Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology

Alumni Voices

What's Next? We asked our alumni to share what has happened since graduation.

John Knutsen

My studies at DSPT focused on historical theology, particularly the early Church. That background has allowed me to add great depth and important context to my teaching over the years. My formation there continues to serve me well as I work with my bishop to establish a long-term infrastructure for the support of evangelization and adult faith formation efforts in one of the country’s fastest-growing dioceses.  DSPT provided me with the fundamental tools necessary to hand on the fullness of the Catholic faith to those entrusted to me.

– John Knutsen, MATh, Concentration in History

We asked John to tell us about a project he has been involved in at the Diocese and here's what he said:

The initial plan was to gather a few hundred key people from across the diocese and spend the day offering them tools that they could bring back to their parishes to boost evangelization efforts. My team is looking at ways to adapt the “Risk Jesus” model at the parish and regional level and encourage other diocesan departments to build the core approach into their large events however they can.  This was a day all about witness and testimony, about how following Christ in His Church will change your life if you take the risk, and judging from the enthusiastic response we’ve heard, the Holy Spirit was and continues to be very active through it.

Recognizing that evangelization is fundamentally about personal relationships, John wanted Risk Jesus to be a day of inspiration but also of challenge.  Taking a cue from Pope Francis – who in Evangelii Gaudium said “The Lord does not disappoint those who take this risk; whenever we take a step toward Jesus, we come to realize that he is already there, waiting for us with open arms” – John and his team decided on the name. Risk Jesus is a first-ever diocesan evangelization conference. 

Additionally, John's accomplishments include: 

  • Re-issue of Bought with a Price (Bishop Loverde’s 2006 pastoral letter on pornography)
  • Promotion of Go Forth With Hearts on Fire (Bishop’s 2013 pastoral letter on the New Evangelization)
  • Creation of a diocesan speakers bureau


Hannah Ragusa

I chose DSPT because nowhere else in the world could I study aesthetics from both a philosophical and a Catholic theological perspective. The interdisciplinary nature of the Concurrent MA Option allowed me to pursue my interest in the relationship among beauty, the arts, and salvation while also receiving a rigorous education in Thomistic philosophy.
I currently teach philosophy and theology in two very different environments – at a community college and a four-year Catholic liberal arts university. My degrees from DSPT set me apart from other prospective job candidates because of my ability to teach in more than one discipline. The education I received at DSPT prepared me to teach such courses as Introduction to Philosophy, Faith and Philosophical Inquiry, New Testament, and Introduction to Theology.

– Hannah Ragusa, CCMA, Concentration in Aesthetics

Caleb Brown with his wife

I stumbled across DSPT after six years of wandering through the wilderness of Hollywood. I found myself wrestling with deeper questions about human cognition, the nature of culture, how these two things relate to eternal life, and how an understanding of all three could help inform media ecology.
The Religion and the Arts concentration at DSPT exceeded my expectations and provided an ideal environment to synthesize what at times felt like contrary impulses: to tell provocative stories and abide within the safety of orthodoxy.
Currently, I’m the Director of Story Analysis for a Bay Area entertainment company. I manage writers through screenplay development. DSPT equipped me with an understanding of the creative process that distinguishes me from my peers – particularly, the belief that artistic inspiration comes from engaging with an objective world that is full of form and, therefore, full of mind. In trying to diagnose story problems, I use Aristotle’s logic and Aquinas’ moral theology almost every day.

– Caleb Brown, CCMA, Concentration in Religion and the Arts

Since graduating, I have been studying at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross in Rome, Italy. I am pursuing a Pontifical Licentiate in Canon Law with the long term goals to work in a tribunal in the United States, and to teach Canon Law.
My thorough study of philosophy and theology at DSPT has more than prepared me for my graduate studies in Europe. The European educational model relies on the memorization of facts from scholarly manuals rather than the systematic application of principles which was central to my studies at DSPT.
My fellow students here in Rome respect my ability to explain contentious points, and my professors admire and encourage my academic strengths. I would not be able to claim this proficiency were it not for my DSPT education.

– Tom Sundaram, CCMA, Concentration in Systematic and Philosophical Theology

Unlike many prominent schools, DSPT offers a robust historical education. This education provides a narrative of the history of ideas, as well as the context in which the perennial thoughts of prominent thinkers can be situated. Socrates is no longer to be understood as a rationalist absent devotion to the Greek deities, nor Descartes as unaffected by Scholastic categories. These and other greats truly fashioned a Republic of Letters through collectively seeking answers to profound and time-honored questions, e.g., How do the one and many relate?, What is the happy life?, What are the limitations and purposes of knowledge?
Moreover, DSPT does not hesitate to seriously engage competing non-Catholic worldviews in and outside the classroom. Here, a virtue rarely seen in our contemporary era is demonstrated: fostering sincere dialogue in an age of diversity, while retaining genuine Catholic integrity. These and many other strengths of DSPT — such as hosting regular forums for academic conferencing and a close-knit and caring community of scholars — laid the foundation for me to successfully continue graduate studies in philosophy of religion at Yale University, from whence I recently graduated with my Master of Arts in Religion.

– Scott Fennema, MAPH; MAR, Yale University

Michele Johnson

I am a theology teacher at St. Joseph Notre Dame High School in Alameda. I draw on the wisdom of DSPT professors in my work: I use what I learned from Sr. Barbara Green, OP when I teach the Old Testament. I drew on the teachings of Fr. Michael Morris, OP as I designed a course entitled Religious Themes in Film and Literature. My greatest joy is to teach Christian morality. I guide students to explore the questions that are the most fundamental to who they are. I invited two Dominican friars to my class to speak about living the virtue of chastity from a religious perspective. I knew these studies were fruitful when I heard from the cheer leading coach that the girls were talking about the class and said, 'Hey, they were right!' That is my Dominican education at work.

 – Michele Johnson, MA Theology

Ed Hopfner

I have been privileged to work in support of marriage, first in the Diocese of Oakland and currently for the Archdiocese of San Francisco. The education I received at DSPT gave me the tools I need to invigorate our marriage preparation programs and to strengthen our married couples as they embrace the Church teaching on marriage, human sexuality, and family life.

Ed Hopfner, Director of Marriage and Family Life, Archdiocese of San Francisco, DSPT Alumnus

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