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College of Arts and Sciences Newsroom

Jana Bennett appointed as new Department of Religious Studies chair

By Dave Larsen

The University of Dayton College of Arts and Sciences appointed Jana Bennett as the new Department of Religious Studies chair. Bennett, a professor of religious studies, joined the University faculty in 2008. She begins her new role July 1.

Bennett succeeds Daniel Speed Thompson, chair since 2012. Over eight years, Thompson stewarded a large and complex department, and led a number of important curricular projects involving the Common Academic Program and the religious studies bachelor’s degree. He recruited several junior and senior faculty to the University; mentored junior faculty through the tenure and promotion process; worked with faculty to advance the department’s research profile; and supported the placement of the department’s graduate students, all while maintaining his own research and teaching, including a year teaching for the Core program.

Bennett is a moral theologian with a wide range of research interests and well-regarded publications. They include a book on singleness, Singleness and the Church: A New Theology of the Single Life, published in 2017 by Oxford University Press, and a co-authored book, Naming Our Sins: How Recognizing the Seven Deadly Vices Can Renew the Sacrament of Reconciliation, published in 2019 by Catholic University of America Press.

“Dr. Bennett has a strong vision for the Department of Religious Studies and how its work contributes to the University’s Catholic, Marianist mission and identity, as well as how that work can contribute to President Eric F. Spina’s vision to be the university for the common good,” said Jason Pierce, College dean.

Bennett’s goals include advancing departmental visibility and participation in College- and University-wide conversations. She also plans to work with faculty and staff to develop extracurricular activities for religious studies majors and minors to help them with job searches, graduate school applications and relating theology to life.

“At UD, there are multiple entry points for the religious studies department to engage with the University,” she said. “We exist in a university that makes use of religious and theological terminology in its identity, mission, and goals: to be Catholic and Marianist, to be the university for the common good, to teach practical wisdom and faith traditions, and vocation. We belong to a university that has, as an ideal, to seek out low-income students and support and nurture them. We are part of a community that seeks to bolster and strengthen our diversity and inclusion of all God’s people. We collectively seek ways to engage in this community, this city of Dayton and its surroundings toward the common good.”

The Department of Religious Studies houses five of the College’s endowed chairs and delivers a bachelor’s degree in religious studies; master’s degrees in pastoral ministry and theological studies; and a doctoral degree in theology, in addition to courses for the Common Academic Program.

Bennett holds a doctorate in theology and ethics from Duke University, a Master of Divinity degree from Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary and a bachelor’s in history from the Colorado College.

“Dr. Bennett is dedicated to serving the needs of the department and to establishing, developing and maintaining good relationships across the University,” said Jusuf Salih, associate professor of religious studies, who chaired the search committee. “As someone who knows the department and the University well, we have no doubt she will be an excellent leader of our department.”

The department’s search committee also included assistant professor Meghan Henning and associate professor Neomi De Anda.

For more information, visit the Department of Religious Studies website.

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