Religion Department

"Dartmouth is truly a special place"

At a recent celebration of Dartmouth's 250th anniversary celebration and Call to Lead campaign, Lacey Jones '16 and Religion Professor Randall Balmer discussed their collaboration on Prof. Balmer's television documentary exploring the relationship between the Orthodox Church and Alaska Natives. Lacey Jones was the lead researcher for the documentary, which is in production. "The experience introduced me to the importance of archival research. It taught me how to write in a different genre, because writin a documentary is so different from writing academic discourse," said Jones. "I've just begun my Ph.D. at Yale, and I'm seeing firthand how exceptional it is for dartmouth students to have the kind of opportunities that would only go to grad students at any other school. I'm thinking especially of how grateful I am for faculty like Professor Blmer and Professor Andew McCnn in the English Department, who - not to be over-dramatic - made it possible for me to think and to live.

Welcome Emily Simpson, a Japanese scholar for 2019-20

This academic year, Japanese scholar Emily Simpson will teach the following courses:

  • In 19F, REL 19.29 (12) Women and Religion in Japan
  • In 20W, REL 19.31 (2) Religions of Japan
  • In 20S, REL 19.32 (10) Shinto: Foundations, Festivals, & Fox Shrines

Prof. Simpson earned her B.A. from Vassar College and both her M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of California at Santa Barbara in East Asian Languages and Cultural Studies. She has also studied at Tohoku University in Sendai, Japan, under a Fulbright IIE Graduate Research Fellowship.

Alumni Stories: Tim Snowber '84

When I arrived at Dartmouth in September 1980 I had spent my childhood attending Mass and catechism classes at our local Catholic church.  I was intending to major in History, but an upper classman suggested I take a Religion class as the program had a great reputation.  Freshman Fall I took the Intro survey class (Religion 1) and it turned me on my head.  It lead me to ask questions of things I had never really looked at.  I suddenly became conscious of the water I had been swimming in all my life.  The initial questions lead to other questions- and I was hooked.  I majored in Religion because I felt it was the way to make my studies at Dartmouth most personally relevant- and I was right.

Alumni Stories: Jennifer Darling '02

When I entered Dartmouth, I thought I was going to be an Engineering Physics major and go on to live the life of, well, Dilbert.  But being in an academic environment like Dartmouth changed my perspective.  I realized that if I only pursued the academic areas in which I was already skilled, I would become too linear a thinker and ultimately, too one dimensional a person.  I began complementing my math and science studies with a variety of other courses (Art History, History, Psychology, Economics) until I discovered Religion 11 (Religion and Morality with Professor Green) my sophomore winter. The first book we read was Fear and Trembling and it changed me as a person.  In addition to triggering an existential crisis, I finally felt that I had found an academic course of study that gave me what I was craving -- something that was intellectually stimulating, that expanded my perspective as a human being, and that exposed to classmates I didn't meet in my normal social circle, but who had a profound impact on how I thought about the world.  This was the kind of book I wanted to read to in college.  This is the challenge I wanted. Now that I'm 15 years out of Dartmouth, it's a decis

Alumni Stories: Brian Otley '89

I can't tell you how many times in my adult life I have received odd looks from people when I tell them I majored in Religion at Dartmouth. People just don't expect it and seem to have trouble understanding it beyond the typical "did you want to be a minister/pastor/priest?" Despite those awkward moments I wouldn't change my decision on my major for anything. I have found that my Dartmouth education and my Religion major have served me well in my life, both professionally and personally. Since leaving Dartmouth my professional path has been leadership roles with technology companies and companies trying to evolve or disrupt their industry sector in some way. My major gave me insights into peoples and patterns and cultures and history and communication and writing and just thinking differently and being tolerant of different thought. I had easy access to challenging professors and a wide range of courses that were mostly stimulating and thought-provoking. Much of my work these days deals with leading large teams of people through change cycles they don't always like.

Alumni Stories: Lee Cooper '09

I recall thinking, as an undergrad, that Religion was interesting and unique because it was a prism through which I could explore the liberal arts broadly. It provided a coherent excuse to take courses related to Philosophy, Anthropology, History, and Sociology, all under one roof. I now have an MBA and a JD, and I work in biotechnology with MDs and PhDs---all a far cry from Mahayana Buddhism or Spinoza--but I still find myself thinking about Turner's "Betwixt and Between," among many other great readings. the reading, writing, and learning I did as a Religion major remains more core to who I am than an graduate degrees or job titles I have since earned.

Alumni Stories: Jane Lonnquist '88

Growing up, faith (and doubt) were important parts of my evolving identity. Studying religion helped me figure out
my own belief system (agnostic, unaffiliated, and humble, like so many who have studied world religions closely).
Majoring in religion was originally a way to "round-out" my intended pre-med studies. Instead, I left the pre-med
track and used my religion as the perfect lens through which to view liberal arts content that intrigued me:
philosophy, science, feminism, ethics, and language. Having Professors Oden and Henricks for Religion 101 played
a big role in my decision as well. It turns out my husband took that same class -- we never knew each other at
Dartmouth but pinned down that commonality after discussing the final, moving lecture of that powerful course.

Zahra Ayubi receives grant from Greenwall Foundation

Assistant Professor of Religion Zahra Ayubi has received a grant from the Greenwall Foundation’s Faculty Scholars Program in Bioethics to continue her research on the intersections of bioethics, gender, and religion within the context of Islam. She is one of four scholars from around the country to receive the award this year.

The Faculty Scholars Program provides financial support—half of a full-time faculty salary—for three years, but the benefits of the grant extend far beyond funding, Ayubi says. The program includes the opportunity to receive mentorship from senior scholars, participate in biannual conferences, and become part of the Greenwall Foundation’s larger community of bioethics researchers.

“The foundation is really interested in mentoring early- and mid-career researchers,” Ayubi says. “There’s a lot of support, and that’s exciting for me. At our home institutions, we exist in our own research silos, so being able to be plugged into a larger bioethics community is invaluable.”

2019 Student prizes awarded

Congratulations to the graduating Religion majors who were awarded Department prizes at the Department's Commencement Reception on Saturday, June 8:

  • Dickinson Senior Writing Prize in Religion
    Established June 2004, The Dickinson Senior Writing Prize in Religion is awarded during the senior year by vote of the Religion Department faculty to that senior or seniors that have produced the best writing project as a culminating experience in the major or in a senior year seminar course.
    • Monika C. Gabriele '19
    • Makena A. Kauhane '19
  • Hans H. Penner Prize in the Study of Religion
    Established in 2014, the Hans Penner Prize is given to a graduating major in the Department of Religion whose work demonstrates dexterity in theoretical and methodological approaches to the study of religion.
    • Marshall S. Harris '19





























"Is Dartmouth a Religion?"

"Religion is about community and how societies organize and structure themselves," says Religion professor Susan Ackerman '80, who majored in Religion and has taught in the department for 29 years. This Spring Term, Prof. Ackerman taught a special 250th anniversary class, a freshman seminar entitled "Is Dartmouth a Religion?" Read about the class and her students' thoughts and comments in the current issue of the Dartmouth Alumni Magazine.