Susan Shallcross Swartz Professor of the Practice of Christian Studies, Harvard Divinity School
Co-Faculty Dean of Eliot House
Stephanie Paulsell is the Susan Shallcross Swartz Professor of the Practice of Christian Studies in the Harvard Divinity School and served as the Interim Pusey Minister in the Memorial Church from 2019 to 2020. An ordained minister in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), she is the author of Religion Around Virginia Woolf, (2019), editor (with David Carrasco and Mara Willard) of Goodness and the Literary Imagination (2019), and a regular columnist in The Christian Century. She is also the author of Honoring the Body: Meditations on a Christian Practice and, with Harvey Cox, Lamentations and the Song of Songs as well as co-editor of The Scope of Our Art: The Vocation of the Theological Teache
She leads The Pilgrimage Project at the Memorial Church.
Paulsell grew up in eastern North Carolina and was educated in the public schools. Her father was on the faculty of the religion department of Barton College where her mother, who had interrupted her education to put her husband through his graduate studies, finished her BA one course at a time, eventually going on to earn a PhD in English. Stephanie remembers waking up to the sound of her mother typing her term papers as well as coming home in the evenings to find the house full of her father’s students engaged in discussions about the war in Vietnam, the ongoing struggle for civil rights in the south, and the life of faith. Her parents’ devotion to the integration of learning and living shaped her own commitment to education, and her sister’s work on behalf of the human rights of refugees and children continually challenges her.
Stephanie studied religion and English at Greensboro College and received a PhD in Religion and Literature from the University of Chicago in 1993. She was ordained to ministry in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in 1990 and served as an assistant minister at Rockefeller Memorial Chapel, where she once hosted Rev. Peter Gomes. In Chicago, she met and married her fellow student Kevin Madigan. Kevin is the Winn Professor of Ecclesiastical History in Harvard Divinity School and teaches in the General Education Program in Harvard College. Stephanie and Kevin been married for nearly 33 years and have one daughter, Amanda, now a Comparative Literature and Italian Studies concentrator at Brown.
Stephanie has taught at Valparaiso University, Catholic Theological Union, and the University of Chicago. She joined the faculty of Harvard Divinity School in 2001 and teaches in the areas of religion and literature, Christian spirituality, and ministry studies.
At the invitation of Professor Jonathan L. Walton, Stephanie has served as an Affiliated Minister in the Memorial Church for the past seven years. She is the faculty advisor for the Harvard College Interfaith Forum and the chair of the Board of Religious, Ethical and Spiritual Life at Harvard. She’s a member of First Church in Cambridge and a frequent collaborator with HDS alumna and former Canaday proctor, Vanessa Zoltan, on Vanessa’s Common Ground pilgrimage project.
The Memorial Church has been an important presence in Stephanie’s life at Harvard—a “space of grace,” as Professor Walton often said. She very much looks forward to working with the community during this year of transition.