Dr. Nancy J. Shaffer

Associate Professor

Department of Culture, Media, and Performance


Dr. Nancy Shaffer has been a professor of philosophy at PennWest California since fall 2004. She has a Ph.D. in philosophy of religion from Yale University, an M. Phil. from Yale University, an M.A. from Yale University and a B.A. in philosophy from Wheaton College. She was also a fellow at Princeton University in 2003-2004. Her primary research interests include the work of Nicholas of Cusa, philosophy of religion and ethics. Her non-philosophical interests include kayaking and environmentalism.  In recent years, she has done research on the York Minster in York, England, studied with the pope's principal secretary in Rome, and published a book called "Becoming God: The Doctrine of Theosis in Nicholas of Cusa." 

She was pleased to present a paper titled "The Burning Man Festival: Religion Without Doctrine" at the 2008 Joint Conference of the National Popular Culture and American Culture Associations, March 19-22, San Francisco, Calif. The paper was based on her experiences at the Burning Man Festival. Along with several other professors, she founded the Burning Man Learning Community. Ten students and five faculty members from various parts of the University attended the event. Students have formed a club and continue to meet with the goal of sharing the experience and the artwork with the University as a whole.
Dr. Shaffer received a number of honors this past year. She received both an internal and external Faculty Professional Development Committee grant in support of her summer Latin study project. She was invited by the pope's principal Latinist to study Latin in Rome in summer 2008. It was a very rewarding summer and formed a good basis for her future writing projects.
She continues to be a member of a number of professional organizations, including the American Philosophical Association, the American Academy of Religion, the Renaissance Society of America and the American Cusanus Society. Due to her interest in Burning Man, she recently joined the American Culture Association. She continues to contribute her time and money in support of Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.


  • Philosophy of Religion
  • Medieval Philosophy
  • World Religions
  • Phenomenology and Existentialism
  • Ethics
  • Perspectives in Philosophy

Selected Research Projects

  • Burning Man - A pilot project in alternative learning that tested PennWest California's ability to expand student learning beyond the classroom and make coursework meaningful. Five faculty members, 10 students and two alumni traveled to the Black Rock desert in Nevada. The experiment involved almost 50,000 people and challenged them to express themselves and rely on themselves to a degree not normally encountered in day-to-day life.
  • Nicholas of Cusa's understanding of nature . Journal of Theological Studies, Oxford University Press (Vol. 56, October 2005)

Selected Publications

  • "Becoming God: Theosis in the Doctrine of Nicholas of Cusa" (The Catholic University of America Press, March 2007)
  • Nancy Hudson and Frank Tobin, "A Translation and Commentary on Nicholas of Cusa's Sermon on the Lord's Prayer," in Peter Casarella, ed., Nicholas Cusanus: The Legacy of Learned Ignorance (The Catholic University of America Press, 2006)
  • "Philosophy: Medieval Era" The Encyclopedia of religion and Nature, edited by Bron Taylor and J. Kaplan (London and New York: Continuum International Publishers; 2005)
  • B.A.: Philosophy, Wheaton College
  • M.A. Yale University
  • M.Phil.: Yale University
  • Ph.D. Philosophy of Religion, Yale University

Email: Shaffer_N@pennwest.edu

Phone: 724-938-4429

Office: Manderino Library Room 450E