I completed two M.A. degrees in Classics at The University of Michigan (1991) and in Near Eastern Studies at the University of Minnesota (1994). My PhD in religious studies is from The Catholic University of America, where I focused on Syriac Christianity in the Middle East. I have been a full-time lecturer at Eastern Michigan University in the Department of History and Philosophy since 2007. In 2010-11 I was selected by EMU as the “lecturer of the year.” That same year, I learned about the “Reacting” pedagogy through a conference at Barnard College and began to use it often in my classes. In 2012 I took a senior lecturing post in the newly formed program in Jewish Studies.
The “Reacting” methods I use in the classroom and in my books has recently won me education recognition. In 2018 I won an award for community bridge-building and in 2019 an award for learning partnerships. I regularly give presentations on the need for education to involve engagement and interaction.
The Memoirs books on Jesus and the first-generation church build on my experience in the classroom teaching about important figures in history, like Muhammad, Confucius, and Socrates. The second book, Memoirs of How It All Began, won the 2020 Inspiration Award for Bible Studies.
Having published over 20 academic articles on the background of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, I also have authored or edited several books—one of which recently came out in the fall of 2020 on the letters of Peter and Paul. I have given over 12 papers in the past five years, and been a keynote speaker for the American Oriental Society.
In 2014 I was invited to the Brandeis University (Boston) Center for the Study of Israel and participate in their program regularly. I have traveled many times to the Middle East (Lebanon, Syria, Israel, Turkey, Jordan, and the Territories) for extensive periods. I am in the process of developing my own Reacting game for students to learn about Islam from a historical perspective.
I am a member of an ecumenical brotherhood called Servants of the Word, and we work with youth all over the world. I am Roman Catholic, though we have many Protestant and Orthodox men in our group.
We have a household in the American city of Detroit, where I have lived and worked with the needs of a diverse urban community now for over 20 years. During my time in the city I have been involved with a teen-employment and formation program called YouthWork-Detroit, as well as in an intentional community called Detroit Community Outreach. Reflecting on my experience here in Detroit, I recently put together a podcast called “Reconnecting the Threads” (https://anchor.fm/reconnecting-the-threads). Check it out!
I also am founder of a guild of university instructors from Michigan called the Socratic Club, through which we explore how spirituality has an impact on our teaching. In my time off, I write poetry and try to keep in shape. And I pray!