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From the Colloquium, Graduate Fellows Edition

Since 2006, the Lilly Fellows Program Director has published a “From the Colloquium” column about four times per year. The idea behind this column is to share some of the common readings from the colloquia of the Lilly Postdoctoral Fellows Program and the Lilly Graduate Fellows Program. These works can be of great value for mentoring programs or faculty development projects at different campuses (or to add to your own reading lists).

Common readings and group discussion have been central to the Lilly Fellows Program’s (LFP) fellowship programs from their start twenty-five years ago. First with the Lilly Postdoctoral Teaching Fellowship program at Valparaiso University starting in 1992 and then with the Lilly Graduate Fellows Program in 2008, Fellows have encountered readings intended to engage Christian thought and practice as they intersect the tasks of teaching and scholarship that make up the work we do in the academy. The readings address these issues on both the personal and institutional level, examining our individual practices as scholars as well as those of our academic institutions (with, of course, a special emphasis on those institutions of higher learning that connect to a church-related mission).

Once a year, we focus on the readings that the three active cohorts of Lilly Graduate Fellows discuss. These Fellows are in their first three years of Graduate school. Each semester, the Lilly Graduate Fellow cohorts select readings that cluster around a particular theme.

So, without further ado, here are some of those readings.

The members of the Fifth Cohort of Lilly Graduate Fellows, who began graduate school and the program in fall 2012 and who just completed their three year program, read and discussed materials focused on the theme “Christianity, Higher Learning, and American Democratic Culture.” This Cohort is mentored by Lisa DeBoer of Westmont College and Michael Patella of Saint John’s University. Having studied George Eliot’s Middlemarch over the summer, the cohort tackled this theme by reading sections of de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America, Willa Cather’s My Antonia, Mary Catherine Bateson’s essay, “Composing a Life Story,” Robert Benne’s Quality with Soul, selections from Hughes, Richard T. Hughes and William B. Adrian’s Models for Christian Higher Education: Strategies for Survival and Success in the Twenty-First Century, Josef Pieper’s classic Leisure: The Basis of Culture (a regular text with both the Graduate and Postdoctoral Fellowship colloquia), Alan Jacobs’ essay, “George Eliot: Good Without God,” Tracy Fessenden’s “Secularism, Feminism, Imperialism:  Charlotte Perkins Gilman and the Progress Narrative of U.S. Feminism,” Jon Roberts and James Turner’s The Sacred and Secular University (also popular with the Graduate Fellows), “Facing Reality” from Marilynne Robinson’s The Death of Adam, selections from Charles Taylor’s The Secular Age, and Job and Sawchuck, A Guide to Prayer for Ministers and Other Servants.  In the spring term, 2015, as is becoming the custom, the cohort members brought work from their own programs to share with the group.

The members of the Sixth Cohort of Lilly Graduate Fellows, who completed the second year of their fellowship and who began their graduate studies in the fall of 2013, spent the year reflecting on two themes. In the fall, they tackled “Christian Vocation as Active Love in the World.” The Sixth Cohort’s mentors are Jane Kelley Rodeheffer of Pepperdine University and Arlin Migliazzo of Whitworth University. The “spine” text for the fall was Fyodor Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov. The group supplemented that text with Mary Catherine Bateson, “Composing a Life Story,” Allan Gurganus, White People, Sherman Alexie, “The Trial of Thomas Builds the Fire,” Leonid Ouspensky and Vladimir Lossky, The Meaning of Icons, Rowan Williams, Dostoevsky: Language, Faith, and Fiction, and the poetry of Louise Gluck (“The Wild Iris” and “Vespers”), George Herbert (“Love Bade Me Welcome”), Geoffrey Hill (“Lachrimae Amantis”), Gerard Manley Hopkins (“Thou art indeed just, Lord, if I contend’” and “My Own Heart Let Me Have More Pity On”), Mary Karr (“Descending Theology: The Resurrection”), Denise Levertov (“To Live in the Mercy of God” and “For Those Whom the Gods Love Less”), Steve Smith (“The Airy Christ”), Christian Wiman (“And I said to my Soul” and “Five Houses Down”), and Thomas Merton (“When in the Soul of the Serene Disciple”). They also discussed Anthony Domestico’s interview with Christian Wiman, “Prepared for Joy,” in Commonweal (May 2, 2014).

