by Brian Hayes, Staff Writer
I’d like to take this opportunity to offer the Tablet’s official introduction of our new faculty member this year at Wake Div, Dr. Gandolfo. Some of you (like me) may have already had the privilege of getting to know her through the two courses she is teaching this semester: Christian Theology and Latin American Liberation Theology. Last Wednesday, I had the opportunity to sit down with Dr. Gandolfo and learn more about what encapsulates her identity.
As the nature of the courses she’s teaching indicates, Dr. Gandolfo’s primary academic discipline is theology. She comes to us with striking credentials in this area of study from a variety of prestigious schools. Dr. Gandolfo earned her Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Theology from St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, her Master of Theological Studies (MTS) from Notre Dame, and her Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) from Emory University’s Graduate Division of Religion. She identifies herself as a Catholic theologian and told me in our discussion that her main areas of theological interest are in liberationist and feminist theologies.
Dr. Gandolfo’s interest in both of these theological expressions has a practical basis in her lived experiences. Her interest in Latin American liberation theology is grounded in her experience of living in ecclesial base communities in El Salvador for two years. Appropriately, she notes that one of the theologians who has been most influential for her is Jon Sobrino, a liberationist thinker currently working in El Salvador. Her interest in feminist theology is also grounded in her own life experience, primarily that of being a mother.
For those who may not know, Dr. Gandolfo is the mother of four children (ages 7, 5, 3, and 1). She shared with me that her experience of motherhood has had a profound impact on her life perspective and her theology. Primarily, she has gained significant personal insight into the vulnerability of humanity and the importance of peaceful, justice-seeking compassion for all people.
If I may say so myself, Dr. Gandolfo’s ability to be both a mother to four young children and a full-time faculty member is quite impressive. She says that she is balancing this so far by concentrating on being fully present wherever she is. When she is working, she strives to be efficient and to use her time wisely. When she is home with her family, she focuses on being with them completely and spending intentional time with them.
One of Dr. Gandolfo’s favorite recreational activities is to explore nature with her kids through hiking and other adventures. Another activity she enjoys is reading with her kids. Some of you may be excited to know that she is currently reading the Harry Potter series with her two oldest children. On her own, Dr. Gandolfo has enjoyed reading books by Toni Morrison and Mary Karr.
In our discussion, Dr. Gandolfo offered some thoughts of particular interest to many of us concerning how to best succeed in her classes. Her chief encouragement was for students to find ways to make connections between conceptual theology and lived reality. The question she wants her students to wrestle with is, “How does theology function for good or for ill?” Practicality and embodiment are critical to Dr. Gandolfo’s perspective on theology. This is apparent both in her personal life and her work.
I hope this brief introduction has offered a glimpse into the identity of our newest faculty member and has peaked your interest in getting to know her more. From personal experience, I can affirm her kindness and genuine care for students. I can also vouch for her giftedness in teaching and engaging insight in the classroom. I encourage you to make Dr. Gandolfo feel welcome here at Wake Div in the days ahead. Be sure to say hello to her in the hallways and to take as many of her classes as you can!