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News from the JCR/MCR - Edward David, Junior Dean

Friday, May 20, 2016

Edward A. David is a DPhil Candidate (Christian Ethics) and Junior Dean at Blackfriars Hall, with a role at the Saïd Business School. He fills us in on his interesting background and current research interests.


How did you come to study at Blackfriars?
I took a winding road to Blackfriars. I left undergraduate studies with a degree in classical piano performance; had a three-year stint as a seminarian; taught Latin at a classical curriculum school; studied finance on the weekends; and worked in state education reform. Somehow I was able to do all of this before coming to Oxford (St. Cross) in 2013 to begin the MSt in Christian Ethics. Having enjoyed Oxford, whilst wanting more contact with a tight-knit theological community, I transferred to Blackfriars Hall in 2014 to pursue my DPhil.

What is the topic of your DPhil and what are you trying to achieve?
I am currently in my second year of the DPhil, working under Professor Nigel Biggar to develop a theory of Corporate Religious Liberty (CRL). CRL is a legal doctrine in the United States and it can be interpreted in a number of ways. Whatever its interpretation, the theory attempts to answer the question of whether, and to what extent, corporate entities should receive religious liberty protections under U.S. law. The corporate entities in question can range from churches, religious not-for-profits and even for-profit corporations with a religious identity. I hope to articulate a clear vision of CRL through reference to legal precedence and Christian ethical thought. In developing this theory, amongst other things, I hope to advise corporate entities as they live out their mission and values.

What particular expertise is on offer at Blackfriars that you find helpful?
My research, in particular, involves having familiarity with the religious and moral commitments of a wide swathe of individuals. I need to ask why these individuals object to certain laws and what accommodations the state could make in light of their beliefs. At Blackfriars, I encounter a variety of religious and moral commitments, and I learn about them from experts and colleagues who are well practised in conveying their beliefs without watering them down. As a Christian ethicist and amateur legal scholar, this is invaluable for me.

How would you define your role as Junior Dean of Blackfriars?
At the end of my first year in the DPhil, I was offered the opportunity to become the Junior Dean of Blackfriars. My remit involves looking out for the welfare of the Hall students at large, but of the overseas visiting students in particular. To this end, I live with the visiting students in Blackfriars’ accommodation in St John's Street, and physically keep my door open in the event that any student would like to chat. I’ve also worked with the JCR to help improve student life for the visiting students; and through collaborative efforts, we were able to secure a dedicated fund for visiting students so that they might receive provisions particular to them as international guests. With the fund thus far, we went on excursions to learn more about local history. In addition to their educational merit, such trips allow visiting students to bond with each other as they share a common experience away from home.

Tell us about your role at Saïd Business School and how it fits with your wider pursuit of theological interests?
During my MSt year, I applied (and was hired) to work as a consultant based at the Saïd Business School. My first project was the Power Shift Forum, led by the now-emeritus Professor Linda Scott. This forum, which for the past two years was sponsored by MasterCard, brings together high-level individuals from all sectors who are dedicated to promoting women’s economic empowerment. Whilst continuing this work, I picked up another major project — this time for Goldman Sachs. The role has evolved over the past two years and I am now a management consultant for the Goldman Sachs’s 10,000 Small Businesses UK programme, which provides a high-quality free-of-charge business education and network for owners and executives of high-growth small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). To date the programme has coached more than 1,000 SMEs in the UK alone. 90% of our participants create new jobs, and 88% continue to grow their revenues at impressive speed. My role involves managing the curriculum development and technology aspects of our blended-learning programme. I never thought that a theologian could do such work, but my experience in education reform and interest in corporate conscience drives me to learn more so that I can help serve others in this particular space.

What, if anything, has surprised you about life at Blackfriars?
Some of my first interactions with Blackfriars were with the Hall’s FABs, that is, the Female Administrators of Blackfriars. Sr Winnie, Lucy, Pauline, Barbara and Bess have been a constant source of support and joy. And in an otherwise very male-dominated environment (which is to be expected in a priory of Dominican friars!), these wonderful individuals have shown great maternal instinct not only to myself but also to all the students I’ve come across. Certainly Blackfriars wouldn’t be the same joyful place without their presence.

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