St. Thomas Hall, Rm. 146

Curriculum Vitae

B.A., Liberal Arts, Thomas Aquinas College, 2002; M.A., Theology, Ave Maria University, 2010; Teaching Assistant, Ave Maria University, 2017-2020; Ph.D., Theology, Ave Maria University, 2023; Tutor, Thomas Aquinas College, 2023-



Dr. Sarah Kaiser (’02) is among the first of Thomas Aquinas College’s second-generation tutors, having joined her father, veteran tutor Dr. Thomas J. Kaiser (’75), on the College’s California faculty in 2023. Indeed, the College runs in Dr. Kaiser’s family: Her parents graduated in the first class, and many aunts and uncles followed. Her father was hired as a tutor when she was two years old. When the occasion arose, it only made sense for her to attend herself.

But if Dr. Kaiser’s journey to TAC as a student was open and shut, her journey to the faculty was anything but. “When I was a student, one of my tutors, Dr. Glen Coughlin, said I should go on to graduate school and then come back and teach,” she laughs. “I thought, ‘That’s not going to happen!’ I didn’t like writing, and graduate school just means lots of papers.”

While discerning her next step after graduating in 2002, she worked as the College’s resident assistant. Eventually, however, her discernment led her to enter the Discalced Carmelites of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph in Valparaiso, Nebraska, in 2004. She was there for three years, but health problems forced her back to Southern California in 2007.

“I was in contact with the nuns,” she says. “A full year after I left, the prioress said, ‘Why don’t you go back to school?’” Dr. Kaiser thus enrolled in Ave Maria University’s newly founded master’s in theology program and completed her degree in 2010. Although accepted into AMU’s doctoral program, she still heard God’s voice in her heart, and so she entered the Discalced Carmelites of Our Mother of Mercy in Alexandria, South Dakota. After four years, though, it was clear that the health problems that had plagued her during her first sojourn in the convent were far from resolved.

Leaving religious life for the last time in 2014, Dr. Kaiser was uncertain where to go next. She first came home to California to care for her elderly grandparents and eventually worked as the secretary for Dr. Michael F. McLean, then president of the College. Her former tutors were pleased to see her again — and immediately resumed their old refrain.

“Dr. Brian Kelly said, ‘I think you should go and get your Ph.D.,’” recalls Dr. Kaiser with a chuckle. “I told him, ‘No program is going to take me, I’ve been out of academia for years; you don’t just go and get your Ph.D.’” When he insisted, though, she looked into returning to Ave Maria — and was in for a shock. “I got accepted right away with Dr. Kelly’s recommendation. I don’t know what he said!”

Finishing her coursework in 2021, Dr. Kaiser continued writing her dissertation while working on the California campus once more, plying her old job as a resident assistant. Upon successfully defending her dissertation, she finally became a TAC tutor.

“I like that we are tutors and not professors, because that’s always been kind of intimidating to me,” she says. “I never feel like I know anything, but I don’t need to ‘profess’ to be a teacher.”