Joyce Ann Mercer ’84 M.Div. has a new role at YDS in addition to her distinguished Horace Bushnell Professorship of Practical Theology and Pastoral Care. As the new Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, she is now the Divinity School’s chief academic officer.
“Professor Mercer brings a lifetime of international experience to this important position, along with a combination of pastoral and theological acumen and a dedication to YDS,” YDS Dean Greg Sterling said. “I am deeply grateful she is serving in this leadership position.”
Professor Mercer joined the faculty of her divinity alma mater in 2016, following a decade on the faculty of Virginia Theological Seminary and, before that, seminaries and graduate schools in California and the Philippines.
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A University of Virginia graduate, she has three graduate degrees in addition to her M.Div. from YDS: an M.S.W from the University of Connecticut Graduate School of Social Work; a D.Min. from McCormick Theological Seminary; and a Ph.D. from Emory University. Her work focuses on practices of care in diverse contexts and situations, including post-conflict areas of southeast Asia, children in the consumer culture of the U.S., addictions in family systems, and the religious lives of adolescent girls. The practical theological thread running throughout her work is the fostering of liberatory hope where human flourishing is stunted by personal and social forms of suffering.
In addition to numerous book chapters and articles, Mercer is the author or editor of four books: Conundrums in Practical Theology (co-edited with Bonnie Miller-McLemore, 2016), Girl Talk, God Talk: Why Faith Matters to Adolescent Girls—and their Parents (2008), Lives to Offer: Accompanying Youth on Their Vocational Quests (with Dori Baker, 2007), and Welcoming Children: A Practical Theology of Childhood (2005). An ordained Presbyterian minister, she is currently working on a book about church congregations in conflict with their denominations over sexuality.
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Mercer says she was drawn to the Associate Dean position in part because of her career-long interest in educational practices and the systems within which these practices are embedded. “Across my career I’ve contributed to the scholarship of teaching and learning, thinking critically about how educational structures and practices can promote transformational adult learning,” Mercer said. “I believe with educators like bell hooks and Paulo Freire that we can construct liberatory systems of education as a practice of freedom that put core values such as equity, justice, and access alongside academic rigor and professional identity formation.”
The Office of Academic Affairs (staffed by Tim Goselin, Lisa Huck, and Roslyn Evans) performs such duties as authorizing individual reading courses requested by students, conducting the orientation for graduate student teaching fellows, and helping shape courses and the policies regarding curricular matters.
“Academic ‘deaning’ is like teaching, only broader,” Mercer said. “Instead of focusing on their own classes, academic deans focus on the big picture of policies, parts, and structures that facilitate teaching and learning.”