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Alison Benders headshot

Alison Benders headshot

JST Appoints Interim Dean

Associate Dean Alison Benders has accepted the interim dean position as Dean Kevin O’Brien, S.J., moves to his new mission as president of Santa Clara University.

The Jesuit School of Theology is grateful to announce that Alison Benders will serve as interim dean during the 2019 – 2020 academic year. In this time of transition, Benders offers experience, dedication and vision to the JST community. While Prof. Benders had originally planned to spend this coming fall on sabbatical working on her next book project, she readily agreed to change her plans when the need for leadership arose. “I’m committed to our strategic plan. I want to support the work that the faculty is doing,” she said, in explaining her willingness to change plans for this position. "This includes our commitment to public theology and our intercultural initiatives. I hope to find time for my own project on racial injustice in US history and culture but we’ll see.”

Grounded in JST’s mission and identity, Benders wants to focus on “theology that emerges from people’s experiences.” She sees that immersion experiences and intercultural theology are key components of how students experience theology at JST. As the leader of a theologate focused on culturally contextual theology, she hopes to help faculty travel more and think robustly and creatively about how they develop their assignments. Sharing resources, particularly around immersions, intercultural ministry and field placements, is vital so that the JST academic community can “continue to develop our expertise here.” Her hope and vision for next year is to help the school's strategic plan come alive and continue moving forward.

“JST students are coming from around the world and across the US. They’re committed to who God is in their situations and how this can be lived more compassionately in their communities,” Benders said. Just as theology comes from lived experience, Benders’ work emerges from her students’ lives. When she talks to students, she experiences through them that God is good. She continues, “Our love for God and each other is at the heart of our studies at JST. That, for me, is not a day job. We’re here together to care for God’s people. That’s what moves me.”

“We are very grateful to Dean Benders for her leadership and her example as a teacher, scholar, and administrator dedicated to serving our University and the Church,” said Kevin O'Brien, S.J., the outgoing dean and newly named president of Santa Clara University.