Rev. Dr. Teresa Smallwood named Dean and Vice President for Academic Affairs at ULS

May 8, 2024

The Rev. Dr. R. Guy Erwin, president of United Lutheran Seminary, is pleased to announce that Rev. Dr. Teresa L. Smallwood, The James Franklin Kelly and Hope Eyster Kelly Associate Professor of Public Theology, has been appointed Dean and Vice President for Academic Affairs, effective July 1, 2024. She succeeds the Rev. Dr. J. Jayakiran Sebastian, who has served as Dean and Vice President of Student Services since 2018.  Dr. Sebastian joined the faculty in 2007, coming from the United Theological College in Bangalore, India. He will be on sabbatical for the 2024-25 academic year and will continue in his faculty role as the H. George Anderson Chair and Professor of Mission and Cultures upon his return.

“First and foremost, I would like to thank Dean Sebastian for his many years of dedicated service and ministry,” said President Erwin. “His commitment to our students, guiding them along their seminary journey and ensuring their success as leaders in the church and world, has always been paramount among his many responsibilities. Dr. Sebastian’s sabbatical is well deserved, and we wish him the very best next year and look forward to his return in the fall of 2025.  I know you also join me in welcoming Dr. Smallwood as incoming dean and share my confidence in her vast experience as a scholar, advocate for social justice and director of the renewed Ph.D. degree in Public Theology and Witness.”

Prior to coming to ULS, Dr. Smallwood served as Postdoctoral Fellow and Associate Director of the Public Theology and Racial Justice Collaborative at Vanderbilt Divinity School. She taught at Lancaster Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania, Religious Freedom Center in Washington, D.C., Chicago Theological Seminary and Philander Smith College in Little Rock, AR. She began her legal career with Legal Services of the Southern Piedmont in Charlotte, NC, where she also worked as a staff attorney for the Children’s Law Center. In 1989, she served as an Assistant District Attorney until she commenced her private practice that spanned more than two decades.

“ULS is well-positioned to fulfill its mission with a President, Rev. Dr. R. Guy Erwin, whose business acumen is only surpassed by his visionary leadership and his demonstrated commitment to the wider church community,” said Dr. Smallwood. “Our Board of Trustees take seriously the charge to guide our institution with wisdom and prowess. Our stellar faculty is full of creative vibrancy and academic excellence and our administrators and staff have a proven record of meeting challenges, working with our vision in mind, caring for our most valued constituencies, and serving with distinction. Consequently, it is my great honor to have all their support and to join the administration as I embark upon this important journey. I value the mentorship of Dean Jayakiran Sebastian whose eminently good service as Dean inspires me to work hard and to move us ever onward in our values and commitments.”

Dr. Smallwood was licensed and ordained to public ministry while serving Mount Olive Missionary Baptist Church in Lewiston, NC. She has published extensively, presented numerous papers, lectures and has served as a panelist. Dr. Smallwood earned a Ph.D. from Chicago Theologica Seminary; J.D. from North Caroling Central University; M.Div. from Howard University; and a B.A. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her full bio is available here.