BOONE, N.C. — With a $50,000 grant from the Henry Luce Foundation, religious studies faculty at Appalachian State University are envisioning teaching and scholarship methods in their field that explore the relationship of religion to topics at the center of public conversation and debate.
According to grant recipient Dr. Sandie Gravett, professor in App State’s Department of Philosophy and Religion, the work of religious studies scholars often addresses pressing local, national and international issues — ranging from the impact of religion on health care, the environmental crisis and questions about technology, to the definitions of human rights or business and government practices.
“When students take religious studies courses that confront these issues, it means that generations of graduates entering a range of professions will have improved understanding of how religion shapes the lives of people across the planet and can then contribute to forging better options for addressing those concerns in the communities where they live and work,” Gravett said.
The objectives of the grant project include the creation of new, non-theological models (not relating to the study of religion) that characterize the relationship of religious studies to issues of public concern.
Examples of this work, according to Gravett, include developing strategies, venues and community connections that increase exposure to and discourse on religious studies work related to public topics.
Gravett said accomplishing the project’s goals will begin with an ongoing virtual workshop that brings together 10 faculty from colleges and universities across the U.S. with nonsectarian undergraduate religious studies programs — those that are not connected or affiliated with any particular religious or political belief.
Gravett said she and her scholar peers — who include App State’s Dr. Laura Ammon and Dr. Cuong Mai, associate and assistant professor of religious studies, respectively — incorporated their grant work into sessions of the virtual 2020 Annual Meeting, co-hosted last fall by the American Academy of Religion and the Society of Biblical Literature.
The Annual Meeting — one of the largest events in the fields of biblical scholarship, religious studies and theology — is attended by thousands of professors, students, authors, publishers and religious leaders.
The scholars’ work will also be distributed to a larger audience through peer-reviewed publications and related teaching projects, Gravett said.
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About the Department of Philosophy and Religion
The Department of Philosophy and Religion invites students to explore the world, examine beliefs, understand a diversity of worldviews, and challenge the ideas and values that instruct our lives. The department offers a Bachelor of Arts in philosophy and a Bachelor of Arts in religious studies, as well as a minor in both of these areas. Learn more at https://philrel.appstate.edu.
About the College of Arts and Sciences
The College of Arts and Sciences is home to 16 academic departments, one stand-alone academic program, two centers and one residential college. These units span the humanities and the social, mathematical and natural sciences. The College of Arts and Sciences aims to develop a distinctive identity built upon our university's strengths, traditions and unique location. The college’s values lie not only in service to the university and local community, but through inspiring, training, educating and sustaining the development of its students as global citizens. There are approximately 6,100 student majors in the college. As the college is also largely responsible for implementing Appalachian's general education curriculum, it is heavily involved in the education of all students at the university, including those pursuing majors in other colleges. Learn more at https://cas.appstate.edu.
About Appalachian State University
As the premier public undergraduate institution in the state of North Carolina, Appalachian State University prepares students to lead purposeful lives as global citizens who understand and engage their responsibilities in creating a sustainable future for all. The Appalachian Experience promotes a spirit of inclusion that brings people together in inspiring ways to acquire and create knowledge, to grow holistically, to act with passion and determination, and to embrace diversity and difference. Located in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Appalachian is one of 17 campuses in the University of North Carolina System. Appalachian enrolls more than 20,000 students, has a low student-to-faculty ratio and offers more than 150 undergraduate and graduate majors.