In Oxford, the new academic year has begun. And so, a brief overview of the previous year, an update on current goings-on, and a reflection are due. Here’s the executive summary:
Overview: I taught, wrote, and published. I was hot on the conference circuit — visiting Helsinki, Bologna, Seattle, Cambridge, and Seville.
Update: I’m the new McDonald Postdoctoral Fellow in Christian Ethics & Public Life (2022-2026), based in the Faculty of Theology and Religion and Christ Church, Oxford. I also started learning Kung Fu.
Reflection: The past academic year had its share of highs as well as lows. To the wonderful colleagues, mentors, friends, and family who journeyed with me: thank you and Deo gratias.
Let’s dive in. Highlights included being a section lead for the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses UK program and, separately, teaching new tutorials at Blackfriars, Oxford: Theory of Politics, and Business Ethics. Another milestone included submitting a co-authored article manuscript to the Journal of Church and State. The submission was a year in the making.
I gave a few talks this term, as well. In addition to feedback sessions with banks (sharing initial insights from a qualitative study), I gave a talk on transformative education at Blackfriars; another on church autonomy with the Graduate Theological Society; and one on my book at Grandpont, Oxford.
Afterwards, I flew home to be with friends and family in the USA. I took my first cross-country road trip with my eldest brother and his dog, Trooper. And I met my middle brother’s lovely girlfriend. Most of the holiday was spent locked-down, or locked-in, with my family. But every moment was worth it.
Hilary Term (and the calendar year) began with COVID. As I recovered, and as the term progressed, three reviews of my book were published in academic journals. One — Professor David Hodge’s review in the Journal of Social Work and Spirituality — was a complete surprise. Seeing that a review has been published is, for me, quite nerve-wracking. More than once, I had friends read a review before me so that they could tell me about the overall tone. Thankfully, all the reviews were generous and constructive.
In Hilary, I made it a point to refrain from writing public engagement pieces (e.g., popular articles related to my book) so that I could focus on the qualitative work of my postdoc as well as shore-up on my knowledge of virtue theory and ethics. To these ends, I gave a number of presentations to our partner banks, and I wrote two lectures on character formation for Trinity Law School (TLS). A friend at TLS invited me to become an advisory member of the Journal of Christian Legal Thought.
Perhaps the most exciting news of Hilary Term was the publication of ‘Religious Deviance and Psychological Medicine in the Second Great Awakening’, an article that my friend Mark W. Lee and I wrote together over 16 months or so. The Journal of Church and State gave us a ‘revise and resubmit’, and Mark (whose doctoral research constitutes the bulk of the article) worked hard to get us over the line for final acceptance.
Holy Week found me Portugal with a dear friend from undergraduate, and the final two days of the Triduum were spent in Oxford.
Trinity was full of talks and plenty of them. I sat on a consultancy panel for Oxford Women in Business; I spoke on responsible religious freedom in Helsinki; Mark and I shared our research on religious deviance with the Oxford Centre for Life Writing; I spoke at a Law Faculty seminar, hosted by the Common Good Project; and I gave a brief paper on intellectual virtues and divine illumination at the European Academy of Religion.
In addition, I applied for and received two competitive, though small, research grants. And I accepted three invitations to author chapters or articles. Topics include creativity and artificial intelligence, artificial intelligence and business, and religious communities.
But wait, there’s more. As some of you may know, I am also enrolled in an LLB programme with the University of London, taking just one exam per year. I sat for contract law in June and earned a 2:1 on the exam. A higher score would have been nice, for sure. But, considering the short amount of time that I could dedicate to revision, I was quite proud of the mark. At any rate, I now approach contracts in my daily life with a bit more know-how.
Now to the exciting part
June and July brought things to a head. I applied for three jobs and received three offers. I accepted the four-year postdoc. Whoo! On the evening of giving a verbal acceptance, I took a walk around University Parks — one of my favourite spots in Oxford. As the sun set, I walked west on Oak Walk. It felt as if I could put to rest difficulties and conflicts from past years. The morning would come.
And so it did. But celebration would have to wait. Just as I accepted the new role, there were new projects to complete. Work brought me to Seattle for the Society for Business Ethics. Soon after, I attended a closed seminar on capitalism held by the Institute for Economic Affairs. I then presented a paper on moral exemplarism at Cambridge. Next, I did two reviews for Business Ethics Quarterly, then flew to Seville to attend my final conference of the academic year.
To round out the year, I made a quick city-break in New York (had an absolute blast). And, upon my return, I submitted a short article — an edited version of my Cambridge paper — to the journal Theology. ‘Should we admire the shrewd steward (Luke 16:1-9)?’ will be available to read in May 2023.
Until next time — Edward
Faculty of Theology and Religion
University of Oxford
Oxford, OX2 6GG, United Kingdom
© Edward A. David 2022