Kate Ott

Jerre and Mary Joy Stead Professor of Christian Social Ethics

Director of the Stead Center for Ethics and Values


  • M.Phil., Ph.D. Union Theological Seminary
  • M.A.R., Yale University Divinity School
  • B.A., University of Wisconsin at Madison

Creative Moral Response

Teaching ethical reflection develops a life-long, critical skill which promotes personal moral formation with obligations to the local and global communities. My approach to ethics is not one that starts with a list of do’s and don’ts. In the classroom, we address moral issues through reflection on personal experience, understandings of religious traditions, and investigation of current social and political justice movements to discern creative moral responses that fit our times.

When teaching, I follow three guiding pedagogical strategies, which emerged from collaborative research with colleagues across theological disciplines. In Teaching Sexuality and Religion in Higher Education (2020), we introduce these pedagogies – perspective transformation, embodied learning, and trauma-sensitivity.

Perspective transformation is intended to increase moral awareness and empathy for other viewpoints by teaching students how context, experience, and knowledge shape morals, attitudes, and practices. Embodied learning enhances the perspective transformation approach, which can be misconstrued as a solely cognitive enterprise, by emphasizing the full physical, social, cultural, bodily, and psychological context in which a person lives and learns. Trauma-sensitive pedagogy develops awareness of the psychological, social, and theological implications of sexual assault [and other traumas] on the learner, instructor, and classroom environment.

Teaching Sexuality and Religion in Higher Education, Intro, 2

These approaches complement the disciplinary work of doing Christian social ethics in the classroom in ways that embrace and challenge the life of the church and social movements.

Whether on campus or online, in a seminary or a church, at a community rally or on a podcast, my teaching centers the learner, creates spaces of encounter, and builds vocational capacities while creatively responding to today's most pressing ethical issues.