Doubling Down on Religious Studies
Karen Peterson-Iyer looks to engage students in “honest searching” as an assistant professor in the Religious Studies Department
By Ally O’Connor ‘20
After 18 years at Santa Clara University both in the Religious Studies Department as a quarterly lecturer and in the bioethics wing of the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics, Professor Karen Peterson-Iyer is doubling down on Religious Studies as the department’s newest Assistant Professor. Originally drawn to Santa Clara University not only because of its “Jesuit Catholic mission and commitment to educating the whole person,” but also because she is a “native to the Bay Area who loves the diversity and inquisitive spirit of Silicon Valley,” Peterson-Iyer is thrilled to take on this new role.
For Peterson-Iyer, teaching has always been a passion. She shares that she most enjoys “awakening students to the wisdom and deeper truths that are available to them if they engage in honest searching. The Jesuit tradition in particular takes seriously the inner life as it intersects with the demands of justice, and I love watching students come alive as they learn to look simultaneously inward and outward.” She continues that she also believes “we have much to learn from each other, particularly as we face and reflect upon the moral dilemmas and difficult situations that plague society. True progress towards justice and goodness depends upon a fundamental openness to hearing and learning from each other.”
This academic year, Peterson-Iyer will be teaching advanced courses in sexual ethics (Theology, Sex, and Relationships; Human Trafficking and Christian Ethics) and introductory theology courses. When asked about what she is most looking forward to, Peterson-Iyer responds that she is excited to “focus my energies more fully on both my students (from their first year all the way to graduation) and on my own research and writing. I am also working on a book in sexual ethics, and I welcome the chance to give more attention to that project.”
After years of work with SCU, Peterson-Iyer proudly states that she is “excited to jump deeply into the SCU community with both feet!”