January 29 2023

by Kate Ott, Drew University

Every year as the AAR Annual Meeting approaches and closes, I am struck by the instances of sexual harassment that are relayed. Maybe I hear about more of these because of my past role in training and research related to clergy sexuality education, my interest in sexual health as a professional ethics issue, or because I’m a woman (more about that in a later section).  

by W. Anne Joh, Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary

Albrecht Dürer's "The Teacher, the Clergyman, and Providence"

At most institutions, mentoring happens capriciously, accidentally, selectively, informally, and sporadically. It is usually characterized as a one-on-one, discreet relationship that is decentralized and unmoored from the very life of the institution. However, good mentoring is about guiding and assisting the birth of a unique scholar—a scholar who can find her own sense of professional identity. This understanding of mentoring places it at the heart of institutional life. Thus a contribution to the emerging theological landscape would be finding ways to deepen and broaden our practices of mentoring within and across institutions. This effort would include thinking more precisely about the distinctions between mentoring and advising, as well as the formal and informal dimensions of mentoring.

Interviewed by Tina Pippin, Agnes Scott College and Chair, AAR Teaching and Learning Committee

Carolyn Medine, professor in the religion department and the Institute of African American Studies at the University of Georgia, is a mentor not only to her own students at UGA, but also her peers in the academy. Through her work at the Wabash Center for Teaching and Learning in Theology and Religion, as cochair of the Teaching Religion section of the AAR, and as a leader in underrepresented minority groups in the academy, Medine’s influence has been wide and deep. Upon receiving this award, she gives credit to her own influences from high school and college—in particular, Ruel W. Tyson Jr., who taught her how to approach a literary text, and Charles H. Long at UNC–Chapel Hill. Medine sees mentoring as something that cannot be assigned; it is a natural process in which like-minded people find each other.

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.

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