Elisabeth T. Vasko, Ph.D.Associate Professor, Director of Undergraduate Studies
McAnulty College and Graduate School of Liberal Arts
Department of Theology
Fisher Hall 621
Education:Ph.D., Theology, Loyola University Chicago, 2009
M.A., Pastoral Ministry, Boston College, 2001
B.S., Psychology, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 1999
Elisabeth T. Vasko's primary research and teaching focuses on the intersection of Christian theologies and violence, including both religious and theological justifications for violence and discrimination and the role that Christian theology and faith communities have played in resisting violence in the US and abroad.
Dr. Vasko is the author of Beyond Apathy: A Theology for Bystanders (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, January 2015), takes a closer look at the role of social privilege in perpetuating structural injustices. The book examines the theological significance of bystander participation in patterns of violence and violation within contemporary Western culture, highlighting the social issues of LGTQ bullying, white racism, and sexual violence. In doing so, it constructs a theology of redeeming grace for bystanders to violence that foregrounds the significance of social action in bringing about God's basileia. She also has published articles in the Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion, Feminist Theology, Teaching Theology & Religion, Concilium, the Journal of Religion and the Journal of the Society of Christian Ethics (forthcoming). She currently working on a project that examines the intersection of maternal mental health, theological anthropology, and Christian social ethics.
Dr. Vasko teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in theological anthropology, Christology, U.S. liberation theologies, social ethics, and gender studies in religion. In 2014, she was the recipient of a Creative Teaching Award for her work with Anna Floerke Scheid on anti-racist pedagogy. She regularly incorporates community-engaged pedagogies into her classes.
She lives in Pittsburgh with her family and enjoys distance running and being outdoors in her free time.
• Undergraduate: Theological Views of the Person; Women and Christianity; Christianity and Violence; Theology, Media, and Pop Culture
• Graduate: Dr. Vasko teaches Ph.D. and M.A seminars in her fields of specialization
• Academic Advising: Dr. Vasko works with students interested in participating in Duquesne's URSS. For more information contact her directly.
• In 2014 Dr. Vasko was a recipient of a university Creative Teaching Award for her work with Dr. Anna Scheid on anti-racist pedagogy in theology classrooms.
I believe that theology cannot be divorced from the social and historical situation of the world. Ultimately, the goal of theological discourse is to open up new ways of being in relation with God and one another that lend toward the flourishing of all creation. In today's global context, this position not only demands a posture of radical listening to the experiences of women and men, but must also seek to mediate in the public arena a space for the voices of those who have been pushed to the margins of our communities.
In the context of teaching theology at a Catholic institution of higher learning, this means creating constructive, critical, and imaginative spaces for dialogue between the vision of the Christian tradition and the experiences of students. As Parker Palmer says, the classroom space needs to honor "‘little' stories of the individual and the ‘big' stories of the disciplines and tradition." Concretely, I seek to achieve this through the following principles
• Participative Dialogue. Learning, at its best, is a communal endeavor that demands active participation on the part of both the students and the instructor. My teaching style emphasizes student participation through intentionally structured discussion and group collaboration. Both skills sets of listening (to diverse texts, traditions, and experiences) and speaking (constructing one's own narrative in relation to these texts and traditions) are critical dimensions of participative dialogue.
• Praxis-oriented. I approach theology from a praxis-oriented perspective. This is reflected in my assignments, which are designed not only to help students master the material conceptually, but to also engage them in critical reflection in light of their experiences in the world.
• Attentiveness to Diversity. One of my core values is to create a space for marginalized voices in the classroom. This is reflected in terms of course content and assigned readings. All syllabi incorporate reading materials from people of diverse racial, socio-economic, ethnic, and gender backgrounds. Students are frequently asked to reflect upon their own social location in class assignments.
• Student-oriented. I place a high priority on getting to know my students. Your ideas and concerns not only deserve my respect and attention, but I have learned a lot from students over the years.
Theological conversations about violence have typically framed the discussion in terms of victim and perpetrator. Such work, while important, only addresses part of the problem. Comprehensive theological and pastoral responses to violence must also address the role of collective passivity in the face of human denigration. Given the pervasiveness of inaction-whether in the form of denial, willful ignorance, or silent complicity-a theological reflection on violence that holds bystanders accountable, especially those who occupy social sites of privilege, is long overdue. I
Elisabeth T. Vasko utilizes resources within the Christian tradition to examine the theological significance of bystander participation in patterns of violence and violation within contemporary Western culture, giving particular attention to the social issues of bullying, white racism, and sexual violence. In doing so, she constructs a theology of redeeming grace for bystanders to violence that foregrounds the significance of social action in bringing about God's kingdom.
For a list of Dr. Vasko's recent articles and presentations, please see her C.V.