As a senior lecturer at St Augustine College in Johannesburg, Justin Sands admits he is ‘hooked on theology’ - this is where his passion lies and explains why he is now campus Deputy Head of Theology responsible for creating lecture modules across disciplines, and supervising postgraduate students.
This affable young man from the USA chose to accept a postdoctoral fellowship in South Africa in 2015.
“I felt that the best way to broaden my research and general outlook on life was to engage new traditions and concepts,” Sands explained in an interview with Theology Research News.
Sands is enthusiastic about living and working in South Africa – so much so that he now plans to immigrate so that he can live here full-time while maintaining his academic ties to Europe and his native United States.
The core of his theological beliefs
At the core of his theological interest is the relationship between theory and praxis - how our actions shape our beliefs and how our beliefs shape our actions.
“My second PhD explores the notion of temporality and personhood, concentrating on how one becomes a person through engagement with the world and with others. This becoming entails building beliefs, understandings, and relationships and histories,” explains Sands.
Born in North Carolina in 1983, Dr Justin Sands is a research fellow with a Y2 NRF rating and Lecturer whose research spans academic disciplines and addresses issues within and outside academia. He believes his best qualities are flexibility, curiosity, ambition, and initiative.
“After my doctoral defense in 2015, I accepted a postdoctoral fellowship in South Africa because I believed that by engaging new concepts and traditions, I could best broaden my research and general outlook on life.”
Bachelor of Arts, University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, USA
Master of Arts in Theology at Villanova University, USA
Master of Advanced Studies in Theology and Religion at KU Leuven, Belgium
Doctor of Theology (PhD, STD) at KU Leuven
Dr Sands is now pursuing a second PhD in philosophy at the University of Fort Hare and is a research fellow in theology at the University of the Free State. He is also an extraordinary research fellow in philosophy and social transformation at North-West University.
His position as a Research Fellow attached to the Faculty of Theology and Religion at the University of the Free State puts him in touch with their researchers and academic programs. His responsibility is to publish quality, international theological research articles.
While studying for his MA in Theology at Villanova University, Justin Sands met the man who would have the greatest influence on his career – Lieven Boeve, a Professor of Fundamental Theology at the Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies, KU Leuven, Belgium.
Dr Sands says he was deeply influenced by Boeve’s work, specifically how it engaged postmodern critique. It was for that reason that he decided to further his studies at KU Leuven.
“My theological interests have always coalesced with my philosophical ones, and I was extremely happy that KU Leuven could foster both.”
Empowerment: Located problem areas within my work environment and created transformative programs to address these issues. This included diversity panels, teaching and learning opportunities, and research groups to find access to funding or platforms for their work.
Leadership: Created international publication platforms for over 50 colleagues through three different projects. This involved conceiving of a program, soliciting contributors, keeping everyone on task, and addressing administrative hurdles.
Organization: International experience successfully working with various bureaucratic systems and bylaws.
Project Management: Co-Organized five major, international conferences and was lead organizer for over 20 international and local events. Sought and received funding for all projects, stayed under budget, and met all output goals.
Resourceful: Creative in finding lacunae within existing research and analysis, found sources that address this lack, and then successfully employed my research outputs to solve these problem areas.
Postdoctoral Fellow achievements
Since 2015, Dr Sands has:
· Published a monograph
· Written 17 peer reviewed articles
· Published two essays and five book reviews
· Been interviewed for TV in Brazil
· Invited to speak at 11 events
· Presented research at 17 conferences
During his career, Justin Sands has received funding worth more than R600,000, founded a research group, and participated in three international academic societies.