Get to Know Christian Brady, Inaugural Dean of the Lewis Honors College

Thursday, September 7, 2017

This semester, the head of one of the most highly regarded honors programs in the country joined the UK family as the inaugural dean of the UK Lewis Honors College. Christian Brady for 10 years — from 2006 to 2016 — served as dean of the Schreyer Honors College at Penn State University.  Previously, he directed the honors program at Tulane University.

In Dean Brady, we have someone acknowledged throughout the country as a leader in honors education, who at the same time, has maintained an active career as a scholar in his field. Our students and staff are excited about the potential of growing this program into one of the leading Honors Colleges in the country under his leadership. The Lewis Honors College, I’m confident, will quickly become one of the distinctive programs at UK, one that helps prepare students for what President Capilouto often refers to as lives of meaning and purpose.

Dean Brady took the time to answer a few questions, as a way to introduce himself to the UK family. Join me in welcoming him.


What drew you to the University of Kentucky and the Lewis Honors College? First and foremost, the commitment of the leadership to build one of the greatest honors colleges in the nation. President Capilouto and Provost Tracy are clearly behind this endeavor and we have the transformative support of Tom and Jan Lewis. Without such support, there would be little hope of success.

A close second, however, is the tremendous faculty and the comprehensive nature of the University of Kentucky. I always point out to prospective students that an honors program or college is only as good as the university that it is a part of and the Lewis Honors College is a part of one of the best research universities in the nation. It was clear to me early on that the faculty and academic administrators are leaders in their fields and committed to their students. This is a strong foundation upon which we can build a great honors college.


What are you most excited about for the fall semester? The students moving back! It is always great to have students here and involved. In fact, that is one of the reasons I love having our offices right within the Honors Quad (“HQ,” as I call it) of Lewis, Donovan, Johnson, and Haggin Halls. They are the reason we are creating and developing these programs; it is all for their benefit.

In terms of the College, I am particularly excited about developing our Center for Personal Development. This will be unique among Honors Colleges, offering advisors who will not only provide guidance to our students in terms of career development (preparing for internships, interviews, and so on), but will begin working with our students from the very moment of their admissions to help them better understand themselves, their passions, and from that will flow their life-long goals and career. Couple that with our new Lewis Honors faculty dedicated to teaching the Honors Foundation course along with the hundreds of UK faculty teaching honors sections and leading research within their disciplines, and we will be providing a world class honors experience that I expect will become a model and standard for other universities. 


What is it like to have your office in Lewis Hall? What a wonderful facility we have been blessed with! In addition to the 346 beds in the residence portion of Lewis Hall, we have over 20,000 ft2 of office and classroom space, including a beautiful lounge area and a café, across the sidewalk from The 90, and a short walk from Jacobs Science Center and across the street from the Library. I love the fact the students are right here, living in and next to our offices and classrooms, and that we are able to have our career and academic advisors and many of our faculty all in one central location. It truly is our HQ!


So far, where is your favorite place on campus? Aside from Lewis Hall? I have to say, it is the campus as a whole. I know that President Capilouto and the UK community have been working hard these last 6 years to transform the UK campus and it shows. The campus is beautiful and well-maintained and a pleasure to walk through every day. This is a tremendous community in a beautiful location, what more could I ask for? 


What is your academic background? I am particularly interested in how people read and interpret the Bible throughout all ages and in all cultures. My primary area of research is in biblical interpretation, specifically rabbinic interpretation of the Bible within Targumic literature. A “Targum” refers to the Jewish Aramaic rendering of the Hebrew Bible; it is a unique sort of translation. A Targum renders into Aramaic every word of the biblical text in its proper order, but often will add additional material, woven seamlessly into the newly formed text. My particular area of interest is how this additional material transforms the meaning of the biblical text in question.

I have written extensively on Targum Lamentations, including my doctoral thesis, “Targum Lamentations’ Reading of the Book of Lamentations” and the book The Rabbinic Targum of Lamentations: Vindicating God. I have recently published a book on Targum Ruth, The Proselyte and the Prophet: Character Development in Targum Ruth. Both of these works are part of a larger interest in the Targumim of the Megilloth.

The basis of rabbinic exegesis, such as the Targumim and midrashim, is of course the biblical text itself. I continue work and research in biblical studies while most of my publications are in the area of rabbinic literature. Additional areas of research include the Dead Sea Scrolls and the so-called “historical Jesus.”

My most recent work is on “theodicy,” the question of divine justice and mercy. My academic interest in the area began with my doctoral research on the Book of Lamentations and examining Jewish and Christian responses to loss and catastrophe. This book project is tentatively titled, Beautiful and Terrible Things: A Biblical Theology of Suffering and Grace

My academic career began not only with teaching but administrative duties as well. I was the director of Jewish Studies for 6 years at Tulane University prior to becoming the director of the Tulane Honors Program. From 2006-16 I was the Dean of the Schreyer Honors College at Penn State. This is not the trajectory that most faculty follow, going directly into administration, but I have enjoyed it immensely and I believe that my 14 years in honors education has prepared me well to help UK build the Lewis Honors College.