Nancy Lynne Westfield, Ph.D.
Nancy Lynne Westfield, Ph.D. uses her gifts as teacher, author, public theologian, strategist, facilitator, advocate, and imagineer toward leading the Wabash Center for Teaching and Learning in Theology and Religion. The Wabash Center, fully funded by the Lilly Endowment, Inc. is part of Wabash College, Crawfordsville, Indiana. Dr. Westfield, appointed to the staff of the Wabash Center in 2019, is the fourth Director since the Center’s opening in 1996.
In this moment of multiple pandemics, polarization and culture wars in the wider society as well as the academy, Lynne approaches administrative leadership with an artist’s eye. She is a person with a deep faith commitment. Her research, writing and teaching on womanist thought and practices, Western cultural hegemony, systems change facilitation, and creative design in pedagogy are brought to bear as she moves the Center forward into an uncertain future. Honing the Wabash Center’s nimbleness to respond to challenges with heart and mind and the dynamism necessary in the digital age, Lynne believes in the power of teaching to liberate, heal and transform individuals and entire societies.
Before her appointment to the Wabash Center, Lynne served on the faculty of Drew University Theological School from 1999 to 2019. As Professor of Religious Education, Lynne was known for her innovative course designs, creative praxis connecting the classroom to the local congregation and wider society. Her justice-themed initiatives, made possible through several national grants, served to innovate the seminary’s curriculum. Dr. Westfield earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Agriculture from Murray State University, Masters of Arts in Christian Education from Scarritt Graduate School, Masters in Theological Studies from Drew University Theological School, and Doctorate in Philosophy from Union Institute. Lynne is an ordained Deacon in the United Methodist Church. She is a skilled landscape architect and avid gardener. Her ecological design sensibilities, coupled with her passions for religious education, make for her unique perspectives on the religion and the theological academy.
The strength of the Wabash Center is that we, with an abundance of hospitality, facilitate needed conversations on teaching and the teaching life for faculty persons starved for these conversations. The Wabash Center staff and I are glad to create and facilitate a wide range of resources, learning experiences, and networking which are life-affirming and lifegiving for our colleagues. ~ Nancy Lynne Westfield, Ph.D.
Lynne believes that scholars of religion and theologians deserve a bigger voice in the general public. Her podcast entitled Dialogue on Teaching – hosts conversations with colleagues whose ideas need to leap from the classroom and across widely accessible digital platforms. Her blog series entitled Teaching on the Pulse grapples with topics which make surprising connections between the power of teaching, public discourse, and praxis for social change.
The Wabash Center has elevated the conversation on teaching and learning in the religion and theological academy. The challenge now is to assist with rethinking, innovating and cross-pollinating ideas of pedagogy across a spectrum of educational contexts. Dr. Westfield says, “So many schools believe that offering on-line classes is the answer to the challenges of 21st century higher education when in-actuality this is just the tip of the iceberg. We must imagine and build learning institutions which will teach, think, build and dream in the digital landscape with fluency and dexterity while foregrounding issues of equity and freedom for a more just society.”
Dr. Westfield’s published works include All Quite Beautiful: Living in a Multicultural Society – a children’s book. Dear Sisters: A Womanist Practice of Hospitality – her published dissertation. Her books written in collaboration include: Being Black/Teaching Black: Politics and Pedagogy in Religious Studies and Black Church Studies: An Introduction. As a multi-modal author, many of her short stories, poetry, and creative non-fiction pieces are published in a wide array of journals and anthologies. She is currently writing a book which depicts and describes the pedagogy of the Wabash Center.