Ulrike Wiethaus

Professor of Religion and American Ethnic Studies

Office: Wingate 310
Phone: 758-7169
Email: wiethaus@wfu.edu

“Trauma and Resilience in American Indian and African American Southern History”

Wiethaus ConvocationDonald O. Schoonmaker Faculty Award for Community Service
Professor of American Ethnic Studies Ulrike Wiethaus received the Donald O. Schoonmaker Faculty Award for Community Service, which recognizes extraordinary community service by a faculty member. In addition to organizing and leading many community-oriented initiatives, Wiethaus has taught service-learning courses with a focus on the Native American culture and obtaining cross-cultural perspectives. She also provides workshops with her students at a nearby correctional facility to assist inmates in successful re-entry. “It is hard to imagine someone who epitomizes our commitment to Pro Humanitate more energetically or with more personal integrity than does Ulrike,” said her colleagues.


Ulrike Wiethaus (PhD, Religious Studies, Temple University) currently holds a joint appointment as full professor in the Department of Religion and American Ethnic Studies, and is a 2013 Community Solutions Fellow with the Institute for Public Engagement at Wake Forest University.

Her research interests focus on the history of Christian spirituality with an emphasis on gender justice and political history, and most recently, historic trauma, religion, and the long-term impact of US colonialism.  As the inaugural director, she has guided the creation of the Religion and Public Engagement concentration in Religious Studies.

She has won several awards on innovative teaching strategies and community engagements, including the Donald O. Schoonmaker Faculty Prize for Community Service, Innovative Teaching Award (with Gillian Overing, WFU 2008), the Presidential Library Grant (with Mary Scanlon, WFU 2008), and the Entrepreneurship and Liberal Arts Award for Local Community Involvement and Outreach (WFU 2007), and has been awarded a Shively Family Fellowship for 2010 – 2012. She has directed, produced, and co-produced several non-profit documentaries with elders on the Cheyenne River Reservation, South Dakota, and most recently edited a non-profit book of poetry and autobiographies by American Indian prisoners at Alexander Correctional Institution in Taylorsville, NC.

An Open Letter to My Students: My Teaching Philosophy

To me, teaching in the humanities is an invitation to create knowledge in cooperation. My interdisciplinary training forms the foundation for our work together: to immerse ourselves in the complex process of increasing understanding, insight, and opportunities for advocacy. In the classroom and beyond, this process centers on what it means, has meant, and could mean to be a human being in community with other beings, human and non-human. An appreciation of place – our ties to the land, to home, to a specific landscape — and the meaning that places hold for past and future generations are also important in my work with you. Our conversations thus may begin with an inquiry into the ways in which religion, healing, and place-based cultures intersect; with an inquiry into the foundations of mystical experience; or with an inquiry of how academic, community-based research can support Indigenous sovereignty.  Our conversations may be guided by best practices in contemplative pedagogy such as mindful listening and inviting experiences of silence, spaciousness and stillness.

I am passionate about the intellectual and pragmatic possibilities that open up when the classroom is turned into a laboratory peopled with you as active learners and junior colleagues. At the beginning of each semester, you arrive already equipped with an impressive toolbox: your autobiographical experiences of place and people; your feelings, your values, and already existing knowledge about the topics to be explored. You are creative and talented. My pedagogy builds on your strengths, values, and skills through a variety of assignments. These include written, oral, and visual, and sometimes even kinesthetic modules. You will often work in teams to create a portfolio. You will develop and test research skills through the pursuit of hypotheses and the critical analysis and appreciation of scholarly work in any given area of study. You will often review films, art works, and web-sites, conduct discussion groups, and engage in community-based projects. We will learn with each other and from each other by contributing and complementing different voices and strengths. Assessing your intellectual growth, your expanding knowledge base and research skills, and your community-building skills will be an integral part of each new assignment. For example, assessments may take the form of in-depth feed-back on research paper drafts or grades given for weekly written assignments and engaged class participation. You will be encouraged to provide constructive feed-back to your peers in the form of oral and written comments, and will be given opportunities for honest self-assessment.

Precisely because I conceive of the classroom as a place for collaborative learning and open-ended conversations, I see my own intellectual and personal growth as deeply connected to your creativity and fresh insights.

