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Susan S. Phillips, PhD

Susan S. Phillips, Ph.D., has served as Executive Director at New College Berkeley, since 1994, and prior to that was the Academic Dean. New College Berkeley’s commitment to promoting the integration of Christian faith in everyday life is central to her sense of call as a Christian sociologist, spiritual director, and professor of sociology and Christianity. Susan did her doctoral studies at U.C. Berkeley, privileged to study with Robert Bellah, Guy Swanson, John Clausen, Richard Lazarus, Gertrude Jaeger, Michael Burowoy, Arlie Hochschild, and other scholars whose academic work is saturated with their interest in what it means to live a good life. As a graduate student she was a Fellow of the National Institute of Mental Health in Personality and Social Structure, which informed and clarified her interest in the relationship between social life, personality, and spirituality.

The ethics of care and how practices of care shape us as people are compelling concerns for Susan Phillips. Much of her writing — including the CHOICE Award-winning book The Crisis of Care: Affirming and Restoring Caring Practices in the Helping Professions (with Patricia Benner, Georgetown, 1994), Candlelight: Illuminating the Art of Spiritual Direction (Morehouse, 2008), and The Cultivated Life: From Ceaseless Striving to Receiving Joy (IVP, 2015) — and teaching are in these areas. She also co-edited (with Soo-Inn Tan) a festschrift in honor of NCB Founding President W. Ward Gasque: Serving God’s Community: Essays in Honor of W. Ward Gasque(Regent, 2014). Susan, like NCB, is keenly interested in how we live our faith in daily life, drawing insight from the diverse fields of the social sciences, biblical spirituality, and practical theology. Susan is a trained spiritual director and sees individuals for spiritual direction, teaches, and writes in the field, serves as supervisor for spiritual directors, and consults for Christian organizations.

Susan enjoys teaching and speaking in many settings, including NCB-sponsored courses at churches, graduate courses at seminaries, and lectures in universities. All of these offer opportunities to extend the New College Berkeley vision to new locations and lives. Currently, Susan teaches regularly for NCB, the Graduate Theological Union, Fuller Theological Seminary (Northern California), San Francisco Theological Seminary (the program in the Diploma in the Art of Spiritual Direction), Regent College (Canada), in addition to occasional lectures and retreat-leading for churches and organizations. She serves on the GTU’s Core Doctoral Faculty and on the editorial boards of Radix and Presence magazines, and the journal Reflective Practice.

With her husband Steve, Susan worships at First Presbyterian Church of Berkeley, and has served there as an elder. Susan and Steve’s sons are Andrew and Peter.

To find information about Candlelight: Illuminating the Art of Spiritual Direction, click HERE. To listen to Susan’s lectures Finding Direction in Spiritual Direction or Garden or Circus? Metaphors We Live (and Die) By go to the NCB Resources page. To contact Susan about spiritual direction, please contact her through her website at