In the spring, the Sixth Cohort addressed the subject, “Living Our Christian Vocation as Teachers and Scholars.”  The primary texts were several classics of both the Graduate and Postdoctoral Fellowship colloquia, including Ken Bain, What the Best College Teachers Do, Andrew Delbanco, College, Arlin C. Migliazzo, ed., Teaching as an Act of Faith, Parker J. Palmer, The Courage to Teach, Parker J. Palmer and Arthur Zajonc, The Heart of Higher Education, James K. A. Smith, Desiring the Kingdom, and Barbara Gross Davis, Tools for Teaching. They also engaged Jane Kelley Rodeheffer, “Educating For Justice: Service Learning and Plato’s Republic,” and ‘Assailed By Greater Care’: Revivalist Imagery in Dante’s Portrayal of Cato and the Penitents in Purgatorio II,” Charles Baxter, “Gryphon,” Wayne C. Booth, “What Little I Think I Know About Teaching,” J. D. Chapman, “Send Your Kid to the Ivy League,” William Deresiewicz, “Don’t Send Your Kid to the Ivy League,” Thomas Merton, “Learning To Live,” Vivian Gussin Paley, Wally’s Stories:  Conversations in the Kindergarten, Kathryn Tanner, “Why Are We Here?,” Lionel Trilling, “Of this Time, of that Place,” and the poetry of Yehuda Amichaids (“The School Where I Studied”), Judy Brown (“Fire”), Elizabeth Carlson (“Imperfection”), Emily Dickinson (“Tell all the Truth but tell it slant”), John Fox (“When Someone Deeply Listens to You”), Denise Levertov (“Witness”), Mary Oliver (“The Journey”), Rainer Maria Rilke (“I Am too Alone in the World, and Not Alone Enough”), Jellaludin Rumi (“Two Kinds of Intelligence”), William Butler Yeats (“Earth, Fire and Water”), and Al Zolynas (“Love in the Classroom—for My Students”).

Members of the Seventh Cohort of Lilly Graduate Fellows, who began graduate work in fall, 2014, with mentors Paul Contino of Pepperdine University and Susan Felch of Calvin College, addressed the topic, “The Fellowship of Pilgrims” in fall, 2014, and the topic, “Midway in the Journey of Our Lives,” in spring, 2015. To grapple with “The Fellowship of Pilgrims,” the cohort used as its “spine” text Augustine’s Confessions, and, in addition, read Wayne Booth’s “Introduction” from The Company we Keep, Paul Griffith’s, The Vice of Curiosity, Robert Kiely’s, Blessed and Beautiful, the classic by Stephanie Paulsell, “Writing as a Spiritual Discipline,” from Paulsell and L. Gregory Jones, The Scope of Our Art, Christine D. Pohl, Making Room: Recovering Hospitality as a Christian Tradition, Susan Felch’s “Doubt and the Hermeneutics of Delight,” Rowan Williams’ The Dwelling of the light: Praying with Icons of Christ, and Simone Weil’s classic, “Reflections on the Right Use of School Studies” in Waiting for God. In the spring, to address the theme “Midway in the Journey of our Lives,” the “spine” text was, not surprisingly, Dante’s Inferno, along with Rebecca Konyndyk DeYoung’s Glittering Vices (which as become especially popular with the Graduate Fellows), C.S. Lewis, “The Inner Ring,” and Josef Pieper, The Four Cardinal Virtues.

