Dr Michael Oliver receives Award for Excellence

Dr Michael Oliver Receives Award for Excellence


The Faculty is glad to announce that Dr Michael Oliver, Departmental Lecturer in Modern Theology, has received the Award for Excellence from the Humanities Division of the University of Oxford. Under the University’s Reward and Recognition Scheme, the Award for Excellence recognizes consistent demonstration of exceptional performance significantly above that which might be reasonably expected at one’s current grade.


Dr Oliver took up his post in the Faculty of Theology and Religion in October 2017 and stepped into the gap in the Modern Theology subject area left by two senior post-holders on research sabbaticals and one senior post-holder taking on the role of Faculty Chair. One of the most significant ways Dr Oliver demonstrated exceptional performance significantly above his grade was his leadership in post-graduate teaching, supervision, and administration of course of study. He significantly redesigned and updated the Post-graduate Taught Seminar in Modern Theology (a mandatory two-term weekly seminar for all first year Masters students), including making more explicit the way in which content and pedagogical approach achieved the aims of this seminar. Dr Oliver took on all incoming post-graduate taught students in 2017-2018, supervising seven in total (three MSt and four MPhil students). In addition to serving on the Board of Examiners for MSt and MPhil in Theology and setting all three examination papers in Modern Theology for 2018 and 2019, he represented the area on the Graduate Studies Committee and actively contributed to Faculty decisions concerning post-graduate study. He has also actively contributed to fostering doctoral student culture: meeting with DPhil students about research interests, early-career planning, professional development, and job searches; representing Oxford at the Post-Graduate Study Day at the University of Nottingham and chairing a paper session in support of Oxford post-graduate student paper presentations; and leading a post-graduate workshop on ‘Applying to DPhil/PhD programs’ in collaboration with Dr Pui Ip, Director of the Graduate Professional Development initiative. Dr Oliver has also taken over leadership duties as Managing Editor of the annual alumni magazine, The Oxford Theologian.


Dr Oliver likewise significantly contributed to undergraduate study at the Faculty of Theology and Religion by designing, setting, and teaching an inaugural paper, 3221 Liberation Theology and Its Legacy. Collaborating with Faculty librarian Dr Hilla Wait, this was one of the first papers in the Faculty of Theology and Religion to implement the newly launched Oxford Reading Lists Online (ORLO) system. Beyond teaching responsibilities for St. Benet’s students who are taking papers related to Modern Theology, he has regularly picked up additional teaching for other colleges, including visiting students from the U.S. in programs with Worcester and Exeter colleges, designing and teaching custom papers (e.g. ‘Existentialism and Theology’ and ‘Theology and Contemporary Culture’). He worked collaboratively with Dr Darren Sarisky—last year’s recipient of the Teaching Excellence Award—on lectures for a new paper, 2204 Key Themes in Systematic Theology, in order to introduce more engagement with liberation theologies, women’s and gender studies, and critical race theories. Dr Oliver consistently went above and beyond his contracted work for the Department of Continuing Education by serving on the Board of Examiners for the BTh suite and offering weekly public classes which include “Deconstruction and Christian Theology” and “Justifying Religion? Contemporary Christianity and Social Justice.”


Dr Oliver is also advancing research in his field, with: a forthcoming article (Spring 2019) in peer-reviewed journal (Journal for Cultural and Religious Theory); revised doctoral thesis into forthcoming monograph with an academic press (Fortress Academic/Lexington Books, 2019); invitation to provide entries in area of expertise for revised edition of Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church; and presentations at academic conferences. He has also collaborated with fellow faculty members, including: chairing a session at Dr. Dafydd Daniel’s TORCH-funded conference on Who Chooses Who We Are? Tensions in Identity; paper presentation in Patristics and Modern Theology seminar led by Prof. Graham Ward; and invited respondent for Dr Darren Sarisky’s book launch (Theologies of Retrieval) and for visiting South African novelist Johann Roussow’s presentation on “Post-Apartheid South Africa and the Pursuit of Justice and Reconciliation.” He has been invited to speak about his research interests in the wider Oxford community, including to MTh students by Dr Eleanor McLaughlin and about liberation theologies for Misa Capesina Nicaraguan Folk Mass at Blackfriars by the Oxford León Association and Trust.


The Faculty offers its congratulations to Dr Oliver for his hard work and achievements.