Van Weigel

Van Weigel

Professor Emeritus

Dr. Van Weigel is the Professor of Ethics and Economic Development at Eastern University. Since coming to Eastern University in 1984, he has found it to be a vital and enriching academic community that lays emphasis on the search for truth and understanding through the eyes of faith and a thoroughgoing commitment to social justice.  Eastern's faculty, students and alumni are a great source of inspiration for him; he is grateful to be a part of this academic community. 

In terms of education, Van B. Weigel received his Ph.D. in Ethics and Society from the University of Chicago. His doctoral dissertation explored the ethical dimensions of the Basic Needs Approach to economic development, and the preliminary findings of his research were published in World Development. He is the author of A Unified Theory of Global Development (Praeger, 1989)—selected by Choice as an “Outstanding Academic Book.” 

Van Weigel’s first love has been to understand how insights from the fields of moral philosophy and economics can guide our actions in responding to the challenge of global poverty.  His initial work in this area came with his doctoral dissertation on the ethical dimensions of the International Labor Office's Basic Needs Approach to economic development (the findings of that study were published World Development).  This project developed into a book-length, entitled "A Unified Theory of Global Development" (Praeger, 1989), which was selected by Choice as an “Outstanding Academic Book” for that year.  He then focused on the challenges associated with facilitating strategic institutional change and promoting global environmental responsibility.  In 1993 he published an article in World Development, with Elizabeth Morgan and Grant Power, which presented a six-fold typology of action programs for global change.  Shortly after the publication of that article, he was hired as a consultant to UNICEF to do a study that examined UNICEF’s own approach to global change in connection with the 50th Anniversary of the United Nations.  During this period he also authored a book that critiqued ethics and economics in light of the concept of ecological interdependence, entitled "Earth Cancer" (Praeger, 1995). 

In the mid-1990s, he became very interested in the role of technology in facilitating capacity development in both nonprofit and educational institutions.  In the late 1990s, he co-founded the Center for Innovation in Community Development (CICD) with John Whealin--a joint project between CoreStates Bank (now Wells Fargo Bank) and Eastern University.  Together, they developed the "SmartGrant" software package, designed to help nonprofit organizations and community groups do strategic planning, proposal writing and project budgeting.  They also developed, in collaboration with the Free Library of Philadelphia, a community services touch-screen kiosk that highlighted the cultural history and local community services for patrons of the library to access upon entering the library.

Van Weigel’s interest in the relationship between technology and educational institutions was focused on a book project in the early 2000's, entitled "Deep Learning for a Digital Age:  Technology’s Untapped Potential for Higher Education" (Jossey-Bass, 2002).  The book has also been used in seminars at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education, and in Drexel University’s Ph.D. Program in Educational Leadership Development and Learning Technologies.  Even the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania featured the book on its web site.  In addition, the Ohio Learning Network adopted the book as a key resource for their Learning Communities Initiative, involving both public and private post-secondary institutions across the State of Ohio.  He also gave the keynote address (“Learning Communities and Knowledge Management:  Preparing Students for the 21st Century Workplace") for the kick-off event of their Learning Communities Initiative.

The centerpiece of the book is the “knowledge room”—a virtual space where students work collaboratively on research projects, practice skill development, hold discussions and debates, and express themselves creatively.  John Seely Brown, formerly the chief scientist of Xerox and director of the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center, has described the book as “a visionary but also pragmatic view of what is possible in facilitating deep learning with today’s and tomorrow’s digital technologies,” and University Business (April 2002) characterized the book as “an intriguing blend of theory regarding the possible future of education.”  A selection from the book was published as the lead article in September-October 2000 issue of Change (“E-Learning and the Tradeoff Between Richness and Reach in Higher Education”), and his work in this area was featured in the May/June 2005 issue of Educause Review (“A Capabilities Approach for the Next-Generation Course Management System”).


Ph.D., University of Chicago
M.Div., Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary
B.A., Oral Roberts University

Courses Taught
  • Business Ethics and Leadership (BUSA 311)
  • Ethics and Social Justice (MNGT 665)
  • Economic Policy Seminar (ECON 305W)
  • Economic Reasoning Seminar (ECON 315)
  • Essentials of Economics (ECON 205)
Research Interests

His current research interest is focused on the role of hope in economic decision making, drawing on some very influential work in this area from behavioral economics and neuroscience.   He is currently working on a book project on this subject.


