Skip to main content

Department ofReligious Studies


Karen Peterson-Iyer

Karen Peterson-Iyer

Karen Peterson-Iyer

New assistant professor in Sexual Ethics, Bioethics, Christian Ethics

After 18 years at Santa Clara University--both in the Religious Studies Department as a quarterly and then yearly lecturer, and in the bioethics division of the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics--Karen Peterson-Iyer is 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 and loves the diversity and inquisitive spirit of Silicon Valley, Peterson-Iyer is thrilled to take on this new role.

In her teaching, Peterson-Iyer shares that she most enjoys awakening students to the wisdom and deeper truths that are available to them if they engage in honest searching. She holds that the Jesuit tradition, in particular, takes seriously the inner life as it intersects with the demands of justice, and she loves watching students come alive as they learn to look simultaneously inward and outward.  She also believes that we have much to learn from each other, particularly as we face and reflect upon the moral dilemmas and difficult situations of today’s world. True progress towards justice and goodness depends upon a fundamental openness to hearing and learning from each other, in her view. She currently teaches classes in sexual ethics, human trafficking, and introductory theology, and she has plans to add more courses in bioethics and in theological ethics as the field intersects with a variety of current social topics.

On the research and writing front, Peterson-Iyer is working on a book tentatively entitled Refreshing Sexual Ethics, and she welcomes the chance to give more attention to that project. She also has plans for a subsequent endeavor addressing Christian responses to human trafficking. Her previous book, Designer Children: Reconciling Genetic Technology, Feminism, and Christian Faith, framed bioethical questions about genetic manipulation in terms of both human freedom and well-being. Finally, she has written journal articles on ethical topics ranging from pharmacogenomics to reproductive technologies to justice for contingent academic labor. In all of these subject areas, Peterson-Iyer seeks to approach ethical discernment from a holistic basis, one that takes account of both the mind and the heart, and to examine the demands of love and justice in a world profoundly marked by deep injustice. She is excited to continue this work in the RS department and to retain her connections to such wonderful colleagues and students, both here in our department and more broadly at SCU.