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Wanda Deifelt

Professor of religion

First year teaching at Luther: 2004

Personal geography: Grew up in a German-speaking village in southern Brazil and learned German, Portuguese, Spanish, English, Latin, Greek, and Hebrew--in that order.

Crossing the continental divide: Big fan of Skype and instant messaging for keeping in touch with family in Brazil.

Wanda's favorite part of teaching is talking with students--in what she calls her Brazilian-South Dakotan accent. (She studied English in Sioux Falls prior to starting graduate study at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary at Northwestern University.)

"When students tell their stories, I learn how much history they bring to their studies," she says, adding that her teaching of traditional theology and Lutheranism explores their cultural context with human rights issues over time.

"It's important for students to recognize their own experience with the stuff we address academically--issues of economic disparity, family violence, racism, classism, sexism--all the things that shape our search for the meaning of life and the improvement of quality of life."

A member of the board directing the new women's and gender studies major at Luther, Wanda regularly partners with colleagues in other fields to share her research interest--embodied theology, or how Christianity should address physical issues like violence and hunger. One course, in conjunction with a dance professor, explores the philosophy and theology of human bodies through movement.

Wanda also teaches Paideia II courses in Brazil, using every experience to analyze culture. "Even a day off at the beach might spark a discussion of the reality of sex tourism, safety issues, and children's rights," she explains. "I get to teach the coolest classes!"