Posted by Joe Creech

Some Good News from Feminismxianity

We always like hearing about the schools in our National Network – what they are up to, what programs they are developing, etc. Just as much as we like to hear about what former postdoctoral fellows are doing.  Today, we get a bit of both in the recent post from former fellow, Caryn Riswold, over at her excellent blog, feminismxianity.  Riswold, who is also a member of our National Network Board and LFP representative for Illinois College, reviews the latest “good news about religious higher education” appearing in Religious News Service and Christianity Today.

Riswold’s post reminds readers of the important role the LFP can and does play in continuing the ecumenical dialogue that happens within our network of schools.  I am particularly drawn to her reminder that  “Church-related higher education, like Christianity itself, brings together people who don’t agree on all things.”  The LFP continues to provide a space and forum for diverse network schools to engage in conversation about their respective institutions.  One thing from my time with the LFP that I have found remarkable is that representatives from the different faith traditions come together at national conferences or in regional gatherings to share best practices.  These are diverse schools not only in matters of faith, but also in size, research and teaching orientation, and in geography. They all share concerns about faculty development and mentoring, preservation of tradition and faith, and maintaining institutions that provide a solid foundation to their students.

Go check out Riswold’s latest post.

Call for Papers: The Spirit of Sports

Spirit of SportsBaylor University‘s Institute for Faith and Learning recently announced a Call for Papers for its upcoming conference, The Spirit of Sports.  This conference is a part of Baylor’s Symposium on Faith and Culture and will be held November 5 to 7, 2015.  This symposium “will explore, from the perspective of religious faith, the significance of sports in our lives, especially the ways that contemporary sports both support and compromise the cultivation of human excellence and our relationships with others and God.”

The deadline for proposals is July 31, 2015.  For more information, including how to submit proposals, see Baylor’s conference site.

From the Colloquium – A Semester Wrap Up

The semester has come to an end here at Valparaiso University.  Grades are in and graduation is set for May 16 and 17.  The Postdoctoral Fellows will be donning cap and gowns to walk as members of the Valpo faculty.  They started the year with that rig at the beginning of the academic year for Postdoc convocation 2014Convocation; it seems fitting that we will all dress up once again as the undergraduates and law students process out into the world.  Some of our fellows are doing just that as well.  Our second-year fellows, Ian Clausen and Katherine Kennedy Steiner are leaving for positions at Villanova University and the University of Toronto.  Ian will start in the fall as an Arthur J. Ennis Fellow in the Augustine and Cultural Seminar Program.  Kate will be a Mellon Fellow at the Pontifical Institute for Medieval Studies at the University of Toronto for 2015-2016.  One of our first year fellows, Jennifer Illig leaves us for Mount Saint Mary’s Monastery in Wrenthem, MA where she begins her new life as a postulant.

These fellows will begin a new phase in their lives. They leave the LFP and Linwood House and join the ranks of Former Fellows and live their vocations in different ways.  The colloquium readings for the second half of the spring semester were then fitting as we explored various manifestations (and definitions) of vocation, scholarly pursuits, and teaching within the context of higher education.  Typically, the readings and discussions at this point in the year remain rich, but they tend to move in more personal and practical directions.  The shared conversations between established faculty mentors and participants of the colloquium and the fellows get more to the meat of teaching, what it looks like in our classrooms, how we see ourselves at a particular university, and all the while contemplating the Future of Higher Education. (Yes, a lot goes on in the hour and a half we meet.)

