Kirsten Anderson cares about ancient Christian philosophers so much, she traveled overseas to study them.
Anderson ’12 is a recipient of the Fulbright Scholarship, an international student-exchange program that provides a grant to U.S. students to assist in research projects or English teaching assistant programs. She is currently at the University of Bonn in Germany, where she will be studying the relationship between Christianity and ancient philosopher Gregory of Nyssa as part of preliminary research for her doctorate at University of Notre Dame.
The Fulbright Scholarship is a federally-funded scholarship dedicated to helping recipients engage in other cultures and facilitate research. It funds recent graduates, young professionals, and graduate students. The program operates in more than 160 countries and currently funds nearly 2,000 recipients, as of this year.
Gregory of Nyssa was a fourth-century historian and theologian. Anderson is concerned with his thoughts on the metaphysics of non-being and its connection to evil.
Anderson said she first became interested in philosophy in a freshman English class when her professor gave a lecture about ontological goodness. She eventually did her senior thesis on Gregory of Nyssa’s brother.
“That was a doorway into this world,” she said.
Anderson is the sixth Hillsdale graduate to receive the Fulbright Scholarship since 2010, according to the school. She received her bachelor’s degree in Greek in 2012.
“She was an outstanding student during her time at Hillsdale College,” said Joseph Garnjobst, chairman and professor of classics, in a press release. “The work she will be doing in Germany is the natural extension of the work that she has done both at Hillsdale and at Notre Dame on the intersection of philosophy and theology in Platonic philosophy and Gregory of Nyssa.”
Anderson said part of the reason she wanted to travel to study Gregory of Nyssa is that many U.S. academics don’t study late antique Christian philosophers and theologians in the same way as academics in Europe. Many ancient philosophers and theologians are studied only by theology departments, she said.
“They’re not taken as seriously in a lot of philosophical departments in the U.S.,” Anderson said. “You can study them in theological programs, but you may not be asking philosophical questions.”
Jordan Wales, assistant professor of theology, said Gregory of Nyssa is often not studied in philosophy departments because of the way he views Christianity.
“For Gregory of Nyssa, philosophy is not distinct from theology,” Wales said. “For him, there is no accurate or complete philosophy that does not include Christ.”
But, he said, studying Gregory of Nyssa in a philosophical manner is a different way of approaching his thought.
“It’s going to introduce ways of talking about things like the problem of evil that require an expansion or alteration of standard philosophical categories,” Wales said.