Sarah Pessin


Dr. Sarah Pessin is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Denver (DU) where she also serves as Interfaith Chair. The recipient of an ACE Fellowship for 2022-2023, Sarah is excited for her new role as Director of Spiritual Life (Jan. 2024), an inaugural role with Student Affairs and Inclusive Excellence.

Sarah is a teacher-scholar dedicated to civic engagement, justice and equity, hope and responsibility, diversity and inclusion, religious inclusivity, interdisciplinary innovation, curricular-meets-co-curricular creativity, and strengthening higher ed structures of shared governance.

She has served as the Director of the Center for Judaic Studies from 2008-2019 and helped create the campus’ Holocaust Memorial Social Action Site. She has also held the Everding Distinguished Lectureship from Iliff School of Theology and St. John’s Cathedral (2016), and has served as the Team Leader for DU’s Religious Inclusivity Initiative. After serving as the Chair of the Senate’s Academic Planning Committee for three years, she served as the Faculty Senate President during COVID (2020-2022). She is also Senior Editor with the St Andrews Encyclopaedia of Theology project—an online series designed to bring greater religious literacy to a wide public readership.

In her interdisciplinary research on meaning-making, Sarah engages intertwined questions about memory, hope, religion, race, receptivity, ethics, pluralism, paradox, embodiment, pardon, and the “politics of responsibility.” She is interested in the intersection of affect, trauma, embodiment, imagination, and lived human experience in relation to socio-political life. Focused on the phenomenology of lived experience in particular relation to inter-human responsivity and response, her work aims to better understand and develop models of civic engagement that include living uncomfortably with real difference while working to challenge and dismantle structural inequities. She is also a collage artist and poet who enjoys performing stand-up comedy and writing about politics and hope on

In addition to new courses on coexistence, interfaith civics, and the good life, she is working on book projects on the philosophy of Emmanuel Levinas, and civic responsibility. She has published over 100 academic articles and public essays, and over 250 academic presentations, and is the author of a book on receptivity and desire in Greco-Islamo-Jewish philosophy (Ibn Gabirol’s Theology of Desire, Cambridge University Press, 2013) and the editor of the “Jewish Tradition” section of a multicultural reader that sets out to bring greater religious inclusivity to academic histories of philosophy and religions (Medieval Philosophy: A Multicultural Reader, Bloomsbury Academic, 2019).

She has also authored chapters for key reference works in her fields, including the Oxford Handbook of Jewish Philosophy, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, the Cambridge History of Jewish Philosophy, the Cambridge History of Medieval Philosophy, the Cambridge Companion to Medieval Jewish Philosophy, and the Routledge Companion to Islamic Philosophy.

She holds a PhD in Philosophy from The Ohio State University, and an MA in Philosophy from Columbia University. She did her undergraduate work at Stern College of Yeshiva University.

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