Research Scholars & Research Faculty


Research Scholars

Jay Atkinson

B.A.  Oregon State University (religious studies, 1975)
A.M  University of Chicago (divinity, 1977)
D.Min.  Meadville Lombard Theological School (1979)

The Rev. Dr. Jay Atkinson retired in June 2011 from thirty-two years of service in Unitarian Universalist parish ministry.  During those years he served also on the adjunct faculties of Morningside College (1985), Starr King School (1994, 1999, 2006), and Meadville Lombard (2003), and was a Visiting Scholar at the Center for Process Studies in Claremont in 1996.

Dr. Atkinson has published “Religious Tolerance and Social Concord in the Unitarian and Universalist Traditions” [Ideas of Concord and Discord in Selected World Religions, vol. 2 in Research in Human Social Conflict, ed. Joseph B. Gittler (Greenwich, Conn: JAI Press, 2000), 385-426] and “Engaged Dissent Among the Polish Brethren” [The Role of the Dissenter in Western Christianity: From Jesus Through the 16th Century, ed. Alicia McNary Forsey (Berkeley: Starr King, 2004), 85-96].

Presentations at scholarly conferences include  “Religious Pluralism as a Response to Human Finitude: Christoff Ostorodt and the Polish Brethren” [Sixteenth-Century Studies Conference, Atlanta, Georgia, 20-23 October 2005] and “The Church as a Self-Critical Learning Community: Some Sixteenth-Century Precursors of Creative Interchange in the Ecclesiology of the Polish Brethren,” Ecclesiology Session, Sixth International Whitehead Conference, Universität Salzburg, Austria, 3-6 July 2006].

Dr. Atkinson’s abiding interests are in UU History, economic justice, and process theology.  His current scholarship focuses primarily on the epistemic ecclesiology of the Polish Brethren.

Charles Garfield

Ph.D. Clinical Psychology, University of California at Berkeley

Dr. Charles Garfield has been recognized internationally as the founder of Shanti, a widely acclaimed volunteer organization, and the Shanti National Training Institute (SNTI). For over thirty-five years, he has pioneered the development of service oriented volunteer organizations and the training of volunteers in a wide variety of applications. For his work with Shanti and for originating the Shanti model of peer support, Garfield was named National Activist of the Year—one of America’s highest awards to individuals making voluntary contributions in public service. He has also received recognition by cities and organizations large and small including a Mayor’s Day in his honor in San Francisco and many others.

Dr. Garfield serves as Clinical Professor of Psychology in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of California School of Medicine at San Francisco (UCSF). A Fellow of the American Psychological Association, he is currently a Visiting Scholar at Starr King School of the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley.

Joanna Macy

Ph.D., Religious Studies, Syracuse University

Eco-philosopher Joanna Macy is a scholar of Buddhism, general systems theory, and deep ecology. A respected voice in the movements for peace, justice, and ecology, she interweaves her scholarship with five decades of activism. As the root teacher of the Work That Reconnects, she has created a ground-breaking theoretical framework for personal and social change, as well as a powerful workshop methodology for its application.

Her wide-ranging work addresses psychological and spiritual issues of the nuclear age, the cultivation of ecological awareness, and the fruitful resonance between Buddhist thought and contemporary science. The many dimensions of this work are explored in her books Despair and Personal Power in the Nuclear Age (New Society Publishers, 1983); Dharma and Development (Kumarian Press, 1985); Thinking Like a Mountain (with John Seed, Pat Fleming, and Arne Naess; New Society Publishers, 1988; New Society/ New Catalyst, 2007); Mutual Causality in Buddhism and General Systems Theory (SUNY Press, 1991); Rilke's Book of Hours (1996, 2005) and In Praise of Mortality (2004) (with Anita Barrows, Riverhead); Coming Back to Life: Practices to Reconnect Our Lives, Our World (with Molly Young Brown, New Society Publishers, 1998); Joanna's memoir entitled Widening Circles (New Society, 2000); World as Lover, World as Self (Parallax Press, 2007), A Year With Rilke, (with Anita Barrows, Harper One, 2009); and Pass It On: Five Stories That Can Change the World (with Norbert Gahbler, Parallax Press, 2010).

