anxiety-provoking for all of us, we have pulled through it as a community, and we look forward to a return to our normal manner of teaching and learning, as soon as the emergency is over and it is safe to do so.

David Gray
Chair, Religious Studies Department

News and Events
First Annual Black History Month Mass The Diocese of San Jose Celebrated the First Annual Black History Month Mass

Bishop Oscar Cantu presided. Professor Teresia Hinga was one of the speakers at the reception.

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Paul Schutz and students. Questioning Tradition

Students and faculty gather to discuss the meaning of tradition in Christianity, exploring in what ways it has the capacity for change.

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Cameron Heon '20 and Professor Sarita Tamayo-Moraga Spring Reception

Religious Studies students, faculty, and staff gather on Zoom for this annual event.

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Sophia, Divine Wisdom by the artist Mary Plaster The Wisdom of Finitude

Professor Paul Schutz's send-off for the Class of 2020.

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Faculty Updates
Thao Nguyen, S.J. Thao Nguyen, S.J. granted tenure.

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Eugene Schlesinger Eugene Schlesinger's journey to convert his classes to online.

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Kitty Murphy Kitty Murphy is moving to the Provost's Office. The Graduate Program in Pastoral Ministries adds an emphasis in Youth and Young Adult Ministry.

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More faculty updates from David DeCosse, David Gray, Lynn Hillberg, Margaret McLean, Michelle Mueller, and Sally Vance-Trembath.  Read More
2020 Student Award Winners
  Bjørn Thyrring
Theodore Mackin Senior Thesis Award
  Cameron Heon
Religious Studies Major Prize
  Helen Kassa
Joseph A. Grassi Social Justice Award
  Olivia Hill and Alina Pincombe
Catherine Bell Award
  Francesca Navarro
Tennant Wright, S.J. Minor Prize

Student Highlights

Congratulations Class of 2020 Religious Studies Senior Students!

Majors Minors:
RJ Giese Gavin Cosgrave
Cameron Heon Helen Kassa
Peter Schutz Francesca Navarro
Bjørn Thyrring Ilana Parness
  Isabella Roda
  Nurhan Sezgin
Cameron Heon '20

Joining the Jesuit Volunteer Corps

Cameron Heon '20 hopes to deepen his understanding of interreligious studies then go to graduate school.

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Francesca Navarro '20

Huge Thank You to the Religious Studies Department

Francesca Navarro '20 will pursue a Ph.D. in Biological and Biomedical Science at Harvard Medical School this August.

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Bjorn Thyrring '20

Religion and Politics

Bjørn Thyrring '20, the 2020 winner of SCU's Nobili Medal,  will be heading to Harvard Divinity School to pursue a master's degree in theological studies in the Fall.

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We would love to hear from you! If you have any news or memories to share (tell us your best RS story!), would like to update us about your current life and work, or have any ideas for RS programs and initiatives, please email

You might include a story or photo of a recent event, or just let us know about your current location, career, or thoughts. Thank you!


Santa Clara University
Department of Religious Studies
500 El Camino Real, Santa Clara, CA 95053
Phone: 408.554.4547

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