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Student Lounge

The Student Lounge is a place for students to relax in the midst of the hectic Annual Meeting. We hope that you will take advantage of the free coffee and the chance to talk with fellow students. The lounge will be located in the McCormick Place West, Room 195*, and the lounge will be open Saturday–Monday, 8:00 AM–5:00 PM. The Graduate Student Committee has also organized a series of roundtable discussions on topics related to professionalization and student life. We invite you to join us for coffee and snacks as we discuss the following topics:

How to Organize a Graduate Student Conference

Saturday, 10:00 AM–11:00 AM
Kristopher Norris, University of Virginia, Philip Lorish, University of Virginia, and Christina McRorie, University of Virginia, Presiding

Graduate student conferences are becoming increasingly popular venues for sharing research and networking in religious and theological studies. Graduate students have also developed valuable skills as members of the planning committees for these events. If you have ever considered organizing a conference at your institution, or are simply curious about the steps of this process, join us for a discussion with some of the coordinators of the 2012 Virginia Graduate Colloquium on Theology, Ethics, and Culture. The panel will share their experiences planning and executing this successful Colloquium, including tips on advertising, securing funding, organizing panels, getting faculty involved, and more!

Academic Employment is More Hopeful Than It Seems

Saturday, 4:00 PM–5:00 PM
Matthew Hill, Spring Arbor University, Presiding

At first glance, the prospect of finding academic jobs after graduate school seems bleak. Positions are few and competition is high. Yet there is reason to be hopeful. Most graduate students have numerous connections to multiple colleges and universities. Tapping into this network is easier than it seems. A large part of this discussion will revolve around learning how to locate and use one's network to get hired as an ABD or new PhD. We will also focus on developing new connections and adjusting CVs to fit a variety of possible employees. Through his own journey of finding an assistant professorship while ABD, as well as being part of a department that has made some recent hires, Hill hopes to discuss what academic employers are looking for and to show that getting hired is not only possible, but also realistic.

An Effective Drug-free Antidote to Chronic Stress: Mindfulness Meditation

Sunday, 10:00 AM–11:00 AM
Fitri Junoes, University of Hong Kong, Presiding

Graduate students have to contend with the stresses of academia: deadlines, proposals, assignments, presentations, and expectations. These stresses, and many more, result in a decrease in mind clarity and productivity. This workshop introduces mindfulness meditation as an effective drug-free antidote for this problem. During the first half of the workshop, participants will engage in a hands-on exercise to understand the reality of the situation by creating an awareness of the interdependence of circumstances. The goal of this exercise is to see objectively the nature of the problem and create a space that allows flexibility without getting caught up in the web of confusion and anxiety. The remainder of the workshop will feature a guided meditation for stress reduction. The overall expected result of mindfulness meditation is a calmer mind.

Demystifying Comprehensive Exams

Sunday, 3:00 PM–4:00 PM
Theresa Yugar, Claremont Graduate University, and Jennifer Adler, Vanderbilt University, Presiding

Join fellow graduate students in this roundtable conversation on comprehensive exams for thoughts on getting started, getting finished, and everything in-between. Though institutions have different criteria for their exams, there are strategies to successfully completing this process that can be employed by students from diverse disciplines. Tips will be offered to master one's exams with as little pain as possible, including allocating time for studying and creating study aids. We will also discuss common challenges that students face at this stage in their program. Individuals will leave this session with concrete methodological approaches that can be tailored to their specific needs and institutional requirements. Participants are encouraged to bring their institutions' exam requirements for our discussion.

Building Classroom Community: Engaging Students and Powerful Pedagogy

Monday, 10:00 AM–11:00 AM
Joshua Canzona, Georgetown University, Presiding

Effective teaching relies on building rapport with your students and a strong classroom community. This discussion will canvas strategies to help you create culturally relevant pedagogy, design effective group projects, encourage a student-centered classroom, empower learners for creative reflection, and connect with your students from day one. Teaching resources will be provided and participants will have ample opportunity to share stories and ask questions about the way we relate to our students in the classroom.

Distance Education: Challenges and Rewards

Monday, 4:00 PM–5:00 PM
Jon Jordan, Reformed Theological Seminary, Presiding

As distance education programs are being offered by a growing number of institutions — specifically in the field of religious studies — students that are unable or unwilling to relocate are now given access to more respected institutions and professors. This workshop will cover the major challenges and rewards of a distance program, as well as tips for those considering such approaches. This discussion will be led by a graduate student entering his final year of a MA Religion (New Testament) program through Reformed Theological Seminary's virtual campus.

