REL Peer Mentor Program Launched

This semester we’re trying something new in REL — we’ve developed a peer mentoring program whereby a small number of students who excelled last semester in a 100-level course are being invited to stay involved in the same course this semester, as a peer mentor.

For we tend to think that studying by yourself, especially when you find the course challenging, isn’t the most effective strategy. Continue reading

What We Claim to Be

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Mark Ortiz is a senior double-majoring in Religious Studies and New College with a depth study in Political Ecology. He is especially interested in climate politics and that bundle of things and stuff we call “nature.”

Continuing a project I recently blogged about, I decided to make use of the American Academy of Religion’s (AAR) online “Syllabus Project”: a database of syllabi submitted voluntarily by professors and teachers in the field. I was looking for “Introduction to Religious Studies” course syllabi to better understand how professors around the United States approach the introductory class. What I found was a bit surprising and, I would like to suggest, indicative of a major issue in the discipline.

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Our Interpretive Introductory Courses

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Mark Ortiz is a senior double-majoring in Religious Studies and New College with a depth study in Political Ecology. He is especially interested in climate politics and that bundle of things and stuff we call “nature.”

As part of an independent study this semester, I’ve been very busy chatting to professors in the department about their approaches to teaching the introductory course in our discipline. I found this assignment especially timely, as I am slated to begin a graduate program in geography come autumn. I will almost assuredly be required to, at the very least, assist with the instruction of introductory courses as a graduate student. So, better, I should think, to begin mulling over the difficult questions of how to introduce and interest students in a field now rather than doing so at some later point, like in front of a classroom of expectant, disciplinary first-timers (and probably last-timers in this scenario). With lofty aspirations of discovering the proper role and function of the introductory course, I set out on my task.

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Can Anything be a Ritual?

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By Mary Rebecca Read-Wahidi

Becky is a PhD Candidate in the Department of Anthropology and will graduate just as soon as she finishes writing her dissertation on the Virgin of Guadalupe. She joined the Department of Religious Studies as a Graduate Teaching Assistant in the Fall of 2012, and was immediately enamored by the charming atmosphere, lofty office space, and pencils with “religion in culture” printed on them.

Recently in Dr. Ramey’s “Introduction to Religions of the World” class he was covering a topic dear to my heart: rituals. After class, a student asked, “So, any prescribed action done on a regular basis would be a ritual?”  Good question! Would it? The line between what is a ritual and what is a mundane act can be fuzzy, especially when the concept is placed in a classroom setting. (Funny how the “fuzzyness” of those topics we discuss so confidently always comes to the surface in a classroom setting.) I tried to explain that maybe it depends on how important that action is to you, drawing on my extreme fondness for my morning cup of coffee. Continue reading