Profiles in Giving Back: Dr. Monica A. Coleman


Monica A. Coleman, MN ’00 CEF ’09, is a self-described “big nerd.”

As a high school student, Dr. Coleman got interested in African-American literary criticism while working at the local library. With eyes set on Wall Street, the Ann Arbor native set off to Harvard and Radcliffe Colleges with intentions of studying math and economics. But a short time into her first semester freshman year, Dr. Coleman sat in on an informal lunch with Dr. Henry Louis Gates and was inspired to shift her focus to Afro-American Studies.

“I said to myself, ‘Really, I can major in this?’” Dr. Coleman remembers. “I didn’t realize you could major in something that you actually like.”

Dr. Coleman went on to receive her M.Div. and certificate in the study of religion, gender and sexuality from Vanderbilt Divinity School and her Ph.D. in philosophy of religion and theology from Claremont Graduate University.

“There’s no such thing as having too much funding as a doctoral student,” says Dr. Coleman, who received the Woodrow Wilson Foundation’s Andrew W. Mellon Fellowship in Humanistic Studies in 2000. “And what made having fellowship funding so huge for me was getting to go to a school that I would not have been able to choose without it.”

Dr. Coleman is currently an associate professor of constructive theology and African American religions at the Claremont School of Theology. She is the Director of Process and Faith, former Co-chair of the Black Theology Group, and serves on the standing committee for Persons with Disabilities in the Profession at the American Academy of Religion.  Her research covers process theology, African traditional religions, black and womanist theologies, religious pluralism, and mental health and theology.

A scholar, ordained minister, author, and activist, Dr. Coleman is committed to connecting faith and social justice. She has authored or edited five books and many articles and essays.  Currently, she is working on a memoir project about faith and mental health, as well as a project that offers theories for how people navigate the differences that come from identifying as more than one religion. “My ultimate goal,” she says, “is to write the kind of books that moved me and be the kind of teacher that inspired me.”

Dr. Coleman gave her first two gifts to the Woodrow Wilson Foundation in 2014.

“I want to give back to the people who gave to me,” says Dr. Coleman. “Whatever little bit I have to contribute to them can then go on and continue to help other people.”


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