Welcome to my online curriculum vitae. I am a scholar and professor of ancient Hebrew and Jewish literature. I have also been an academic administrator for over 20 years, beginning with my appointment as an assistant professor and director of Jewish Studies at Tulane University. In July of 2017 I was named the inaugural T. W. Lewis Dean of the Lewis Honors College at the University of Kentucky and recently completed ten years as dean of the Schreyer Honors College at Penn State University. During my tenure as dean of the SHC we raised nearly $80 million dollars for honors education at Penn State, rebranded the college, developed new student engagement strategies, and increased applications and selectivity. I look forward to building the Lewis Honors College into a model of honors education and one of the best programs in the nation.
My academic career began not only with teaching but administrative duties as well. I was the director of Jewish Studies for 6 years at Tulane University prior to becoming the director of the Tulane Honors Program. From 2006-16 I was the Dean of the Schreyer Honors College at Penn State and in 2017 I named as the first TW Lewis Dean of the Lewis Honors College at the University of Kentucky. Both Jewish Studies and honors education require an effective administrator to reach across disciplines and units to build support and a successful program.
In the Tulane Jewish Studies Program, as in most of its kind, the faculty who taught in the program were in various other departments and maintaining a consistent and strong selection of courses required recruiting top faculty and convincing their department chair of the value of allowing their faculty member to teach a cross-listed course.
The situation in honors is similar, yet more comprehensive. Of the 350+ faculty who teach honors courses at Penn State, none are employed by the honors college, all had their “home” in another college and department. Because honors courses were never larger than 25 students, allowing the very best faculty in a department to teach an honors section meant a real, financial impact to the department as they would be required to hire another instructor to teach the general section. All honors advisors were also faculty members and that too required negotiation with home units as well as continued support and encouragement to the faculty who make the entire enterprise possible.
As dean of the Schreyer Honors College I also collaborated with all areas of the university beyond academics. The SHC manages its own admissions process, but also carries out an admissions strategy which required coordinating efforts with the University Admissions Office. There was a close relationship as well with student affairs and housing given the special living community for honors and various programming initiatives led by the SHC. Finally, I worked closely with the university’s central development office to raise funds for the SHC and other units; during my tenure we raised close to $80 million for honors education at Penn State.
This sort of leadership is time consuming and collaborative yet I have found it to be incredibly rewarding. It also exemplifies university education at its finest, the entire community working together for the benefit of the students.
My primary area of research is in biblical interpretation, specifically rabbinic interpretation of the Bible within Targumic literature. A “Targum” refers to the Jewish Aramaic rendering of the Hebrew Bible; it is a unique sort of translation. A Targum renders into Aramaic every word of the biblical text in its proper order, but often will add additional material, woven seamlessly into the newly formed text. My particular area of interest is how this additional material transforms the meaning of the biblical text in question.
I have written extensively on Targum Lamentations, including my doctoral thesis, “Targum Lamentations’ Reading of the Book of Lamentations” and the resulting book The Rabbinic Targum of Lamentations: Vindicating God. I have recently published a book on Targum Ruth, The Proselyte and the Prophet: Character Development in Targum Ruth. Both of these works are part of a larger interest in the Targumim of the Megilloth.
The basis of rabbinic exegesis, such as the Targumim and midrashim, is of course the biblical text itself. I continue work and research in biblical studies while most of my publications are in the area of rabbinic literature. Additional areas of research include the Dead Sea Scrolls and the so-called “historical Jesus.”
My most recent work is on “theodicy,” the question of divine justice and mercy. My academic interest in the area began with my doctoral research on the Book of Lamentations and examining Jewish and Christian responses to loss and catastrophe. Personal loss, of course, demands a reexamination. This book project is tentatively titled, Beautiful and Terrible Things: A Biblical Theology of Suffering and Grace.
Targuman – The Blog
I have been blogging for well over a decade and creating podcasts for nearly as long. Back in 1996 a mentor suggested the user name “Targuman” as a sobriquet and a play on the literature I study, Targum. The site Targuman.org is a personal blog for my comments on areas that are of interest to me. I tend to concentrate my posts on biblical and rabbinic literature, Christian theology, ethics, technology, photography, and the odd comic.
As an administrator I used my university blog and podcast as a means to remain in contact with students, disseminate information, and further conversations on issues relevant to our community. For example, I have written about how we cope with the transitions in life that graduation brings, my vision of honors education in a public university, and the importance of mental health.
My wife Elizabeth is a writer, a Associate Teaching Professor in the department of Communication Arts and Sciences, and a public relations consultant for Global Programs at Penn State.
We have two beautiful and well above-average children. Our daughter is in college and is passionate about history and art history. Sadly, our son passed away in 2012, just two weeks before his 9th birthday. Our friends and family helped establish the Mack Brady Memorial Penn State Soccer Fund that supports and develops goalkeepers in Penn State’s Men’s Soccer Program.