Faculty and Fellows

Edward J. Larson, Director

Ed Larson profile

Edward J. Larson holds the Hugh and Hazel Darling Chair in Law and is University Professor of History at Pepperdine University and recipient of the 1998 Pulitzer Prize in History. He served as Associate Counsel for the U.S. Congress Committee on Education and Labor (1983-87) and an attorney with a major Seattle law firm (1979-83) and retains an appointment at the University of Georgia, where he has taught since 1987.

The author of seven books and over one hundred published articles, Larson writes mostly about issues of science, medicine and law from an historical perspective. His books include A Magnificent Catastrophe: The Tumultuous Election of 1800 (2007); Evolution: The Remarkable History of a Scientific Theory (2005, 2006 rev. ed.); Evolution’s Workshop: God and Science in the Galapagos Islands (2001), Sex, Race, and Science: Eugenics in the Deep South (1995), Trial and Error: The American Controversy Over Creation and Evolution (1985, 2003 rev. ed.) and the Pulitzer Prize winning Summer for the Gods: The Scopes Trial and America's Continuing Debate Over Science and Religion (1997). His next book, An Empire of Ice: Scott, Shackleton and the Heroic Age of Antarctic Science, is due out in 2011. Larson’s articles have appeared in such varied journals as Nature, Atlantic Monthly, Time, Isis, Science, Scientific American, The Nation, The Wilson Quarterly, American History, Virginia Law Review, Constitutional Commentary, and The Georgia Quarterly. He is the co-author or co-editor of eight additional books, including The Constitutional Convention: A Narrative History from the Notes of James Madison (2005) and The Essential Words and Writings of Clarence Darrow (2007). The Fulbright Program named Larson to the John Adams Chair in American Studies for 2001. He participated in the National Science Foundation’s 2003 Antarctic Artists and Writers Program. Larson serves on the National Institute of Health’s study section on ethical, legal, and social issues related to the Human Geonome Project and is a Senior Fellow of University of Georgia’s Institute of Higher Education.

Larson teaches, writes, and speaks on history, law, science, and bio-ethics for academic, professional, and public audiences. He has delivered invited addresses at over 80 universities, including Yale, Cambridge, Cal Tech, Chicago, Johns Hopkins, Duke and MIT. He is interviewed frequently for broadcast and print media, including multiple appearances on PBS, NPR, the History Channel, C-SPAN, and BBC. His course on the history of evolution theory is available from The Teaching Company.

Born in central Ohio, Larson attended Mansfield, Ohio, public schools. He earned a B.A. from Williams College (1974), a law degree from Harvard (1979), and a Ph.D. in the History of Science from the University of Wisconsin-Madison (1984), and received an honorary doctorate in humane letters from the Ohio State University in 2004. Larson has taught in Austria, China, Chile, Ecuador, France, Israel, the Netherlands, and New Zealand, and Italy. He is married to a pediatrician, Lucy Larson, and has two children, Sarah and Luke. They live in Malibu, California, and Athens, Georgia.

Michael Helfand, Associate Director

Michael Helfand bio

Michael Helfand is an associate professor at Pepperdine University School of Law and associate director of the Diane and Guilford Glazer Institute for Jewish Studies. He received his J.D. from Yale Law School in 2007 and his Ph.D. in Political Science from Yale University in 2009.

Professor Helfand's primary research interests include law and religion, arbitration, constitutional law, and contracts. In particular, his work focuses on the intersection of private law and religion – such as religious arbitration, religious litigation, religious contracts and religious torts – as well as the intersection of group rights and the law, political theories of toleration, and multiculturalism. Professor Helfand's articles have appeared in a variety of law review, including the New York University Law Review, Minnesota Law Review, Boston University Law Review, George Mason Law Review, University of Pennsylvania Journal of Constitutional Law, Journal of Law Religion and State, and Journal of Law & Religion, as well as in general audience publications, such as the Los Angeles Times, the Jewish Daily Forward, and the Jewish Week.

Prior to joining the Pepperdine Law faculty, Professor Helfand was an associate at Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP, where his practice focused on complex commercial litigation. Before entering private practice, Professor Helfand clerked for the Honorable Julia Smith Gibbons of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.

Monica Osborne, Visiting Professor


Dr. Osborne is the Visiting Assistant Professor of Jewish Studies. Her work in Jewish literary and cultural studies takes an interdisciplinary approach, addressing issues including the ethics of representation, Midrash in a modern context, the Holocaust and other collective tragedies, and, most recently, humor in the context of the Holocaust and 9/11. Her work often draws from the philosophy of Emmanuel Levinas, and she is a co-founder of the North American Levinas Society and an active participant in the society's annual conferences.

Dr. Osborne completed her doctoral work at Purdue University, where she was also on the editorial staff of the journal Modern Fiction Studies. She completed a dissertation called "The Midrashic Impulse: Reading Fiction, Film, and Painting in the Face of the Shoah," in which she suggests that the problems we encounter in trying to represent the Holocaust may derive precisely from the nature of our attempts: namely, that we have persistently tried to re-present events that we acknowledge to be ineffable and unknowable, and yet that conclusion has only led us to reinitiate the representational attempt. The dissertation highlights this failure as a way of marking a non-representational impulse to which all literature and other artistic endeavors composed in the wake of the Holocaust necessarily bear witness in a more or less self-conscious way. She names this impulse "midrashic" to reflect both what the ancient rabbis designated as a certain response to gaps in the scriptural text, and what a growing number of theorists in literary study, Jewish study, and philosophic study have designated as a significant interpretative mode. The midrashic impulse is a capacity of all literature to document or witness the violent origins from which it comes. Dr. Osborne is currently finalizing a book manuscript that draws from the dissertation: The Midrashic Impulse and the Literary Response to Trauma.

Dr. Osborne is also a graduate of the Cornell School of Criticism and Theory (2007), and has written for Tikkun, The New Republic, The Jewish Journal of Los Angeles, Religion and Literature, Studies in American Jewish Literature, Shofar, Modern Fiction Studies, MELUS, and Jewcy.com as well as various edited collections. Before coming to Pepperdine, Dr. Osborne was an Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Scholar at the University of California, Los Angeles, where she worked with Dr. Eric Sundquist and taught classes in Jewish and American fiction, post-WWII German film, and the Holocaust. She has also taught at Loyola Marymount University and at the 92nd Street Y in New York City.

Drew W. Billings, Program Coordinator

Drew Billing

Drew Billings teaches in the Religion Division at Pepperdine University and is completing his PhD in Religious Studies from McGill University. His research focuses on Judaism and Christianity in the Greco-Roman world and how material and political contexts shape religious interactions and developments. His dissertation, "Roman Imperial Representations and the Monumentalization of the memoria apostolorum: Cultural Identity and Social Positioning in the Roman Empire under Trajan (98-117 CE)," focuses on the political motivations of the eventual separation between Judaism and Christianity.

Billings has taught a variety of Religious Studies courses at both McGill University (Montreal, QC) and St. Michael's College (Colchester, VT). He has traveled extensively throughout Europe and the Middle East, researching various archaeological sites from antiquity. Billings received his undergraduate and first master's degree from Cincinnati Christian University and a second master's degree from Columbia University-Union Theological Seminary in the city of New York.

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