Our readings largely focused on the nature of the humanities and vocation in both public and private/religiously affiliated institutions. We explored vocation and the growing adjunctification of the academy. We asked ourselves “how practices and perspectives from Christian faith and tradition contribute to [our] teaching and scholarship.”  With that we examined how we personally define vocation.  Is it a calling to a state in life or is it a call to meet the needs of the world in whatever we do?  Or both? We rounded out of semester with selections from Mark Schwehn and Dorothy Bass’ Leading Lives that Matter: What We Should Do and Who We Should Be. In particular, we read Bonnie Miller-McLemore’s “Generativity Crises of My Own,” Abigail Zuger’s “Defining a Doctor,” Martha Nussbaum’s “Interview by Bill Moyers,” and Mary Catherine Bateson’s “Composing a Life Story.”  We ended our spring colloquium with a rousing discussion of how we hope to find compromise and balance in our lives – how we will be dedicated teachers, present for our students, all the while committed to our scholarship, and yet be equally present for our friends and families.  What that looks like exactly is anyone’s guess!  The conversation and fellowship continued over a delightful pot-luck supper.  As spring finally came to our door, we look forward to what comes next.  Linwood spring 2014

Teaching the Twenty-first Century Undergrad: A Conversation with Caryn Riswold

Recent literature and conversation about contemporary undergraduate students and emerging adults inspired one college professor to explore their faith identity and Christian privilege.  I had a chance to sit down with Caryn Riswold and discuss these issues which appear in her new article, “Teaching the College “Nones”: Christian Privilege and the Religion Professor,” in the April 2015 issue of Teaching Theology & Religion.

Mary Beth: Your recent article in Teaching Theology and Religion focuses on teaching an undergraduate population that increasingly identifies themselves without a religious affiliation. They are the “Nones,” a term popularized in Patricia O’Connell Killen and Mark Silk’s edited book, Religion and Public Life in the Pacific Northwest (2004).  How new is the concentration of Nones in the classroom?

Caryn: In my fifteen years of teaching undergraduates, I have seen a steady increase in students who don’t identify with any religious tradition.  I think this is for a variety of reasons, and there are plenty of scholars of church and generations writing about it.  The word “none” is of course contested and complicated, as I talk about in my article.  It might mean not religious, or not a believer, or something else entirely.

It seems that I have always talked with young people who proclaim themselves to be “spiritual, but not religious” … and inevitably some of them think that they invented the concept!  Linda Mercadante’s recent book, Belief Without Borders, is pretty instructive on this phenomenon, actually.  What I have noticed in recent years is that students are more likely and more comfortable actually saying they are agnostic or atheist.  A few years ago in particular, there were several students who talked about this identity in one of my classes, and it made a noticeable difference in discussions.  A good one.  For those of us who have been reading and talking about millennials for a while now, this is one of many things that makes them distinctive, and I think presents an interesting challenge to conventional pedagogies of religion.

MB: You were a Postdoctoral Lilly Fellow.  In what way did your experience as a fellow help you think about who and how you were teaching?

C: I think that the experience of being a Postdoctoral Lilly Fellow means that I ALWAYS think about who I teach, along with how I teach and why I teach the ways that I do.  Because of the LFP, I assume that discernment and reflection on the life of a teacher-scholar is essential.  If teaching is a vocation, and I do think it is, then it bears the responsibility of a calling to do work that matters in other peoples’ lives.  I still have hanging over my desk a simple page of “some quotations on teaching” that Arlin Meyer (LFP program director in my postdoc years) shared with us.  One that I regularly remind myself of is: “Teaching is fundamentally about relationships, about not imposing oneself upon the subject or upon the learners, but in fashioning an appropriate response to both.”  That’s from Mary Boys’ essay on “The Grace of Teaching” in a 1996 issue of The Cresset.  And that is some of the spirit I carry with me into the classroom and my work with students, primarily because of the LFP.

MB: Your article talks specifically about teaching in a religion (or theology) classroom.  Do you think how we understand who college students are today applies to other classrooms, say like history, mathematics, or biology?

C: I think that every one of us who works with college students is able to do our job better when we know something about our students – both as a generation and as individuals.  It helps us understand why they actually might like talking to their parents every day (while we cranky GenXers would rather have done anything other than that!), why they respond to direction and instruction they way they do (or don’t), and so on.  The religious piece of it is simply another window into the world that they bring with them into any and every classroom.  A history professor might not be able to presume that all of her students know something about Christianity in U.S. history through their personal experience with a church;  a biology professor might be relieved to know that students aren’t necessarily taking literal biblical creationism seriously as a rule.

