Three Scholars Join Union Theological Seminary and the Center for Earth Ethics

Categories: Press Releases

Contact: Joey Longley, jlongley@uts.columbia.edu, 419-953-5495

Three Scholars Join Union Theological Seminary and the Center for Earth Ethics

Joining the ranks of one of the most distinguished faculties in theological education, Nobel Laureate Leymah Gbowee will join Union Theological Seminary as a Distinguished Scholar-Activist Fellow and Mindahi Crescencio Bastida Muñoz and Geraldine Ann Patrick Encina will join the Center for Earth Ethics as Scholars-in-Residence. These three scholars join Suzan Johnson Cook, Third United States Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom under President Barack Obama, who has already been announced as a Distinguished Scholar-Activist Fellow.

“I am thrilled to welcome these three distinguished scholars to Union Theological Seminary,” said Union Theological Seminary President Serene Jones. “I am confident that each of them will bring the depth of their experiences and scholarship to their work here at Union, while also finding time to rest and work on long-term projects while on our campus.”

Gbowee will be in residence at Union until the end of 2017 and Bastida Muñoz and Patrick Encina will be in residence for the 2015-2016 academic year. All will interact with students and participate in public events throughout their time at Union.

“The future of eco-theology at Union is bright, as we have Mindahi Crescencio Bastida Muñoz and Geraldine Ann Patrick Encina joining us as scholars-in-residence this year,” said Center for Earth Ethics Director Karenna Gore. “Both of these scholars will bring valuable perspectives to the larger climate movement.”

Below you will find short biographies of all three scholars. Please be in touch if you would like to connect with any of the scholars for press opportunities.


2011 Nobel Peace Laureate Leymah Gbowee is a Liberian peace activist, trained social worker and women’s rights advocate. She is Founder and current President of the Gbowee Peace Foundation Africa. She also founded the Liberia Reconciliation Initiative and Co-Founder and former Executive Director of Women Peace and Security Network Africa (WIPSEN-A). She is also a founding member and former Liberia Coordinator of Women in Peacebuilding Network/West Africa Network for Peacebuilding (WIPNET/WANEP). Leymah currently serves as a member of the High-Level Task Force for the International Conference on Population and Development. She is a board member of the Federation of Liberian Youth. Leymah’s leadership of the Women of Liberia Mass Action for Peace – which brought together Christian and Muslim women in a nonviolent movement that played a pivotal role in ending Liberia’s civil war in 2003 – is chronicled in her memoir, Mighty Be Our Powers, and in the documentary, Pray the Devil Back to Hell. In addition, Gbowee is the Newsweek Daily Beast’s Africa columnist. She serves on the Board of Directors of the Nobel Women’s Initiative, Gbowee Peace Foundation and the PeaceJam Foundation, and she is a member of the African Women Leaders Network for Reproductive Health and Family Planning. She holds a M.A. in Conflict Transformation from Eastern Mennonite University (Harrisonburg, VA), and a Doctor of Laws (LLD) honoris causa from Rhodes University in South Africa and University of Alberta in Canada. Leymah was honored as a flag-bearer for the opening ceremony of the 2012 Olympic Games in London. She is based in Monrovia, Liberia and has six children.

Mindahi Crescencio Bastida Muñoz is the General Coordinator of the Otomi-Hñahñu Regional Council in Mexico, a caretaker of the philosophy and traditions of the Otomi people, and has been an Otomi Ritual Ceremony Officer since 1988. Born in Tultepec, Mexico, he holds a doctorate of rural development from the Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana and is the President of the Mexico Council of Sustainable Development. Bastida Muñoz is a member of the steering committee of the Indigenous Peoples’ Biocultural Climate Change Assessment Initiative, and has served as a delegate to several commissions and summits on indigenous rights and the environment. He has written extensively on the relationship between the State and Indigenous Peoples, intercultural education, collective intellectual property rights and associated traditional knowledge, among other topics. He will serve as a Scholar-in-Residence at the Center for Earth Ethics at Union Theological Seminary.

Geraldine Ann Patrick Encina is a member of the Otomi-Hñahñu Regional Council in Mexico, and a professor of ethnoecology. Born to Chilean parents of Celtic and Mapuche origins, Patrick Encina received her doctorate in ethnoecology and social sciences from El Colegio Mexiquense, A. C. in 2007; she also holds a bachelor’s degree in biological sciences. She has been a visiting professor in Honduras and Argentina, and held faculty positions at several Mexican universities. Her research focuses on archaeoastronomy and cultural astronomy, particularly on ancestral and current ways of measuring and conceiving time and natural cycles in Mesoamerica, especially among Maya, Nahua and Otomian cultures. She will serve as a Scholar-in-Residence at the Center for Earth Ethics at Union Theological Seminary.