Dr. Nancy Lynne Westfield Named Wabash Center Director
by Ryan Horner
June 18, 2019
President Gregory Hess has announced the appointment of Dr. Nancy Lynne Westfield as the next Director of the Wabash Center for Teaching and Learning in Theology and Religion. Created in 1995 and sustained by grants from Lilly Endowment Inc., the Wabash Center seeks to enhance and strengthen education in North American theological schools, colleges and universities.
“The Wabash Center has a national reputation for excellence in its engagement of faculty in the fields of theology and religion, and Dr. Westfield’s experience as a theologian, scholar, and a leader of Wabash Center programs made her an ideal fit for the position,” said President Hess.
Dr. Westfield will succeed Dr. Nadine S. Pence, who has served as Director of the Wabash Center since 2007.
Dr. Westfield shares a long history with the Wabash Center, beginning with her participation in a teaching workshop in 1998. As a leader of Wabash Center programs over the last 16 years, she now serves as a consultant for teaching and learning in higher education, director of an Early Career Workshop, and a member of the Digital Media Committee. Dr. Westfield is a frequent guest writer for the Wabash Center Blog, as well as a contributor to the Huffington Post on teaching, religion, and politics.
“The Wabash Center has been of primary influence in every season of my career,” Dr. Westfield said. “The Center has provided me with much needed vocational conversations, financial support for projects, and access to a network of scholars across the nation. Now, as the Director of the Center, I am humbled to continue this life-giving, critical work for scholars of theology and religion. The work of leading the Center will be my joy.”
Dr. Westfield earned her Ph.D. in Religious Education and Womanist Studies from the Union Institute in Cincinnati, Ohio. She holds a master’s degree in Theological Studies with an emphasis in African American Spirituality from Drew Theological School, and also earned a master of arts degree in Christian Education from the Scarritt Graduate School in Nashville, Tennessee. She holds a bachelor of science degree in agriculture from Murray State University.
The heart of the work of the Wabash Center is its exploration of best practices in teaching and learning and support for the teaching vocation. It does this work through a series of workshops and colloquies that draw participants from all across the country. Through its re-granting program, the Wabash Center directly engages the work of enhancing and strengthening teaching and learning within its participants’ institutional environments.
“The Wabash Center is a unique place where theological educators and scholars of religion gather to discuss another unique place: the religion classroom,” said Dr. Derek Nelson, Wabash Religion Professor and Director of the Wabash Pastoral Leadership Program, who was on the search committee that recommended Dr. Westfield for the position. “When a course topic is life and death, or a matter of right and wrong, teachers of theology or religion face special challenges of pedagogy and professional development. They need to be reflective and nimble. Hosting conversations about such weighty topics requires commitment, a sense of hospitality, and an expansive vision for ‘what can be.’ Her long association with the Center and her many gifts will make Lynne Westfield the right leader for the next chapter in the Wabash Center story.”
Dr. Westfield brings with her 20 years of experience as Professor of Religious Education at Drew Theological School in Madison, New Jersey, where she has taught since 1999. She has also held higher education appointments as an adjunct professor in Christian Education at Eastern Baptist Seminary and Lutheran Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, and the New York Theological Seminary. She is an ordained Deacon in the United Methodist Church.
In ministry, she held the position of Associate Minister of Christian Education at the Cookman United Methodist Church in Philadelphia, and she was the Minister of Christian Education at The Riverside Church in New York City.
“Dr. Westfield is an excellent choice to serve as the next director of the Wabash Center,” said Christopher Coble, vice president for religion at Lilly Endowment. “Dr. Westfield is a highly respected leader in theological education and widely known for her outstanding work to enhance the quality of teaching at seminaries and in religion departments at colleges and universities. She is exceptionally well-prepared to lead the Center and build on its efforts to strengthen the teaching skills of faculty in theology and religion.”
“I am delighted that Wabash College has chosen Dr. Westfield to be the new Director,” said retiring director Dr. Nadine Pence. “Lynne brings a creativity and energy to the position that will open up new possibilities for the work of the Wabash Center. Additionally, since her area of discipline is Religious Education, she brings a depth of knowledge and skill in pedagogy that is well suited to the work. The search committee could not have made a better choice.”
Dr. Westfield is the author and editor of several books, including All Quite Beautiful: Living in a Multicultural Society (1996), Being Black, Teaching Black: Politics and Pedagogy in Religious Studies (2008), Black Church Studies: An Introduction (2007), and Dear Sisters: A Womanist Practice of Hospitality (2001). Dr. Westfield is also the author of multiple journal articles, anthology chapters, and Christian educational resources.
“The Wabash Center thrives through a national community of scholars dedicated to improving teaching and learning,” added Dr. Westfield. “Through the work of the Center, we are helping each other in imagining and re-imagining better approaches to teaching religion and theology in the 21st century. The impact of the Wabash Center is best seen in the teaching lives of our participants. Through peer leadership, colleagues convene workshops and colloquies, decide upon grant support for proposals, write blogs, edit articles for the journal and so much more – all focused upon improving the vocation of teaching.”
Over the past 23 years, the Wabash Center has hosted over 1,250 faculty members for sustained conversations about teaching and learning in 103 workshops and colloquies, and has awarded more than 1,500 grants totaling more than $16 million to 500 institutions. Additionally, Wabash Center staff have hosted 125 conferences and conducted 238 pedagogical consultations on campuses across the country.