September 21 2021

by Erik Owens, Boston College

The distinguished University of Chicago professor Jean Bethke Elshtain died in August at the age of 72, leaving behind a massive body of published work: hundreds of scholarly articles and chapters, many authored and edited books, countless opinion pieces, reflections, op-eds and interviews. She won dozens of awards and received prestigious honors from institutions and governments around the world. She broke barriers as an accomplished female professor and as a Christian political philosopher. She was a remarkable woman, as a wide array of obituary encomiums have affirmed in recent weeks.* I had the privilege of knowing her personally and professionally over some intense and exhilarating years as her graduate student in the religious ethics program at the Divinity School, and we remained in frequent contact in the years after.

Ellen Posman, Baldwin Wallace University
Reid B. Locklin, University of Toronto

Autonomy and/or Collaboration—Competing Values?

Academia is often a solitary pursuit. We design our own research projects and conduct them as we see fit, and, similarly, we design our own courses and teach them as we see fit. This is one aspect of academic freedom, and it is part of what attracted many of us to academia in the first place. As a result, team teaching presents something of a challenge: it threatens some of that treasured autonomy. 

Norma Baumel Joseph, Concordia University, Montreal
Leslie C. Orr, Concordia University, Montreal

Participation and Particularity

Cara Anthony, University of St. Thomas
Elise Amel, University of St. Thomas

Psychological “Framing” in a Theology Classroom

What does daily diet have to do with faith? Is the way I eat a meal sustainable and meaningful? Are my food choices consistent with my religious values? These are the kinds of questions students grapple with through our team-taught, upper-level course that fulfills a core requirement in theology at the University of St. Thomas.  At this level, courses are designed to give students an interdisciplinary perspective or to address a pressing social issue. “Theology & the Environment” does both, since we address the issue of food sustainability through the lenses of both theology and conservation psychology. 

Melissa Stewart, Adrian College
Deborah Field, Adrian College

Interdisciplinary Team Teaching

In times of budget cuts and the shrinking of the humanities, women’s studies courses offer religion professors an opportunity to build interdisciplinary networks across campus. Women’s studies in particular relies on multiple disciplines as well as personal experience to construct knowledge; it requires students to synthesize diverse types of information and insights. This makes it both inspiring to students and challenging to teach. We suggest that a transparent model of team teaching is a pedagogical strategy that can meet this challenge by modeling how to integrate various disciplinary insights and personal experience into true interdisciplinary knowledge production. By transparent team teaching, we do not mean splitting lectures in half; rather we refer to a process of open-ended, open-minded intellectual interaction that we will describe below.

Mary C. Boys, Union Theological Seminary
Sarah Tauber, Jewish Theological Seminary of America

Reading Memoirs, from Cover to Cover

Memoirs for Fall 2012
Fremont, Helen. After a Long Silence: A Memoir (Delta, 2000).
Fremont tells the story of a deep family secret, and explores its consequences for her family’s sense of identity. 
Lester, Julius. Lovesong: Becoming a Jew (Arcade, 1995).
Lester, son of black Methodist minister, a prolific author and civil rights activist, narrates his own complex search, including his conversion to Judaism and interracial marriage.
Miles, Sara. Take This Bread: A Radical Conversion (Ballatine, 2008).

Amy L. Allocco, Elon University
Brian K. Pennington, Maryville College

“India’s Identities,” in Tennessee, North Carolina, and Tamil Nadu

At both of our institutions, Elon University (NC) and Maryville College (TN), three-week travel/study courses led by two faculty members in the January (or winter) term have long served to further the global education and internationalization goals that are major campus priorities.

Allen, Judith A., and Sally L. Kitch. “Disciplined by Disciplines? The Need for an Interdisciplinary Research Mission in Women's Studies." Feminist Studies 24, no. 2 (1998):  275-299.

Bess, James L. et al. Teaching Alone, Teaching Together: Transforming the Structure of Teams for Teaching. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2000.

Brookfield, S.D. and S. Preskill. Discussion as a Way of Teaching: Tools and Techniques for Democratic Classrooms. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2005. 

Butkus, R. A., & S. A. Kolmes. “Theology in Ecological Perspective: An Interdisciplinary, Inquiry-Based Experiment.” Teaching Theology & Religion, 11, no. 1 (2008): 42-53.

________. Environmental Science and Theology in Dialogue. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2011.  

Cates, Shannon and Jonathan Ferguson. “US Study Abroad in India.” International Briefs for Higher Education 3 (2013) 25-27.

Nelly van Doorn-Harder was born and raised in the Netherlands where she earned her PhD on the topic of women’s monasticism in the Coptic Orthodox Church of Egypt at the Vrije Universiteit of Amsterdam. Before moving to the USA, she was director of a refugee program in Cairo, Egypt and taught Islamic Studies at universities in the Netherlands (Leiden) and Indonesia (Yogakarta). She held the Surjit S. Patheja Chair in World Religions and Ethics at Valparaiso University from 1999-2009. She then moved to Wake Forest University, where she has been a Professor of Islamic Studies since 2009.


Otto Maduro, past president of the American Academy of Religion and renowned philosopher and sociologist of religion, died on May 9 at the age of 68. Professor Maduro’s prolific body of work included over one hundred articles published in a dozen languages, and his work in the Academy was grounded in the pursuit of the liberation of marginalized peoples. Just before his death, Otto retired from his position as professor of world Christianity and Latin American Christianity at Drew Theological School where he had taught since 1992.