The University of Dallas has seen growth in many ways over the last few years, including expanding educational opportunities. UD’s most recent achievement is the hire of conservative author Dr. Ryan Anderson as the inaugural St. John Paul II Social Thought Fellow.
Anderson is currently the William E. Simon senior research fellow in American principles and public policy at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank based in Washington, D.C. that mostly deals with public policy. He received his doctoral degree in political philosophy from Notre Dame, and many of his writings have been published in well-known newspapers such as The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal. Anderson was also cited in the Supreme Court “United States v. Windsor” case, in which Justice Samuel Alito referenced his work to strike down part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act.
Anderson’s influence stretches further than just public policy. He has written numerous books on controversial social issues, such as the transgender movement. His book “When Harry Became Sally: Responding to the Transgender Movement” raises concerns about the transgender movement in ways that cut against much of the prevailing cultural understanding.
“Gender dysphoria is a serious mental health issue,” Anderson wrote, reinforcing his claim that transgenderism is not treated as a serious science.
He has also written books on marriage, religious liberty and antidiscrimination debates.
“What I enjoy about this work is the opportunity to think critically about important public policy questions facing our nation, and then to present the results of that thinking in ways that will be accessible and resonate with Americans,” Anderson wrote in an email.
During his two-year fellowship with UD, Anderson will teach four classes, starting this May-term, and will present lectures and an annual conference, Provost Dr. Jonathan Sanford said. Anderson is keeping his position with the Heritage Foundation in D.C. but will come to UD to teach these courses in the off-terms.
Anderson wrote that he was drawn to UD by his interactions with UD graduates who interned or worked at the Heritage Foundation.
“I know firsthand what a world-class education and Catholic formation UD provides,” Anderson wrote. “A campus that is faithful and intellectually serious is a wonderful place to spend time teaching.”
At UD, Anderson wrote that he hopes to “help UD students think more critically about the role that they can play in the future of the Church and the future of this nation.” He added that he is most looking forward to “teach[ing] top-notch students who want to make a difference.”
Anderson’s first lecture will be held on campus on March 25 and is titled “Catholic Thought and the Challenges of our Time.”
Sanford said that he spearheaded this program to expand Catholic social teaching at UD. The teaching fellowship began on Feb. 1 with the hire of Anderson as an adjunct professor in the Politics Department. Sanford raised the funds to support the teaching fellowship from new donors, including local businessman Rob Hays, according to a Feb. 5 UD press release.
In the future, the administration is hoping to make UD a center for Catholic social teaching that would offer an interdisciplinary masters degree and graduate-level certificate program. Three years ago, Sanford built a committee to plan this program at the request of some members of the Board of Trustees. The plan is currently waiting on funding.
“This program would enable its graduates to exercise greater responsibility in their formation in Catholic social teaching,” Sanford said.
“The St. John Paul II Teaching Fellowship is a good in and of itself,” Sanford said. “[It is] also a beginning for working towards the formation of a center through giving Catholic social teaching greater exposure and providing fundraising opportunities.”
“My main concern is how we can be of better service to the culture and to the Church,” Sanford said. As of a year ago, no other Catholic college offered this type of focused program.
Sanford said he is also encouraging deans to explore opportunities to create similar teaching fellowships in other departments as well.
Anderson’s outspoken political and social views have raised concerns in the UD community.
“I think he’s entitled to his opinion but not entitled to pressing it upon others,” said freshman Alexandra Triche. “It’s wrong to judge others before you know their situation.”
Another freshman, Andrea Vasquez, was more positive.
“He’s a really eloquent speaker and is bringing attention to controversial issues that are important to discuss in today’s society,” Vasquez said. “Regardless of one’s views of specific social issues, Dr. Ryan Anderson’s writing offers crucial insight to the Catholic social teaching that I believe UD aims to cultivate through its curriculum, something I think all students and staff can appreciate.”
When asked about the hiring process and any potential controversy surrounding Anderson, Sanford said that this concern should not prevent the greater good that can come from facing important social issues.
“UD does not avoid controversial topics, and we want to model for our students respectful and civil approaches for addressing matters of importance,” Sanford said.
“Dr. Anderson deals in matters of dispute, but he does so in a very civil manner,” Sanford added.