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Seton Hall University

University Core Names Teacher and Scholar of the Year

Chad Thralls, Ph.D.

Chad Thralls, Ph.D., University Core Teacher of the Year

Inside the Core we are very pleased to announce this year’s recipients for our Teacher of the Year Award, for the second time, and our Scholar of the Year Award, for the first time - a unique award for Core faculty.

The Teacher of the Year Excellence Award goes to Chad Thralls, Ph.D., Core fellow, for outstanding teaching and also mentoring of faculty through faculty development and other initiatives. I have observed his classes multiple times, and I am impressed by his genuineness and his ability to enliven a subject while making students feel both heard and respected. He begins each class with a brief meditation. Furthermore, he and Ruth Tsuria, Ph.D. of the communications department have worked together in the Mission Mentors Program on bringing contemplative pedagogy into Core I: Journey of Transformation classes. They have presented this approach to their colleagues, and their creative use of this ancient technique to help to engage and to alleviate anxiety for today’s students is admirable, to say the least.

Thralls is much loved by students. His evaluations are excellent, and this one (brief) excerpt from his fall 2024 Journey of Transformation classes evaluations is indicative: "I have enjoyed having Professor Thralls for Journey of Transformation more than I can express, his dedication the course and his students is astounding and clear." He is most deserving of this award, and our last year’s recipient, Todd Stockdale, Ph.D., coordinator of Core II (and former coordinator of Core I) whole-heartedly agrees. He says, “Professor Thralls's commitment to his students and to our university is displayed in the way in which he carries out his teaching responsibilities at Seton Hall. Avoiding the temptation to develop a course and then put his teaching in cruise control, Professor Thralls is constantly in search of ways of adapting and enhancing his teaching material. This commitment to his profession is not only admirable, but is also contagious, as it generates in me a desire to continue to grow and develop as an instructor." Elizabeth Redwine, Ph.D., coordinator of Core I, has similar praise for Thralls, noting how he has impacted her own teaching: "Chad spoke to a Journey of Transformation Faculty Development in the Core in 2021 about Contemplative Pedagogy. This discussion changed my teaching, and ongoing conversations with Chad about how to create a contemplative classroom have helped me as a faculty member. My students have benefited from this shift in my teaching towards contemplative pedagogy, inspired by Chad’s faculty development examples, especially during these times of tension and stress for young people." We are fortunate to have an instructor like Professor Thralls teaching our Core students.

Roger Alfani, Ph.D.

Roger Alfani, Ph.D., University Core Scholar of the Year

We are also very fortunate to have scholars like Roger Alfani, Ph.D., Core fellow, in the Core as well, and his achievements in the last year represent a continued and truly outstanding commitment to scholarly excellence. With Nicole Eggers, Ph.D. of the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, Alfani received the highly prestigious National Endowment for the Humanities Collaborative Grant for 199,611.00, covering the period of January 1, 2023 to December 31, 2024. With this grant, he and Eggers has conducted research on the plight of refugees in four African nations (Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi, Uganda, and Kenya). There they interviewed refugees, with a particular focus on the impact of religion on their experience. The research will continue throughout this year. Together, Alfani and Eggers published an article entitled, "You reach a point where you have nothing. You will just die" in The Conversation (New York, 2023) and ultimately plan a book project coming from their research.

This fall, Alfani presented "From DR Congo to Burundi, Kenya, and USA: A Comparative Analysis of Congolese Refugee Lived Experience," African Studies Association, San Francisco, CA, United States. (November 30, 2023). Always willing to support his colleagues, Alfani presented on his research to our Core Faculty, linking his remarks to the teachings of Pope Francis. As his co-researcher, Nicole Eggers, Ph.D., said of him in her letter in support of his nomination, "At every turn, I was deeply impressed by not only his professionalism in conducting research, but his profound human empathy for everyone we encountered. I also witnessed firsthand how intimately Alfani understands Christian thought and biblical teachings, as he skillfully discussed such matters with the many religious leaders and practitioners we interviewed during our research. He is a natural teacher and a deep listener, whose ability to build connections with people - whether students, colleagues, or our research participants - is remarkable.” Yes, Alfani is also one of our most loved and respected faculty members in the classroom.

Roseanne Mirabella, Ph.D., chair of the Signature Course Curriculum Committee, sums up how we in the Core feel about Alfani’s scholarship: "The selection of Roger Alfani, Ph.D. as Scholar of the Year for the University Core Curriculum is a tribute to his scholarly contributions to the field, particularly his work on African refugees. He is a leading scholar in this area having received a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to conduct research on refugees in sub-Saharan Africa, a follow-up project to his earlier work Religious Peacebuilding in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The University Core Curriculum family congratulates him on his award."

We in the Core, are very excited to congratulate our two awardees: Chad Thralls, Ph.D., Teacher of the Year, and Roger Alfani, Ph.D., Scholar of the Year!

Categories: Education, Research