Welcome to the world of engaged humanities scholarship!

Ulrike Wiethaus, Professor of Religion and American Ethnic Studies


Ph.D., Temple University, 1986

M.A., Temple University, 1982

Colloquium, Kirchliche Hochschule Berlin, 1981

Community Engagement Projects (Select)

  • Director, Medcat: Medical Careers and Technology, and C-Cat: College Careers and Technology, a joint project with the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, 2007-present
  • Director, Computer Literacy Training for Indian Youth (with Beth Boyd, WFU Technology Consultant), Guilford Native Association, Greensboro, NC (Spring 2000)
  • Faculty Adviser, “Ties that Bind” Project, Eagle Butte, Cheyenne River Reservation, South Dakota: Volunteer Work at Billy Mills Childcare Center (Summer 2002)
  • Director, Lakota Language Revitalization Project, Cheyenne River Reservation, South Dakota (Summer 2003)
  • Community Projects with Guilford Native American Association and Native American Methodist Church, Greensboro, 2004 to present

Curriculum Vitae



Publications: Books

The Seven Rites of the Lakota, editor,(limited edition hand-printed book by artist Susanne Martin with texts by Harry Charger, 2010)

Ecstatic Transformations. Ecstasies and Visions in the Work of Mechthild of Magdeburg and TranspersonalPsychology (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 1995).

Maps of Flesh and Light. The Religious Experience of Medieval Women,edited, with an introduction and previously unpublished essay (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 1993).

Dear Sister. The Correspondence of Medieval Women, co-edited with Karen Cherewatuk, with an introduction and previously unpublished essay (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1993).

Agnes Blannbekin, Viennese Beguine: Life and Revelations, translated from the Latin with introduction, notes, and interpretive essay (Cambridge: D.S. Brewer, 2002).

Foundations of First Peoples’ Sovereignty (edited, with an introduction and co-authored chapter, Peter Lang, 2008).

Recent Articles (Select)

“To the Ice‑House‑‑With Apologies to Virginia Woolf: Conversations on Place in the Humanities,” with Judith Irwin-Mulcahy, Michele Gillespie, Emily Wakild,and Gillian Overing, Forum,10 (2010).

“Mysticism, Experience, and Pedagogy in Jewish-Christian Dialogue,” with Andrew Ettin. Studies in Christian-Jewish Relations, IV:1 (2009),1-13. http://escholarship.bc.edu/scjr/vol4/iss1/30/

“The Eastern Band of Cherokee: Cultural Revitalization and Demedicalized Death,” by Lisa Lefler and Ulrike Wiethaus. Ch. 11 of v. 1, Lucy Bregman, editor, Religion, Death and Dying. Santa Barbara CA: Praeger, 2010. 213-227

“Dine (Navaho) Narratives of Death and Bereavement,” by Lawrence Shorty and Ulrike Wiethaus. Ch. 9 of v. 3 Lucy Bregman, editor, Religion, Death and Dying.171-190.

“Spatial Metaphors, Textual Production, and Spirituality in the Works of Gertrud of Helfta”, in A Place to Believe In. Locating Medieval Landscapes. Edited by Clare A. Lees and Gillian R. Overing, 132-50. University Park, Pennsylvania: Penn State University Press, 2006.

“Christian Spirituality in the Medieval West (600-1450)”, in The Blackwell Companion to

Christian Spirituality. Edited by Arthur Holder, 106-22. Malden/Oxford/Victoria: Blackwell Publishing, 2005.

“Dionysius of Ryckel: Masculinity and Historical Memory” in Anchorites, Wombs and Tombs. Intersections of Gender and Enclosure in the Middle Ages. Edited by Liz Herbert McAvoy and Mari Hughes-Edwards, 116-31.Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 2005.


COURSES (2007-2011)

FYS: Vocation of Healing

FYS: Culture and Capitalism

REL 101: Introduction to Religion

REL 111: Introduction to First People’s Traditions

REL 265/HMN265/AES 285: Contemporary Issues in American Indian Culture and Religion

HON 310: The Other Middle Ages

REL 367: Mystics of the Church

REL 395: Seminar in Jewish-Christian Relations