Today we hear from one of our philosophy professors, Dr. Sara Shady. Professor Shady also serves as Associate Dean for Academic Inclusive Excellence here at Bethel. Read on to learn a bit about the things she keeps, or “the things she carries,” in her office space.

If you missed our post on Dr. Kooistra earlier this week, click here to check it out!

1. Painting of African Women

I bought this painting in Capetown, South Africa in 2009. I was on a trip with nine professors from universities in North America and nine professors from universities across Africa. We were traveling together to study the role of religion in the development of South Africa’s democracy. It was a transformative trip for my scholarship and research. This particular painting asks me, every day, how my work as a philosopher matters to real women around the world. If I don’t have an answer to that question, I’m not sure the work is worth pursuing.

2. Stuffed Crab, Painting of Groot, statues of mother & child and penguin

These objects are symbolic of my life as a working mom. My children are now teenagers, but I keep these things as reminders of them growing up in and around Bethel. The crab was one of many toys I used to keep for them to play with. The penguin statue and Groot painting were made specifically for my office by my son Minty. (Penguins are my favorite animal!)

3. Bookshelves and Martin Buber

This is the view I see from my desk every day. I absolutely love physical books, including how they feel and smell. I love writing all over in books. I keep my favorite books (the fields of existentialism and gender studies) on the shelves closest to where I sit. The most meaningful books to me are those written by Jewish philosopher Martin Buber, who I wrote about in my dissertation. I have read his book I and Thou every year for twenty years. I always find new insights about what it means to be human.

The striped shoebox on the bookshelf contains cards and notes students have given me over the years. Those are some of my most treasured possessions, and they help remind me of why I teach.

And the “Today is a Good Day” sign has been in my office since 2018, reminding me to look for God’s goodness in the world, because it is always there, even on dark days.

4. Framed book cover:

In 2017 Marion Larson (Professor of English) and I co-authored the book From Bubble to Bridge: Educating Christians for a Multifaith World. The publisher gave us framed copies of the cover. My kids thought I would earn enough money from a book to build a pool, and when the box with the framed print came to the house, they asked if the box contained the plans for the pool. 🙂 I barely earned enough to buy dinner, but I love that the book has provided many opportunities to talk about the work of bridge-building (most recently in Vancouver in November 2022).

5. Windowsill statues

The “thinker” statue was purchased in Athens when I studied abroad as a junior in college. On my office door is a small card that says “don’t think alone,” because thinking is best done in dialogue. The other statues are gifts from my closest “thinking partners” at Bethel. Marion Larson gave me the three female vases, and they remind me of my close friendship with Marion and Amy Poppinga. Amy recently gave me the hippo statute, because we’re BHFs (best hippos forever).

6. Blossoms artwork and quote

This print was given to me many years ago by a friend named Mel. Too often we find our identity, particularly as women, in our physical bodies. And, unfortunately the shape and size of our bodies is used all too often to judge our worth. Mel wanted me to remember the importance of my inner beauty. Almost two decades later, I’ve also come to accept that physical beauty comes in all shapes and sizes and we can celebrate both our embodied selves and our inner selves.

7. Cultural Intelligence books and Altoids

The Cultural Intelligence workbooks are new to my office and represent my new role as Associate Dean for Academic Inclusive Excellence. I’m undergoing CQ training and will soon be certified to provide that training to others. I love that my new role invites me to learn new things as we work to truly live out our calling to be Beth-el, the House of God. (And the Altoids are there because I drink a lot of coffee and Altoids, “the curiously strong mints,” are my favorite mints).

Click here to learn more about Dr. Shady and her work as a philosophy professor and Associate Dean for Academic Inclusive Excellence at Bethel University.


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