June 13 2024

The Current State of Religious Studies: AAR's Academic Relations Committee at the 2018 Annual Meeting

Susan E. Hill, Chair, AAR Academic Relations Committee

people sitting in a circle, some with pens and notebooks in their laps

The Academic Relations Committee (ARC) promotes attention to and develops resources for enhancing members’ professional development and the institutional forms in which the study of religion takes place. This year, the ARC is sponsoring or cosponsoring a number of sessions at the Annual Meeting, all under the theme, “The Current State of Religious Studies.” There are sessions on how religious studies departments can help prepare future K-12 educators to teach religion, how we can help our students leverage their religious studies majors in their careers after college, and how we can best support our contingent faculty. In addition, sessions explore the how religious studies departments are positioned in institutions of higher education, and the role of philanthropy in creating positions in religious studies departments. Please join us!

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The Current State of Religious Studies: Academic Relations Committee Sessions in Denver, 2018


Religious Studies and the K-12 Classroom: How Religious Studies Departments Might Help Prepare Future Educators

In June 2017, the National Council for the Social Studies added a companion document to its College, Career, and Civic Life (C3) Framework affirming the importance of the academic study of religion in K-12 education (www.socialstudies.org/c3). The C3 standards are used by public school districts throughout the United States to develop social studies curricula. The companion document was developed by educators and subject matter experts at Harvard and Rice Universities, and supported by the AAR and the Religious Freedom Center of the Newseum Institute. This initiative builds on the 2010 document, Guidelines for Teaching About Religion in K-12 Public Schools in the United States, developed by the AAR Religion in the Schools Task Force. In this session, panelists will discuss the development of the document, and explore ways that religious studies departments might collaborate with education departments/schools to prepare future educators to incorporate the academic study of religion in K-12 education. Co-sponsored with the Promoting Religious Literacy College-Wide Seminar and Religion and Public Schools: International Perspectives Unit

Convener: Jennifer Rycenga, San Jose State University


Michael Graziano, University of Northern Iowa
Bruce Grelle, California State University, Chico
Benjamin Marcus, Religious Freedom Center, Newseum Institute
Joanne Maguire Robinson, University of North Carolina, Charlotte
Diane L. Moore, Harvard University

When and Where
Saturday, November 17, 9 – 11:30 AM
Convention Center-602 (Street Level)

What Are You Going to Do With That?: Lessons from a New Humanities Career Program

The career value of liberal arts programs is among the most contested issues in higher education. This roundtable session discusses a new program designed to help address the question: “Humanities-what are you going to do with that?” PAGES is a program at Florida Gulf Coast University that combines career exploration and readiness programming for students, with liberal arts advocacy for the business and professional community. The program involves faculty, staff, advisors and administrators, and cultivates partnerships with local Chambers and employers. The session begins with an introduction to PAGES’ history, programs and organizational structure; a roundtable discussion follows covering issues impacting such initiatives, including institutional placement and structure, the multiple audiences for the humanities career message, and other issues of interest to the audience. Panelists include current and former members of the PAGES leadership team. The roundtable is intended to be useful to those wishing to implement humanities career programming.

Convener: Glenn Whitehouse, Florida Gulf Coast University

Sean Kelly, University of Texas at San Antonio
Tom Stefaniuk, Florida Gulf Coast University
Ashleigh Halter, Florida Gulf Coast University
Catherine Gorman, Florida Southwestern State College

When and Where
Saturday, 5:30 – 7:00 PM
Convention Center-610 (Street Level)

Religious Studies in Light of Its Ecosystems: The Status of Liberal Arts Colleges, General Education, and the Humanities

This panel explores the current state of religious studies through attention to its ecosystems or organizational environments. Recent research on higher education finance and policy, liberal arts colleges, and the humanities offers insights on the place of religious studies in modern neoliberal higher education. Panelists will discuss the importance of data on each of these topics, summarize recent trends, and speak to how data can be utilized by faculty to better understand and advocate for religious studies within these contexts. Participants will leave with a more detailed understanding of how religious studies is related to its surrounding contexts, and what factors are most deserving of attention in the coming years. They will also learn what data is currently available at the level of religious studies, the humanities, the liberal arts, and public, and private colleges and how to access it and support its collection.

Convener: Joshua Patterson, University of Georgia

David S. Cunningham, Network for Vocation in Undergraduate Education, Council of Independent Colleges
Robert Townsend, American Academy of Arts and Sciences
William Zumeta, University of Washington

When and Where
Sunday, 1:00 – 3:00 PM
Convention Center-111 (Street Level)

How We Can Best Support Contingent Faculty

Awareness of the extent of reliance on contingent faculty is increasing. Contingent faculty often face disproportionately low pay, limited to no access to benefits and marginalization from the larger campus culture. This panel will explore best practices and obstacles to their implementation by bringing together panelists from different institutional areas who offer a variety of perspectives (provost’s office, dean’s office, department chair, faculty member, etc.) on issues relating to contingent faculty. Cosponsored with the Academic Labor and Contingent Faculty Working Group

Convenor: Edwin David Aponte, Louisville Institute

Robyn Henderson-Espinoza, Activist Theology Project
Elizabeth Hinson-Hasty, Bellarmine University
Sylvester Johnson, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
Elizabeth A. Say, California State University, Northridge
Linda A. Moody, Mount St. Mary's College

When and Where
Monday, 1 – 3 PM
Convention Center-403 (Street Level)

Private Interests and Public Institutions: Notes from the Field

This session offers three reports on the seemingly increasing role that religious philanthropy seems to play in the creation of faculty positions in religious studies at nonsectarian institutions. Every year, job ads announce newly endowed positions in particular specialties; in some cases the notices specify that community engagement or a particular confessional identity is expected; in other cases there will be a representative of the donor’s interest in the search process. Interestingly, this re-confessionalization of our discipline is taking place in parallel with our move toward dispassionate critical engagement with the concept of religion and the material covered by that term. The presenters provide examples and reflections from the perspectives of an observer of hiring trends Jewish studies, someone working in Catholic studies at a state institution, and an administrator who has occupied two chairs of Catholic studies, one at a private (non-Catholic) institution and the other at a state university.

Convenor: Ralph Keen, University of Illinois, Chicago

Responding: Russell T. McCutcheon, University of Alabama

When and Where
Monday, 3:30 – 5 PM
Convention Center-Mile High 1B (Lower Level)