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New Theology Professors Share Their Talents and Passions

Michael Hershey
Graduate Assistant, College of Liberal Arts

The theology department has added two professors in two years, and both are enriching Mount St. Mary’s with their talents.

de-la-noval-roberto-425-425.jpgRoberto de la Noval, Ph.D., who joined the Mount in the fall of 2022, began hosting discussions and developing new theology courses before the end of his first year. He also participated in the Delaplaine Faculty Seminar, facilitated by Professor Curtis Johnson, Ph.D., contributing an essay. In his essay, de la Noval explains how presenting Catholic theology as philosophy, with minimal presumptions and logical arguments, can lead to an intellectual conversion. He concluded that intellectual conversion resonates with secular Gen Z more than traditional theological conversion.

He also taught a new reading course with Francis Lukban, C’19, director of the Center for Service, on one of the most renowned novels ever written, The Brothers Karamazov, by Fyodor Dostoevsky. Fluent in Russian, de la Noval has published translations of the work of Russian theologian Sergius Bulgakov. Having studied in Russia allowed him to give valuable cultural context to the novel’s themes of redemption, the conflict of good and evil, and the presence of God. He was also awarded the Tinder Professorship earlier in the year for his dedication to the liberal arts grounded in Catholic teaching.

nutter.jpgDe la Noval’s longtime friend and University of Notre Dame classmate, Taylor Nutter, Ph.D., began teaching a year after de la Noval, in the fall of 2023. Nutter joined the Mount as a Core Fellow and teaches First-Year Symposium.

An ideal mentor for first-year Mount students, he has exemplified what it means to be a lifelong student of the liberal arts by applying his expertise in theology to other subjects, particularly artificial intelligence (AI).

Nutter has spent years researching AI’s role in what Pope Francis calls the “technocratic paradigm.” In Pope Francis’ 2015 papal encyclical Laudato Si, the Pope raised concerns about humanity becoming too dependent on defaulting to technology to solve problems without considering alternatives. AI has the potential to deprive people of developing skills in research, analysis and synthesis, which are fundamental tools for understanding ourselves and the world.

To immerse himself on campus and expand his understanding of AI, he attended lectures on campus by Jack Trammell, Ph.D., and Katherine Elkins, Ph.D., and traveled to Duquesne University to see presentations by Associate Professor Luis Vera, Ph.D, at the Grefenstette Center Tech Ethics Symposium. Wanting to further the burgeoning conversation occurring on campus, Nutter developed a course, AI, Society, and the Human Person, which he began teaching at the start of this semester.

A recent discussion in this class had students consider their dependencies on technologies like cars or cell phones. Considering these dependencies, the class discussed what is lost and gained through the ubiquitous use of these tools. Is there fulfillment that we can find online that we cannot find around us? Not limiting these conversations to one class, he delivered a talk on February 14, titled “The Difference Love Makes: AI and Human Wonder.”

Nutter and de la Noval have become guiding lights for both students and fellow faculty as they share their passions with others.

Michael Hershey
Graduate Assistant, College of Liberal Arts