Matthew Bersagel Braley
Bersagel Braley
Associate Professor
Director, Honors Program
Ethics, Culture, and Society
MRC 523


Prior to coming to Viterbo, Bersagel Braley completed a B.A. in Africana Studies and English at Luther College, a master’s degree in religion and theology from United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities, and a Ph.D. in Religion (Ethics and Society) and a Certificate in Human Rights from Emory University. His earlier research focused on the intersection of theology, religion and global health in the primary health care movement and the response to the global AIDS pandemic. He continues this work through his membership in the International Religious Health Assets Program, a network of scholars and practitioners employing assets-based development approaches to understand the contribution of religion in health care.

He has been active locally in public health conversations as part of the Health Sciences Consortium Population Health Committee and as a member of the annual health summit planning team. This past year he was invited to be a fellow with the Leading Causes of Life Initiative, an international collaboration of scholars and practitioners committed to organizing our institutions and communities around that which promotes human flourishing.

In addition to his work in health, he served as executive director of Southern Truth and Reconciliation, a university-community partnership highlighting reconciliation practices of communities confronting legacies of racial violence. From 2010-2017, he served as a faculty member and administrator for Viterbo’s Master of Arts in Servant Leadership program.

He teaches both undergraduate and graduate seminars that invite students to reflect on what is theirs to do in responding to the pressing social issues of our time – from global health and interreligious conflict to economic inequality and political polarization. In mission seminars focused on revitalizing neighborhoods here in the Coulee Region and in study abroad courses that emphasize solidarity with our global neighbors in Africa and the Caribbean, he is passionate about getting students out of the classroom and into the community to serve and learn with persons and populations whose voices are too easily and too often ignored.

Bersagel Braley’s fellowship research, “Creative Engagement in an Imperfect World: A Socio-Theological Exploration of Participation” explores the nature of participation: What does meaningful participation entail? What do the formative institutions that support participation look like?  Which features of twenty-first-century life together restrict our capacity to participate? Which features expand our “repertoire of capacities” for participation?

Publications, Presentations, and Performances
  • "Traditional and Psychological Factors Associated with Academic Success: Investigating Best Predictors of College Retention,” with David Saunders-Scott and Naomi Stennes-Spidahl, Motivation and Emotion, December 2017 (online)
  • “Recovering Religion: Practicing Intersectoral Cooperation in a Time of Cholera,” Development in Practice, Vol. 27, Issue 5 (2017)
  • “Global Health after Pentecost: Toward Theological Reflection as a Religious Health Asset, “Christian Journal for Global Health,” Vol. 1, Issue 2 (Fall 2014)  
  • “The Christian Medical Commission and the World Health Organization,” in Religion as a Social Determinant of Health (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014).
  • “Checking Vitals: The Theological (Im)Pulse of Christian Leadership in Global Health.” Practical Matters 4 (2011),
  • Rooting, Reforming, Restoring: A Framework for Justice in Rwanda, “Online Journal of Lutheran Ethics” (March 2004),

Presentations Related to Current Research

  • "Health Care from the Outside In and the Inside Out: The Transformative Potential of a Franciscan Nursing Education," paper with Julie Meyers, MSN, Association of Franciscan Colleges and Universities, June 2018
  • "Recovering Our Senses of the Divine: Piety and Practice among the Modern Priesthood of All Healers," paper, Global Health Catalyst Summit, Harvard Medical School, April 2017
  • "Seeing Things Whole: Toward a Pedagogy of Servant Leadership as Religious Practice," paper, Association of Franciscan Colleges and Universities, June 2016
  • “Upstream Ethics: Love (and Justice) in a Time of Cholera,” paper, Water Ethics Conference, Viterbo University, 2015
  •  “Reflections, Research, Results: Viterbo University’s Servant Leadership Program,” workshop co-presenter with Tom Thibodeau and Glena Temple, Greenleaf Center International Conference on Servant Leadership, June 2013
  • “Saying and Doing Something Theological: The Possibilities of Theocentric Participants as Agents of Social Change,” Society of Christian Ethics, January 2013.
  • “Re-Valuing Religion: The Persistence of the Theological in Global Health,” Upper Midwest Regional American Academy of Religion, April 2011.
  • “More than Just Health: Towards a Christian Ethic of Decent Care in an HIV-Infected World,” Society of Christian Ethics, 2009.
  • “Documenting a Disease: Varieties of Moral Discourse in the Global Response to HIV/AIDS,” Southeast Commission for the Study of Religion, Ethics Section, 2007.
  • “Learning to Stand with Africa: Religious Networks, Human Rights, and HIV/AIDS.”
  • Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Religion, Religion and Social Science Section, 2006.