Life in the Academic Projects Office

In the latest of our profiles of staff at Green Templeton we feature the work of the Academic Projects Office. See other staff interviews on our jobs page

Today’s interview: Dr Pete Jordan

Pete Jordan in front of stone background wearing glasses with blue top and scarf

What led you to your current role in the college?

I came to Green Templeton in 2023, after stints elsewhere in the University of Oxford at the Department of Materials and in the Faculty of Theology and Religion. My job in the Department of Materials was an unusual one. I was a member of a small team of people whose responsibility was to help applicants seeking financial support from one of the three philanthropic foundations founded by Sir John Templeton – yes, the same Templeton after whom Templeton College, and subsequently Green Templeton College, are named – propose projects that fit within the foundation’s funding remit.

After that team disbanded, I became the primary researcher on a project based in the Faculty of Theology and Religion. That project allowed me to delve into Templeton’s thinking in detail, and through it I developed a much better understanding of his worldview and of the historical context in which he lived.

Having spent a significant period of time advising one of Templeton’s philanthropies and writing about the man’s ideas, I was intrigued when a position became available that matched my interests and experiences in the very college he helped to found.

Tell us a little more about what you learned about Sir John Templeton during your research?

I joined the Department of Materials after having studied a diverse array of subjects at several universities in Australia and the United States. That varied academic background was helpful to me as a philanthropic adviser, for Templeton’s philanthropies have an unusually broad remit that reflects their founder’s eclectic interests and restless curiosity. That breadth meant helping applicants to develop projects for funding across a wide range of scholarly areas.

As I got into my research on Templeton and spent more time on his writings – writings that included a large number of books – I began to see that his worldview was informed by ideas and practices from three key areas. The first is religion and theology. Templeton identified throughout his life as Presbyterian, and understood human life and purpose in profoundly religious ways. The second is political economy. Templeton had a very clear vision for the political and economic dimensions of human society. The third is modern science. Templeton mingled with scientists, was profoundly interested in what the sciences revealed about the world, and believed that scientific pursuits could have profound religious and theological consequences.

I’ve examined how these ideas interweave and intersect each other in his writings and identified some important sources and influences for them. I’ve written about this in a couple of peer-reviewed journals articles, and in the manuscript of a book that I hope will eventually be published.

What does your current role involve?

One of the most interesting aspects of my role in the Department of Materials was helping applicants seeking Templeton funding imagine what their future projects might look like. Doing so involved thinking a great deal about strategy: what the applicant wanted to do, what steps they needed to take to reach their goals, what barriers they would encounter, what they needed to do to overcome those barriers, and what financial and institutional support they would need to get there.

As my current title – Academic Strategy Project Manager – suggests, my role in college is likewise a strategy-focused role. Here my task is to help the college realise the academic strand of its strategy. At the moment, the college is working toward its strategic objectives by concurrently developing several academic initiatives, each of which is currently in a different state of maturity. Some of my time is spent helping longer-standing college-based academic projects to think about next steps and conceive of new possibilities as they transition toward a new focus or adopt a new level of intensity of activity. Other time is spent developing newer college-based activities that similarly align with college’s multidisciplinary interests and its focus on the nexus of research and practice.

There are great academic initiatives already underway at Green Templeton College. My hope is that as these develop and change and new initiatives are added in the years ahead, the college will continue to enhance its reputation for academic excellence, and will enhance human welfare and social, economic and environmental well-being along the way.

Created: 17 June 2024