"Especially For Students" Programming

Wabash Center Workshop for Graduate Students

Friday, 1:00 PM–5:00 PM
McCormick Place North – 139*

Cosponsored by the Wabash Center for Teaching and Learning in Theology and Religion, the American Academy of Religion Graduate Student Committee, and the Society of Biblical Literature Student Advisory Board.

Open to graduate students who are teaching or may in the near future teach, this workshop focuses turning one's teaching philosophy into effective lesson planning and design. Participants will submit by October 1 a one-page teaching philosophy statement and a sample syllabi from a course they have taught, want to teach, or that has been taught in their department. Intentional reflection on the context of teaching and the student learners at its core will lead to practical classroom strategies for the participant's own context. Instructional experts will present and lead discussion. Because one's teaching philosophy is a crucial element to any job interview, graduate students involved in teaching will surely not want to miss this opportunity.

Almeda Wright, Pfeiffer University
Eugene Gallagher, Connecticut College
Rolf Jacobson, Luther Seminary

Teaching Tactics Lightning Round

Saturday, 4:00 PM–6:30 PM
McCormick Place West – 176C*

Eugene Gallagher, Connecticut College, Presiding

Sponsored by the Teaching Religion Section. The session will present teaching tactics in a timed format. Each tactic will be distributed, and the author will clarify its content. There will be time for discussion of each tactic and a general discussion to close the session.

Ramon Madrigal, Florida College
Top Ten Weird Acts of the Prophets

Lindsay McAnulty, Catholic University of America
Imagination and Pacing: Key Tactics in Helping Modern Students to Relate to Christian History

Corey Harris, Alvernia University
Using Pop Culture to Establish Perspective

Brandon Withrow, Winebrenner Theological Seminary
Learning by Listening: Classroom Assignments and Strategies Aimed at Individual Barriers to the Discussion of Religion in Higher Education

David Howell, Ferrum College
Background Knowledge Probe in an Upper-level Course

Sarah Sours, King's College
Visualizing Intertextuality: Icons and Highly Allusive Texts

Business Meeting:
Carolyn Medine, University of Georgia, Presiding

"Religion beyond the Boundaries" Public Lecture Series

The AAR is committed to fostering the public understanding of religion. Inspired by this goal, the Graduate Student Committee has organized two evenings of public talks in Chicago. Student members will present their cutting-edge research in these innovative evening sessions, designed to move our discussions of religion out of the traditional academic setting of the Annual Meeting and into the community. This year's talks center around two themes:

  • Religion and Politics
  • Religion and Economics

Plan to join us for these stimulating talks and discussions!

Religion and Politics Session

Sunday, 6:00 PM–8:00pm
Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, 1100 E. 55th Street, Chicago, IL  60615*

Joseph Blankholm, Columbia University
The Secularist Movement: An Overview of the Lobbying and Legal Efforts of America's Organized Nonbelievers

Joshua Canzona, Catholic University of America
Religious Liberty, Partisan Politics, and Catholic Fissures

Jermaine M. McDonald, Emory University
President Obama, Historically Black Churches, and Public Discourse about Same-sex Marriage

Rima Vesely-Flad, Sarah Lawrence College
Race, Morality, and United States Politics

Religion and Economics Session

Monday, 6:00 PM–8:00PM
Meadville Lombard Theological School (inside the Spertus Center), 610 South Michigan Avenue, Chicago, IL 60605*

Greg Kame, University of South Africa
Morality and Spirituality: The Missing Link for Economic Development in the Twenty-first Century

Brad Stoddard, Florida State University
Legislating Pluralism: Faith-based Prisons and the Privatization of Morality

Peter M. Romaskiewicz, University of California, Santa Barbara
Seeing Buddha, Selling Buddha: The Economy of Buddhist Imagery in the United States

Other Sessions of Interest to Students

Imagined Solidarities: Common Cause or Conflicting Interests among Undergraduate Students and Their Faculties?