Many thousands of people around the world have participated in Joanna's workshops and trainings. Her group methods, known as the Work That Reconnects, have been adopted and adapted yet more widely in classrooms, churches, and grassroots organizing. Her work helps people transform despair and apathy, in the face of overwhelming social and ecological crises, into constructive, collaborative action. It brings a new way of seeing the world, as our larger living body, freeing us from the assumptions and attitudes that now threaten the continuity of life on Earth.

Joanna travels widely giving lectures, workshops, and trainings in the Americas, Europe, Asia, and Australia. She lives in Berkeley, California, near her children and grandchildren.

Glenna Matthews

B.A. San Jose State University
M.A. Stanford University
Ph.D. Stanford University

Dr. Matthews taught American history at Oklahoma State University for 6 years. Since returning to California, where she was born, has been a visiting associate professor of history at UC Berkeley, Stanford University, UCLA, UC Irvine, and UC Davis.  She taught at Starr King as Adjunct Faculty.

Dr. Matthews is the author of five books about U.S. women's history, as well as nearly 20 articles, and has received fellowships from ACLS and the National Endowment for the Humanities for her work.

Dr. Matthews's new book is The Golden State in the Civil War: Thomas Starr King, the Republican Party, and the Birth of Modern California (Cambridge University Press, 2012). The author first became acquainted with Thomas Starr King when she curated an exhibition on the history of San Francisco for that city's public library.

Letizia Tomassone

M.Div. (equivalent) Protestant University of Rome, Italy
M.A. (equivalent) Protestant University of Montpellier, France

Dr. Tomassone is well known in the women movement in Italy for her search about a feminist spirituality and pre-pathriarcal Goddess religions. She is a pastor in her church and autor of a number of articles about the political “thought of the difference”, developed by the Feminist community of Diotima.

She has been the first women to manage the direction of the Ecumenical International Center of Agape, that is a place where protestants in Italy reflect on changes in society that affect theology and spirituality. She is now vice-president of the Federation of Protestants Churches in Italy, charged of ecumenical and interreligious dialogue.

Dr. Tomassone from 2009 is the appointed  teacher on “Feminist and Gender Studies” at the Protestant University of Rome, Italy (Facoltà Valdese di Teologia). She is also among the founders of the Women’s Theological Association in Italy (
At the SKSM she is working on climate and Earth changes that impose us changes in the way to live our faith and our practice in this interrelated and wonderful world, in peril for human development. In this search she is looking for a relation within the Earth rooted in difference and gender vision of the world.

Amina Wadud
Contact by email

B.S. University of Pennsylvania 
M.A. University of Michigan 
Ph.D. University of Michigan

Dr. Wadud, who specializes in Islam, gender and Qur'anic studies, taught at the Religious Studies Program at Virginia Commonwealth University and the International Islamic University in Malaysia. Her background also includes advanced Arabic studies at American University in Cairo.

She's the author of “Inside the Gender Jihad: Reform in Islam”; “Introduction to Islam: A Reader”; and “Qur’an and Woman: Rereading the Sacred Text from a Woman’s Perspective.” 

Her current research focuses on gender as a category of thought in Islamic intellectual history and development, with a particular focus on Islamic ethics and gender.



Research Faculty

Aurelia Henry Reinhardt Emerita Professor of Religion and Culture

Clare Benedicks Fischer

Contact by email

B.A. Hunter College
M.A. Syracuse University
Ph.D. Graduate Theological Union

Dr. Fischer served as Starr King School's Aurelia Henry Reinhardt Professor of Religion and Culture from 1981 to 2005, focusing her teaching and research on the question of religion and moral community.

She has written and published on feminism and work, and created a major bibliography about women in religion entitled, "Of Spirituality: A Feminist Perspective." Her latest project is a book about 20th century mystic Simone Weil and her social philosophy of "otherness." Fischer also works on questions of civil society in Southeast Asia, especially Indonesia.

In 2005, the Graduate Theological Union honored her with the Sarlo Award for Excellence in Teaching, noting her exemplary commitment to interdisciplinary and interreligious teaching methods.

Core Faculty

Dean of the Faculty

Visiting Professors

Adjunct Faculty

Hilda Mason Teaching Fellows

Intern Supervisors