The Valparaiso University-based Lilly Fellows Program in Humanities and the Arts welcomes three fellows to the program and University faculty — Jason Gehrke in religious studies, Christine Hedlin in English, and Cassandra Painter in history.

During their two-year residencies at Valpo, each Lilly Fellow will teach in Christ College — The Honors College and the College of Arts and Sciences, participate in a weekly colloquium on Christianity and the academic vocation, and conduct scholarly research.

Postdoctoral fellowships prepare teaching-scholars for positions of educational leadership and are one initiative of the Lilly Fellows Program, which seeks to strengthen the quality and shape the character of church-related institutions of learning. The program also maintains a collaborative National Network of approximately 100 church-related colleges and universities and sponsors a national Graduate Fellows Program for exceptionally talented graduate scholars who are exploring vocations in church-related higher education. All programs are headquartered at Valparaiso University.

Jason Gehrke is an historical theologian, whose work explores the inter-relationships of Christology, political theology, and ethics, in both the ancient and modern world. His interests include the patristic reception of classical philosophy, the intellectual history of the Just War Tradition, and inter-religious dialogue. He earned a B.A. from Hillsdale College, an M.A. in religion from Concordia Theological Seminary, and a Ph.D. in religious studies from Marquette University. His dissertation, “Christus Exemplar: the Politics of Virtue in Lactantius,” conducts an extensive re-reading of Lactantius’s response to the Diocletianic Persecution. As a Lilly Fellow, Professor Gehrke teaches the great books seminars in the Christ College Freshman Program.

Christine Hedlin earned her B.A. in English and Spanish from Augustana College in Rock Island, Illinois, and her Ph.D. in English from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Her research interests include 19-century American literature, secular theory, American religious history, and historical approaches to the novel. She is currently revising her dissertation, “Novel Faiths: Nonsecular Fiction in the Late Nineteenth-Century U.S.,” into a book manuscript that considers how American Protestants used popular religious novels to catalyze changes in their faiths. In this project, she argues that the narrative structure and formal flexibility of the novel made it a key testing ground for new beliefs that responded creatively, resiliently, to seismic events like the rise of Darwinian evolution, the death toll of the Civil War, and the failures of Reconstruction. In her time as a Lilly Fellow, Professor Hedlin will teach courses in the English department and in Christ College’s Freshman Program.

Cassandra Painter is a religious and cultural historian of modern Germany. She earned her B.A. in history from the College of Idaho, her M.A. from the University of Rochester, and her Ph.D. from Vanderbilt University. In 2016–2017, she was a fellow at the University of Notre Dame Institute for Advanced Study. Her research focuses on lived religion in the modern world, in the uses of culture to express identity, and the ways in which faith traditions evolve and adapt over time and space. Her dissertation examines the life and subsequent cult of veneration of stigmatic and visionary Anna Katharina Emmerick (1774-1824), using her as a recurring touchstone in an examination of how German Catholics created meaning and built community in modern Germany; who was able to participate in this process; and how Catholics’ understanding of themselves, their faith, and their place in Germany evolved over time. With the two other new Lilly Fellows, Professor Painter will teach in Christ College’s Freshman Program, and she also will teach courses in Valpo’s history department.

Professors Gehrke, Hedlin, and Painter form the 27th cohort to be welcomed to Valpo’s faculty, joining 74 other Lilly Fellows who are now teaching at colleges and universities throughout the country.

Entering their second year as Lilly Fellows at Valparaiso University are Ashleigh Elser in theology/religious studies and Daniel Silliman in history.

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