The Rev. Dr. Kirsi Stjerna, Professor of Reformation Church History and Director of the Institute for Luther Studies at Gettysburg Seminary, has received international recognition by Helsinki University, which recently appointed her as a Docent.
Stjerna’s dual institutional status will allow her to provide instruction at Helsinki University and continue to supervise and examine Master’s theses and doctoral dissertations for university students. She also holds dual status as an ordained Lutheran pastor in both the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the Church of Finland. She officially became a U.S. citizen in 2013.
In the context of European universities, a docent is a lifelong appointment analogous to an associate professorship. “Being a citizen of two worlds, as a European and as a new U.S. citizen,” said Stjerna, “I have benefitted from first-class theological education on both continents. For many reasons, the title of docent at the University of Helsinki, my alma mater, is not only an enormous privilege, but also a chance to give back a little. I look forward to teaching and continuing international collaborating in the broad spectrum of theological/historical and gender studies.”
Helsinki University Chancellor, Thomas Wilhelmsson, signed the appointment for Stjerna February 11, 2014, upon the recommendation of the university’s Faculty of Theology. This followed an extensive review of Stjerna’s academic research, publications, teaching skills and pedagogical vision.
Gettysburg Seminary welcomed this news as an enhancement of Gettysburg’s increasing global connections. “Dr. Stjerna’s international status brings recognition to Gettysburg Seminary as well as to her scholarship” said President Michael L. Cooper-White. “We are indeed blessed to have this global Lutheran historian and theologian on our faculty. Our students’ experience and this entire institution will be enriched as a result of her occasional deployment to her native Finland, which has recognized her with this prestigious faculty appointment.”
Stjerna is a native of Finland and came to Gettysburg via Rome, Boston, Cape Cod, and Oak Park, Ill. Before joining the Gettysburg Seminary faculty in 2000, she served as the Associate Director for Theological Education of the ELCA and as a free-lance writer and translator and as an adjunct instructor in religious studies. She has two school-age children and two grown stepsons.
As the director of Gettysburg Seminary's Institute for Luther Studies, Stjerna is in ongoing conversations with an international network of Luther and Reformations scholars, and hosts esteemed scholars in the field at the annual Fall Academy which includes the Luther Colloquy to present from their current research. Stjerna also promotes and supports the student exchange Gettysburg Seminary has with the University of Helsinki. She concluded, “This appointment only enhances the opportunities to build more global Gettysburg connections. I must say, having the 'right to teach' in Finland is quite exciting!”