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SLU Research Profiles: Humanities Research

At Saint Louis University, researchers and scholars in the humanities are asking vital questions that help us better understand ourselves and our place in the world.

Hear five SLU faculty members talk about the importance of humanities research for teaching and community impact. Theirs is just a small sample of the compassionate, innovative and ambitious humanities research being done at SLU.

Who are we? Why are we here? What do we value as a society?

These are just a few of the topics researchers and scholars in the humanities are tackling at SLU. These faculty members use an analytical, interpretative and historical approach to make sense of our world and our place in it.

 “Could it be that, in the Word of God, there is a tolerance and maybe even an encouragement of diverse views,” said Ruben Rosario Rodriguez, Ph.D., associate professor of theological studies at SLU. “My research is an intentional engagement with that reality of a global culture.”

The Humanities in Research

Research in the humanities is a cornerstone of SLU’s research enterprise.

“Science is so important, technology is very important, but we also critically need to understand why we have them," said Nancy Bell, M.F.A., associate professor of theatre at SLU. "What is a good thing to do with those things? That’s what the humanities are for.”

Research in the humanities is also at the heart of the Jesuit education that SLU provides its students.

Torrie Hester, Ph.D., an associate professor of history at SLU, studies the history of immigration policy in the United States to find ethical solutions to the problems of today.

“Looking at this early history helps us understand what deportation policy is doing today and how we can change it to make it operate better,” she said. “The Catholic Church, the Jesuits, the University… have come out strongly supportive of my research.”

The Humanities and SLU's Jesuit Mission

The Jesuit mission, a concern for others and a desire to build a better world grounds all the research done at SLU.

“One of the reasons I like being at SLU is because I feel like the mission [of SLU] is essentially what my mission is, too,” said Dan Haybron, Ph.D., professor of philosophy. “There’s just much more openness to talk about what’s important in life here.”

Phyllis Weliver, D.Phil., professor of English, is currently working with the Center for the Digital Humanities at SLU to digitize the manuscripts of Alfred, Lord Tennyson.

“Part of what makes an inspiring classroom is having cutting-edge research, and I’m extremely lucky of my colleagues because people are doing such exciting work.”

About the Faculty

Learn more about these five faculty members featured in this article and video:

  • Nancy Bell, M.F.A., Associate Professor, Theatre
    Bell is the literary manager for Shakespeare Festival St. Louis and Shakespeare in the Streets, which produces free Shakespeare theatre for the St. Louis community. Shakespeare in the Streets is a response to the attitude that theatre is only for the elite. In 2018, Shakespeare in the Streets put on a production of Blow, Winds, Bell’s adaptation of King Lear, for which Bell was honored at SLU's annual Scholarly Works reception.
  • Daniel Haybron, Ph.D., Professor, Philosophy
    In 2015, Haybron was awarded a historic $5.1 million grant for a three-year project entitled Happiness and Well-Being: Integrating Research Across Disciplines, which began to develop a new measure of happiness. Haybron is also the author of Happiness: A Very Short Introduction.
  • Torrie Hester, Ph.D., Associate Professor, History
    Hester is the author of Deportation: Origins of U.S. Policy, which examines the federal government’s policies and practices regarding immigration since 1882. Hester believes that looking at this history can help alleviate the present problems in the immigration system. In 2018, Hester was honored by the university at the annual Scholarly Works reception for that book.
  • Ruben Rosario Rodriguez, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Theological Studies 
    Rodriguez is the director of the Mey Puleo Scholarship Program in Latin American Theology and Culture and  author of Christian Martyrdom and Political Violence. Rodriguez previously brought together the Society of Christian Ethics, the Society of Jewish Ethics, and the Society for the Study of Muslim Ethics – the first time in the history of those three institutions.
  • Phyllis Weliver, D.Phil., Professor, English
    Weliver is one of the Principal Investigators of Sounding Tennyson. As part of that project, Weliver traveled to Tennyson’s home in the Isle of Wight and recorded his poems in his drawing room. She is currently working with the Center for the Digital Humanities at SLU to digitize the manuscripts of Tennyson. Weliver is also the author of Mary Gladstone and the Victorian Salon: Music, Literature, and Liberalism.