May 62020

Chicago Theological Seminary recognizes Zaynab Shahar with distinguished Sanderson Award for Women in Leadership

CONTACT: Steve McFarland, Chief Communications Officer, steven.mcfarland@ctschicago.edu

Chicago Theological Seminary today recognized Zaynab Shahar with the prestigious Judith Sanderson Award for Women in Leadership. Shahar is currently pursuing a Doctor of Philosophy degree at CTS with a focus on queer-feminist hermeneutics, philosophy of religion, and gender/sexuality in Jewish and Islamic law.

“Shahar has shown leadership and initiative by formulating a specific course to assist students in making the transition to writing in a seminary context,” said Rev. Stephanie Buckhanon Crowder, Ph.D., Vice President of Academic Affairs, Academic Dean, and Associate Professor of New Testament. “In the Language and Writing Center, Shahar has thought broadly about what would make a difference for students throughout their entire tenure at CTS. In this light Shahar put together a robust and comprehensive program to assist students at all levels with their writing skills.”

The Judith Sanderson Award for Women in Leadership was established in 2006 in memory of Judith Parks Sanderson. She was the beloved wife of CTS Life Trustee Howard Morgan, who made this award possible through an endowment gift. Sanderson had an outstanding career as an educational development manager with leadership roles at William & Mary College, Princeton University and the University of Chicago. The award is given annually to a member of the CTS community who exhibits leadership qualities in her chosen field and is committed to assisting others in their personal development in the fields of education and community well being.

“As someone who does comparative religion, I straddle a vast number of disciplines within the humanities and social sciences where the conventional wisdom is you either come to the table with academic writing skills or you are able to intuit them by osmosis,” Shahar said. “Working at the writing center has taught me how quickly that assumption can fall apart and the effect it has on student learning. Tutoring students and coming up with unique ways to help each student changed the way I think about pedagogy in relation to my own academic and cultural work. I now understand teaching people how to write as not only a means of engendering success but showing people a necessary aspect of what it means to navigate the contours of a discipline.”

“While I’m grateful to be recognized, I think the way students show me gratitude are a quiet reward that renews itself over time,” Shahar continued. “Those fleeting moments where someone reaches back to say ‘thank you,’ takes the time to let me know how they are doing, or they just want to talk about their own evolution as writers. That means so much to me. They are the memories, the reward that will stay with me after my work at the Language and Writing Center is done.”

Shahar received a Bachelor of Arts in Jewish Studies from Hampshire College, focusing on both Historical Anti-Semitism and the academic study of gender and Judaism. Additionally, Shahar received an MA in Religious Studies from Chicago Theological Seminary that focused on philosophy of religion and Islamic Studies.