July 10 2020

by Alison Colpits, University of Toronto

Hands in Solidarity, Hands of Freedom mural on the side of the United Electrical Workers trade union building on West Monroe Street at Ashland Avenue in Chicago, Illinois.

I always find it unfortunate when the so-called work-life balance is framed as a problem for women. I’m aware that, as the AAR Status of Women in the Profession Committee (SWP) rightly indicates, it’s a problem for women insofar as women are still mostly responsible for “care work.” So I don’t find it unfortunate because I don’t think it to be true. I do think it’s true. Rather, I find it unfortunate because even though the work-life balance is an urgent problem for women, having women write and talk about it for each other isn’t going to change anything. The problem with the SWP calling for stories about the work-life balance in academia is that it’s the SWP that has to make the call for it.

by Susan Abraham, Loyola Marymount University

Hua Mulan in "Gathering Gems of Beauty," album leaf, ink and colors on silk. Painter identified as He Dazi. Qing dynasty. Mulan depicted in a field with her back to the viewer, holding a spear

My brief today is to address the challenges of being single in a couple-normative guild. I have three parts to my remarks.

I. The first is the obvious one—the structural issues that lead to what Michael Warner called “regimes of the normal” in his Fear of a Queer Planet.1 “The Normal” of course, bespeaks the not-normal, and I personally speak from the standpoint of a single, queer, Catholic, liberationist, Marxist, feminist, postcolonial, poststructuralist, immigrant Indian female. When the invitation was first broached to me of this panel, I had a flashback to my very first interview with the US consulate in Bombay in 1990, as the official who looked over my papers said, “We have never given a student visa to a single young woman from India, especially to study theology.” My sense of learned shame and helplessness then has of course been repeated many times in the American academy. I did not necessarily set out to be single, though of course, growing up in India, I would swear up and down that I would not marry, even to the point of sabotaging behind my mother’s back her desperate attempts to “marry me off.” What I meant then was that I did not want to be married in the traditional way. Marriage itself, as a concept and category, was and is something I remain thoroughly suspicious of for a number of reasons. But choosing to be single, that was not really part of the plan. Singlehood was conferred on me. And I have had to think about it. The words of Eve Sedgwick in her Epistemology of the Closet ring true: “Many people have their richest mental/emotional involvement with sexual acts that they don’t do, or even want to do.”2

by Cassie Hillman Trentaz, Warner Pacific College

four stills of a draped woman carrying a jar on her shoulder and a basket in her hand

In one of my classes, I have a practice that I call “Two-Minute Reflections on Last Class” as a means of letting conversations from one class session leak into our conversations in the next. Here’s one that captures a bit of the essence of this tricky reality of work/home (im)balance:

Paying bills for a family of four on a single income,
keeping people fed, clean, warm and well,
raising little human beings, new to the world,
to be loved, to love, to be responsible, thoughtful, kind and attentive,
providing a sense of home, a ground underneath our feet
1,300 miles away from our closest family—
this is exhausting.

Daily log:

7:01 am—hit snooze (and again, and sometimes again)

7:30ish: get up and get dressed.

7:45ish: get baby up for a diaper change and morning feeding

8:10ish: get three year old up and fed, pump excess to maintain adequate milk supply

by Ayesha S. Chaudhry, PhD, Rita E. Hauser Fellow, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University & Associate Professor of Islamic Studies and Gender Studies, University of British Columbia

headshot of Dr. Ziba Mir-Hosseini

On behalf of the Committee on the Public Understanding of Religion, it is my great pleasure to announce that Dr. Ziba Mir-Hosseini will receive the 2015 Martin E. Marty Award for the Public Understanding of Religion.

by Fred Glennon, Le Moyne College

Row of students with umbrellas blocking the sun walking alongside a pond at Tetsugaku-no-Michi in Kyoto, Japan

The desire to globalize and contextualize the education of our students to prepare them for active and responsible citizenship in the 21st century is a part of the vision of many colleges and universities these days (see AAC&U 2007). Authors of the American Academy of Religion’s white paper (2008), “The Religion Major and Liberal Education,” suggest this has always been one of the five foci of the religious studies major. To achieve this vision, many advocate some type of immersion in other cultures through study abroad programs. Whether or not these programs should be semester-long or short-term, faculty-led or independent, educational or formational is open to discussion and debate (see Barbour 2015). Regardless of the structure, however, the challenge is to develop these programs in ways that realize the intended outcomes.

by David B. Howell, Ferrum College

Row of students with umbrellas blocking the sun walking alongside a pond at Tetsugaku-no-Michi in Kyoto, Japan

Study abroad experiences for students can range from the short-term educational travel with an academic focus to semester- or year-long immersion experiences that provide students with an opportunity for cultural integration. The student learning outcomes for the variety of courses along the continuum will differ significantly. But in each case, study abroad courses provide a context and opportunity for faculty to address in a powerful way some intangible learning outcomes that exist in religious studies courses. Such transformative learning experiences, however, may not result without careful course design by faculty who seek to have students engage different cultures in deep and complex ways. Without purposeful design, the study abroad may be satisfying to students, but become little more than a glorified vacation. In this brief essay, I want to suggest some theoretical frameworks that I have used to design short-term study abroad courses.

by Dorina Miller Parmenter, Spalding University

Row of students with umbrellas blocking the sun walking alongside a pond at Tetsugaku-no-Michi in Kyoto, Japan


Finding the time and the financial resources for study abroad is a challenge for most students at my university, where many of them are first-generation learners and have work and/or family commitments. New adventure and global awareness may seem like unaffordable and impractical luxuries to them, and therefore they are not sufficient points of appeal for recruiting participants for my school’s only study abroad opportunity (in Ireland). Students must be able to justify the additional expense and time commitment by taking classes within the study abroad program that they need to graduate, whether those are core requirements or major courses.

by Alyssa Beall, West Virginia University

Row of students with umbrellas blocking the sun walking alongside a pond at Tetsugaku-no-Michi in Kyoto, Japan

Teaching Strategy

In July of 2013, I found myself on a plane to Japan with nine very excited students. I say “found myself” because I remember very little of getting to the airport. I had flown in from Rome the night before, after stepping in as a last-minute chaperone for a study abroad to Italy. After four hours of sleep I was back on a plane. The preparation time I had scheduled immediately before the trip hadn’t happened, and any last-minute planning with my colleague (who is also my husband) was promptly undermined by my falling into a very deep sleep.

by Alex Snow, West Virginia University

Row of students with umbrellas blocking the sun walking alongside a pond at Tetsugaku-no-Michi in Kyoto, Japan

Introduction: “Fingers Pointing at Castles”

In June of 2013, I helped lead a group of undergraduate students from West Virginia University on a three-week study abroad trip to Japan. As part of my job responsibilities within the Program for Religious Studies, it would be the first time I had been in charge of coordinating such an excursion, having had the opportunity to visit parts of Israel the previous summer on a colleague’s trip so as to “get the hang” of things and “learn the ropes” of short-term study abroad. I had been teaching part-time, and now full-time, for over fifteen years but never outside of the classroom. Then, with the help and support of my wife and disciplinary colleague, I found myself about to begin a three-week adventure in travel, advice, and daily student mentorship; and by association, an almost continuous, usually spontaneous, strategic experiment in on-site pedagogical techniques.