MB: At the same time you speak of Nones, you also identify Christian privilege.  What is this?  Early women’s historians spoke of decentering the male narrative. How can identifying Christian privilege and decentering the Christian narrative change our classrooms?

C: Decentering the Christian narrative makes room for more narratives to be in the room.  And it is a fact that there are more narratives in the classroom these days, the ones that students bring in with them.  It is also a fact that students are part of a world in which they already encounter multiple narratives, religious worldviews, belief systems, and so if we don’t make space for all of that in the classroom, we are doing a disservice to their current lives and their future work.

Christian privilege is, to echo Peggy McIntosh’s analogous description of white privilege, an invisible package of assets and assumptions that I carry with me, that I can use to my own advantage in a social setting, that I don’t really know I have.

Naming Christian privilege can have the same effect that naming white privilege and male privilege had on movements toward multicultural awareness on campuses and in communities.  It educates those of us in the norm that we are assuming things that might not be true, and things that are not true for other people.  In terms of Christian privilege, examples of those assumptions are things like this that a student (or a professor) might think:  Other people in this class have been in a place of worship like my own;  Other people in this class know what I’m talking about when I talk about my sacred text;  Devotion to my faith, including wearing symbols associated with it, will be understood by others in this class and mostly viewed favorably.

The fact is that if you are anything other than Christian on a college or university campus in the U.S., those things (and many more) are not true.  This includes identifying with another religion and it also includes as identifying as nonreligious or atheist.

MB: Is this something more than being ecumenically minded in the classroom? I have Eboo Patel’s Interfaith Youth Core in mind when I ask this question.

C: I think of this as being aware of the social, political, and theological structures around the classroom.  Understanding those things that students as well as teachers bring in with them that end up advantaging and disadvantaging each of us.  It is more than being ecumenically- and interfaith-minded (though it includes those things) because it takes seriously the power that systems of privilege and inequality have.

MB: You talk about becoming an ally to students, stating, “[t]o be an ally in the context of teaching and learning is to be on the side of the student, to work for her or his learning, growth, and development as an engaged citizen.” (p.139)  How have you thought about this in your own work as a theologian and as a teacher?

C: The Mary Boys quote from earlier seems appropriate to this question as well.  The way I think about this is that each student not only brings something unique into the classroom, s/he needs something unique while in the classroom.  Perhaps one student needs to be allowed to question the rigid dogma she’s learned by memory, while another student needs to be introduced to the rich tradition of Christianity.  Maybe a different student needs to see how to read the Hebrew Bible on its own terms, while the person sitting next to him needs to be able to articulate a response to the Islamophobia that he hears from others on campus.

MB: One thing I enjoy about your article is that you give practical examples of how one can be an ally to her students.  How did you develop the “Trial of the Garden of Eden?”

C: I’ve been doing it for so long I’m not exactly sure anymore!  I think it was in conversation with a colleague in my department who has worked with the Reacting to the Past curriculum in his teaching … as a way to get students actively engaged with historical material in more interesting ways.  I decided to play with the ways that I try to get students to see what is – and  isn’t! – in Genesis 2-3 as one example of close textual reading and discussion about how religious traditions indirectly emerge out of texts.  This also ends up decentering the Christian narrative insofar as it challenges assumptions about what happens there, and whose “fault” it really is.

Caryn Riswold was a postdoctoral fellow for the Lilly Fellows Program from 2000-2002. She also serves on the board of the Lilly Fellows Program National Network. Riswold is a Professor of Religion and Chair of Gender and Women’s Studies at Illinois College in Jacksonville, Illinois.  She is the author of several books, including Feminism and Christianity:  Questions and Answers in the Third Wave, and Two Reformers:  Martin Luther and Mary Daly as Political Theologians. To learn more about Caryn see her blog at Patheos, Feminismxianity



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