Notes on Surviving and/or Flourishing in Graduate School

Mark Ortiz (far left) graduated from the University of Alabama in May 2015 with degrees in Religious and Interdisciplinary Environmental Studies. He is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Geography at UNC-Chapel Hill, where he studies the connections between global climate politics and ethics.

Survival…, what a dreary thought. As a climate change researcher, the concept of survival calls to mind dystopian images of underground bunkers, moribund ecosystems, and tough political trade-offs. Graduate school, while taxing, is (or should be) considerably less miserable and trying than these apocalyptic scenarios.

That said, graduate school is difficult. I’ve found it helpful during my short tenure to mine the wisdom of people who have been through it before – professors and colleagues further along in my program especially. Here, I offer a couple of the lessons I’ve learned during my first three semesters of graduate school which will hopefully have resonance beyond the walls of the academy: 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

what is religion

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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Book Review: Pollution and Religion in Ancient Rome

Pollution and Religion in Ancient Rome. Jack J. Lennon. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2014. 229 pages.

pollution

Mark Ortiz is a senior majoring in Religious Studies and New College
with a depth study in Political Ecology. This review was written as a final project
as part of Dr. Sarah Rollens’ course, REL 237: Religion and Identity
in the Ancient Mediterranean World.

In many societies, concepts of social order have been shaped considerably by notions of purity and pollution. According to scholar Jack J. Lennon, anthropologists have given discourses of pollution and purity more attention in recent years, yet, prior to this volume, there had been no comprehensive treatment of the subject in the world of Ancient Rome. It is this gaping hole in anthropological knowledge that Lennon wishes to fill with his book, which “explores the presence and perception of pollution in pre-Christian Roman religion” with a primary focus on the “ways in which Roman authors imagined, expressed and ultimately reacted to, things they thought were impure” (IX). Beginning with a thorough discussion of Latin lexicons of purity and its other, Lennon proceeds to show how various understandings and the regulation of bodily functions and effluvia are mediated through and by discursive elements. He concludes by honing in on Cicero’s speech De Domo Sua to further elucidate the connection between lexicons, the body, social order, and rhetoric in Ancient Rome.

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