Melanie Harris and Austin Rivera join Wake Divinity faculty

The Wake Forest University School of Divinity will welcome two new faculty-scholars on July 1. Melanie L. Harris will join as professor of Religion, Black Feminist Studies and Womanist Theology and director of the Food, Health and Ecological Well-Being Program. She is jointly appointed with the Wake Forest University African American Studies program. Charles “Austin” Rivera will join as assistant professor of Church History.

Melanie Harris

Headshot of Wake Forest faculty member Melanie L. Harris

Melanie L. Harris

Harris earned her doctorate from Union Theological Seminary with a focus on Christian social ethics. Most recently, she served as associate dean of diversity, equity and inclusion at Texas Christian University (TCU) and professor of religion and ethics. A graduate of the Harvard Leadership Program, Harris is a former American Council of Education Fellow and founding director of the TCU African American and Africana Studies program. Harris’s research and scholarship critically examine intersections between race, religion, gender and environmental ethics.

“The School of Divinity is incredibly fortunate to hire a scholar of Harris’s caliber,” said Fred Bahnson, the outgoing founding director of the Wake Forest Food, Health, and Ecological Well-Being Program. “The program will benefit not only from her scholarship but also from her ability to build capacity among the program’s robust network of faith leaders and non-profit leaders.”

Charles “Austin” Rivera

Headshot of Wake Forest Divinity faculty member Austin Rivera

Charles Austin Rivera

Rivera, a historical theologian and Church historian, earned his doctorate in religious studies from Yale University, focusing on ancient Christianity. He most recently served as visiting assistant professor of religion at Huntingdon College in Alabama. Rivera’s research focuses on the global story of the Church and works to correct Western-centric views that traditionally shaped the teaching of its history. His scholarship integrates perspectives from historical and systematic theology, literary criticism, postcolonial theory and non-European Christianity.

“Dr. Rivera has an extraordinary ability not only to break down complex historical events and theological concepts in a way people can easily grasp but also to motivate them to further engage with history for the contemporary world,” said Kevin Jung, associate dean of academic affairs and chair of the church history search committee. “His deep knowledge of diverse Christian traditions in the West and East will help our students appreciate the fecundity of what Christianity can still offer to people faced with many existential problems today.”

Visit the School of Divinity website to learn more.