Ostrich Christianity:  Self-Deception in Popular Christianity.  Lanham, MD:  University Press of America, 1986.

Global Poverty and Personal Responsibility:  Integrity Through Commitment (with Elizabeth Morgan and Eric Debaufre).  Paramus, N.J.:  Paulist Press, 1989.

A Unified Theory of Global Development.  New York:  Praeger, 1989.

Earth Cancer.  New York:  Praeger, 1995.

Deep Learning for a Digital Age.  New York:  Jossey-Bass, 2002.

The Pandora Factor:  Toward an Economics of Hope (manuscript in progress).

Recent Publications, Presentations, and Articles

“The Basic Needs Approach:  Overcoming the Poverty of Homo oeconomicus.”  World Development, 14, No. 12 (1986), pp. 1423-1434.

“Thinking Strategically About Development:  A Typology of Action Programs for Global Change.”  World Development, Vol. 21, No. 12, 1993 (with Elizabeth Morgan and Grant Power).

“The UNICEF Development Paradigm:  Ethical Vision and Strategic Capacity.”  White Paper in Preparation for the 50th Anniversary of the United Nations, 1994. 

“Free Degrees?  They’re Only a Matter of Time.”  Chronicle of Higher Education, May 19, 2000, pp. B8.

“E-Learning and the Tradeoff Between Richness and Reach in Higher Education.”  Change, September/October 2000, pp. 10-15 (Lead Article).

“Place in the Digital Age:  Familiar Dichotomies No Longer Apply.”  Christian Scholar’s Review, XXXII:1 (Fall 2002), pp. 13-18.

“Learning Communities and Knowledge Management:  Preparing Students for the 21st Century Workplace.”  Keynote Address for the Ohio Learning Network’s Kick-Off Event for the Learning Communities Initiative, Columbus, OH, October 15, 2002.

“The Loading Dock Model of Education Meets the Broadband Virtual Classroom.”  On Campus, Vol 22, No. 4 (December 2002/2003), p. 10.

“E-Learning—The Next Generation.”  Keynote Address for the Learning Communities Institute, Bowling Green State University, Bowling Green, OH, January 2003.

“Discovery-Based Learning:  The Key to Deep Learning and Learning Communities.”  Keynote Address for the Learning Communities Institute, Kent State University, Kent, OH, January 2003.

“Transforming the Classroom into Knowledge Rooms.”  Business Faculty Workshop, Kent State University, Kent, OH.  January 2003.

“Breaking the E-Learning Time Barrier—Communities of Practice and the Teach to Learn Concept.”  Keynote Address to the 2003 McGraw-Hill Ryerson Technology and Learning Conference at Ryerson University, Toronto, November 25, 2003.

Christian Scholar’s Review.  Theme Issue on “E-Learning and Christian Higher Education.” (Summer, 2004).  Co-editor of this issue with Dr. Daniel Klassen.

“The Design Studio in a Digital Age:  Envisioning the Next Generation of Architectural Education,” Plenary Address, The American Institute of Architectural Students, University of Minnesota, October 9, 2004.

“Turning the Lecture on Its Head:  Implementing Discovery-based Learning and the Teach to Learn Concept Through Communities of Practice.”  Keynote Address.  10th Annual Instructional Technology Conference (“Building Communities of Learning”) at Middle Tennessee State University, Murfreesboro, TN, April 4, 2005.

“From Course Management to Curricular Capabilities:  A Capabilities Approach for the Next Generation Course Management System,” in Educause Review, May/June 2005, pp. 54-67.

“Future Directions in Course Management Systems.”  Keynote Address.  SUNY Spring 2006 Wizard Conference.  Syracuse, NY, March 1, 2006.

“The Professor as Sherpa:  From Diminished Expectations to Expedition-Based Learning.”  Keynote Address.  Hybridity:  Teaching Across Boundaries at DePaul University.  Chicago, IL, April 13, 2007.