Sunday, 1:00 PM–2:30 PM
McCormick Place East – 263*

Louis Ruprecht, Georgia State University, and Richard M. Carp, Saint Mary's College, California, Presiding

The professional lives of most members of the AAR depend on undergraduate students. Many of us spend the majority of our time working with undergraduates, and those undergraduates — either directly through tuition or indirectly through taxpayer support — pay most of our salaries as well. Yet it seems that students and faculties at American colleges and universities find little practical solidarity with one another during the current, extended financial and moral crises within the Academy. What is the actual character of our relationships as they take place in our classrooms, offices, and elsewhere, and how do these relationships affect our sense of solidarity and/or mutual care? This special session queries several possible ways of imagining this complex relationship, only some of which create the possibility of genuine solidarity. All of these imaginative relations are probably present for each of us in some degree, though different faculty's comfort with one or more forms of such imagining may vary greatly. How do these relationships, real and imagined, play out in our actual contexts? To what extent do they (or should they) manifest mutual caring and/or result in solidarities potent enough to affect our institutions? How have the new economic challenges (rising tuition and student fees, pay cuts and furloughs for faculty, growing class size, and general malaise) and the moral complexities they generate make such solidarities easier or more difficult to imagine and sustain?

Timothy Peoples, Adrian College
Brock Bingaman, Wesleyan College
Lucia Hulsether, Harvard University
Wes Barker, Georgia State University
Lucas Johnston, Wake Forest University
Kate Daley-Bailey, University of Georgia

Teaching Religion Section and SBL Academic Teaching and Biblical Studies Section and Wabash Center for Teaching and Learning in Theology and Religion (Roundtable Discussions)

Sunday, 1:00 PM–2:30 PM
McCormick Place West – 175A*

Paul Myhre, Wabash Center, Presiding

A set of roundtable discussions cosponsored by the Wabash Center for Teaching and Learning in Theology and Religion.

Joe Blosser, High Point University
Hearing is Believing: The Use of Audio Feedback for Religion Student Papers

Martha Reineke, University of Northern Iowa
On Not Dumping Our Students at the Exit Ramp: Synthesizing the Major and Supporting Career-planning in the Senior Seminar

Molly Bassett, Georgia State University, and Rhodora Beaton, Saint Catherine University
Learning Outcomes in the Study of Religions: A Conversation about the (In)Tangibles

Joanne Maguire Robinson, University of North Carolina, Charlotte
Teaching about Teaching about Religion

Anna Mercedes, College of Saint Benedict and Saint John's University
Empowering Resistance While Teaching Gender-based Violence

Amy Merrill Willis, Lynchburg College
Not Just "Happy Hands for Jesus": Service-Learning, Exegesis, and Contextual Hermeneutics

Taylor Halverson, Brigham Young University
To Grade or Not to Grade?: Assessing Learning in Theology, Religion, or Biblical Studies Courses

Suzanne Watts Henderson, Queen's University, Charlotte
Marketing Biblical Studies for Undergraduates

Russell Arnold, DePauw University
Teaching with Meta-questions

Jonathan D. Lawrence, Canisius College
Addressing the Faithful (and the Unfaithful): Dealing with Religious Commitment in the Secular Classroom

Student, Classroom, Institution, Field: Rethinking Theology and Religious Studies from the Ground Up

Monday , 9:00 AM–11:30 AM
McCormick Place North – 226*

Hannah Schell, Monmouth College, Presiding

Sponsored by the Christianity and Academia Group. The fields of theology and religious studies are constantly in flux, always being reshaped by the ongoing evolution of ideas. These fields are also affected by decisions and practices at the microlevel, including the assumptions held by students who study these fields, the classroom practices that orient the discipline toward certain goals, and the institutional decisions that position these academic disciplines in relation to other fields. In this session, scholars operating from a diverse range of methodological and subdisciplinary assumptions probe the ways that theology and religious studies are being rethought and reshaped from the ground up.

Margaret Adam, University of Glasgow
Christian Theology and the Inadequacy of Religion

Kevin Taylor, Pfeiffer University
Reaching the Postmodern Student with Philosophy and Aesthetics

R. J. Hernandez-Diaz, Iliff School of Theology, and Eu Kit Lim, University of Denver and Iliff School of Theology
Trappings of Authenticity: Teaching Religion to Students of Privilege

Michael DeLashmutt, Luther Seminary
Of Deans and Deacons: Towards a Theology of Academic Administration

Business Meeting:
David Cunningham, Hope College

*Room locations are subject to change. Please check your Program Book onsite to confirm the location when you arrive at the Annual Meeting.


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