DivInnovations Profile 2: Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology


In conversation with Sr. Marianne Farina, CSC, PhD, Department Chair of Theology:

At the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology (DSPT), the dialogical reigns supreme. The DSPT is an institution whose commitment to dialogue permeates numerous layers of campus life. From the constant stream of engaged classroom discussion across the disciplines of philosophy and theology, wherein ultimate questions of meaning are always entertained, to the annual Aquinas Lecture, which connects with members from the outside community and thereby provides service to society, the DSPT fulfills the mission of its earliest scholastic ancestors who rigorously sought to engage all forms of knowledge available to them in order to interpret central theological, philosophical, and social questions. At the Owl of Minerva and Dumb Ox monthly meetings, students take up the banner of approaching difficult issues through presentations of their own research to their academic community, opening themselves and their ideas up to critical discourse. The DSPT stays connected to social justice issues through, among other things, its recent launch of the Faith in Human Rights project. Since 2009, this exciting initiative has partnered with numerous institutions and organizations to host lectures on the role of religion in human rights advocacy and implementation.  The program explores issues such as human trafficking, racial and religious discrimination, i.e., Islamophobia, along with a number of other critical topics. On April 22nd, 2012, the Faith in Human Rights project will host a program, “Requiem for the Death Penalty,” which seeks to rally support for ending the death penalty in California. With opportunities to focus on Interreligious Studies, Religion and the Arts,  including opportunities for international exchange, and its more traditional coursework in theology and philosophy, the DSPT offers a wealth of diverse avenues for scholarly development. In 2013, the DSPT in conjunction with Professor Marianne Farina will grapple with approaches to the Qur’an in a six-month program that will feature artists who produce Islamic art based on verses in the Qur’an. The program will investigate the teachings, recitations, and other concomitant philosophical questions that emerge from engagement with this sacred text. These efforts hope to  transform stigma against and eradicate ignorance about Islam.

DSPT, as narrated by students:

“In line with the Thomistic tradition, respectful scholarly dialogue is of the utmost importance at the DSPT, whether it be in the classroom, independent faculty engagements, or student forums. I recently gave a presentation at our student philosophy forum on my thesis,  ‘Human Flourishing at the Root of the Common Good.’ I found the feedback from my peers to be both supportive and helpful as I was working to refine my ideas. This support and intelligent feedback is also enabled in large part by the intimate setting of a small and specialized faculty and student body. I am privileged to able to study philosophy at this very unique institution.”
– Richard Joseph Mayer, OP (Ordo Praedicatorum)

“Dr. Marianne Farina’s work at the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology ranges from Christian and Islamic Philosophy to Ethics and Interfaith Dialogue, and encourages students and faculty to engage in the GTU’s wide diversity of topics in interreligious discourse. In my own work on Muslims, Islam, and Media in the United States, I continuously find my discussions with Dr. Farina on subjects within Islamic Studies to be elucidative and steeped in a tradition of knowledge that is reflexive and reflective of contemporary issues pertaining to Islam and Muslims. Dr. Farina’s work at DSPT highlights the ways in which larger conversations between faith communities and individuals can be engaged to promote human rights issues and interfaith dialogue on local, national, and global levels.”
– Som Pourfarzaneh, PhD Student, Graduate Theological Union

“I was especially impressed by the rigor of the Dominican School’s academic standards that have come about because of – not despite its – faith-based mission. For Muslim students navigating their own place in Western academic institutions, the Dominican School can be a model for modern religious scholarship that does not compromise on the foundations of its rich tradition nor its authenticity.”
– Farah El-Sarif

“My experience at the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology has been intellectually stimulating, enriching, and extremely beneficial for my academic pursuits and line of work. I have found that other traditions and religions are skillfully navigated with a nuance that even co-religionists often fall short of. I was impressed by the comfort level of students when they engaged in class despite their diverse backgrounds and I can honestly say that I have not experienced such a warm environment of religious sensitivity throughout my academic studies. I truly hope that the cross-religious study program at the Dominican school continues to expand its noble initiative.”
– John F. Rhodus Jr.


The DivInnovations series represents an exciting new collaboration that State of Formation and the Journal of Inter-Religious Dialogue are embarking upon in an effort to capture dynamic research, initiatives, partnerships, and projects (particularly interfaith in nature) at seminaries, divinity schools, and graduate theological settings in general across the nation. We will be posting profiles of institutions both on the State of Formation blog through this account and in each issue of the Journal. We invite you to be in touch about nominating your institution for a profile by emailing our liaison and profile developer, Sophia Khan.

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