University of Pittsburgh
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Department of Religious Studies


New & Noteworthy

Department News

Faculty News

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Department News
Buddhist bodhisattva, China
Newly Designed Major

Beginning Spring Term 2017, undergraduate majors will be able to structure their coursework around a set of dynamic "thematic clusters." These clusters will offer majors the opportunity to delve deeply into specific questions that engage them. Whether students are most fascinated by the intersections between religion and medicine; the role that religion plays in politics, social justice or environmental concerns; the relationship between religion and creative expression; or the religious aspects of philosophical or ethical questions, the newly designed major enables the investigation of these ideas comprehensively and from a variety of perspectives. Please contact our DUS, Dr. Rachel Kranson to learn more.

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Faculty News
Conversations sur l'Europe: La Langue et L'Identité dans le Monde Francophone

Dans le monde francophone, quelles sont les relations entre l’identité linguistique, l’identité nationale, le sexe, et la sexualité?

Dans cette séance de Conversations sur l'Europe, on discute cette question avec le panel d’experts suivant:

  • Abdellah Taïa, écrivain marocain d’expression française
  • Denis Provencher, professeur de français et de la communication interculturelle à l’Université de Maryland Baltimore County
  • Nadia Fadil, professeur au Centre de recherches sociologiques, KU Leuven

Animée par Jeanette Jouili, professeur d’études religieuses à l’Université de Pittsburgh

Cette conversation est entièrement en français.

Digital Humanities Projects

The Meyers Excavations Digital Archives Project

Ben Gordon and his collaborators are developing a website that presents artifacts and archaeological remains through a series of interactive maps of a rich archive of archaeological data from the Galilee region of northern Israel. The data derives from nearly three decades of excavation seasons led by Carol Meyers and Eric Meyers (Duke University).

Footprints: Jewish Books Through Time and Place

Adam Shear, along with his collaborators, launched the pilot database of Footprints, a long-term digital humanities project that focuses on the circulation of Hebraica and Judaica in early modern Europe and the Middle East.

Ben Gordon was named head of Roman/Late Roman Period Research for the Tel Shimron Excavations, led by the University of Tel Aviv and Wheaton College.

Adam Shear is named coeditor of the journal AJS (Association for Jewish Studies) Review (2016-2019).

Linda Penkower was named president of the 2016 Eastern International Region of the American Academy of Religion. The Annual Meeting was hosted by the Department of Religious Studies on May 5-6, 2016.

Rebecca Denova won a 2015 CGS Students' Choice Award.

Paula Kane delivered the annual Puff Memorial Lecture in the History of Christianity at Miami University of Ohio, March 2016. She spoke on "Medieval Manhattan: An Antidote to the Jazz Age."


Brock Bahler, Childlike Peace in Merleau-Ponty and Levinas: Intersubjectivity as Dialectical Spiral (Lexington, 2016). PODCAST interview with the author.

Clark Chilson, Secrecy's Power: Covert Shin Buddhists in Japan and Contraditions of Concealment, Nanzan Library of Asian Religion and Culture (UHP, 2014).

Jeanette S. Jouili, Pious Practice and Secular Constraints: Women in the Islamic Revival in Europe (Stanford, 2015).

Paula Kane, Sister Thorn and Catholic Mysticism in Modern America (UNC Press, 2013). View PODCAST interview with the author.

Rachel Kranson coedits special issue of the Journal of Jewish
8.2 (July 2015) on “Jewish Youth in the Global 1960”

Linda Penkower coedits Hindu Rituals at the Margins: Innovations, Transformations, Reconsiderations (USCP, 2014)

Adam Shear coedits Jewish Culture in Early Modern Europe: Essays in Honor of David B. Ruderman (HUCP/Pitt Press, 2014)


Adam Shear won a 2015 Special Initiative to Promote Scholarly Activities in the Humanities for the digital humanities project "Footprints: Jewish Books Through Time And Space."

Rebecca Denova won a 2015 CGS "Students' Choice Award" for the third time.

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Graduate Student News

Emily Stewart wins an AY 2017 Mellon Fellowship for dissertation research on "The Turn to Human Rights: David M. Stowe, Liberal Protestantism, and Postcolonial Mission in the 20th Century."

Lianghao Lu wins the 2016 C.Y. Hsu Summer Fellowship for dissertation research on "Periodicals and the Making of Modern China."

Tucker Ferda selected as a 2015 Society of Biblical Literature (SBL) Regional Scholar, which recognizes promising younger scholars in the field of biblical studies. Open to junior faculty and graduate students, Tucker was selected as one of only three Regional Scholars in US and Canada for 2015.

Emily Stewart won the Best Graduate Student Paper Award, Eastern International Region/American Academy of Religion Annual Conference, 2015, for “Evangelizing the World (Wide Web): Christian Mission in Digital Contexts.” She was the Conference Coordinator for the 2016 Annual Meeting, hosted by the Department of Relgious Studies on May 6-7, 2016.

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Undergraduate News
Graduating Major Presents at Regional Conference

Matthew Kizior (class of 2014) presented "The Reach of Eternal Peace: The Establishment, Authority, and Reception of Sōtō Zen Buddhism" at the 2nd Annual Pittsburgh Asia Consortium (PAC) Undergraduate Research Conference, April 5, 2014, at Slippery Rock University. Matthew's presentation grew out of his capstone senior thesis project.

Graduating Major Wins Prestigious Bronfman Fellowship

Mia Jacobs (class of 2013) was selected as the 2013-2014 Bronfman Fellow. Upon graduation, Mia will be moving to Washington, DC, where she will be working I will be working in Washington, D.C. in the Office of the President at the Hillel Schusterman International Center. The Bronfman Fellowship offers one recent college graduate exposure to the high level operations of an international non-profit organization in the Jewish community by serving as an integral Hillel staff member in the Office of the President. In her work with Hillel’s President, Mia is included in strategic planning meetings, key research, travel, and other executive matters. The Bronfman Fellow’s responsibilities range from logistical support for campus visits and conference schedules to authoring talking points for the President’s speeches, articles, and presentations. Additionally, the Bronfman Fellow receives hands-on exposure to other areas of Hillel’s work, including governance, development, event planning, communications, and external relations.

Religious Studies Amgen Scholar Inducted into Phi Beta Kappa

Congratulations to Brittany Charsar, a double major (Religious Studies and Biological Science), who was one of 113 inductees into Phi Beta Kappa in AY 2012. She was one of only thirteen juniors to be inducted this year. Brittany is featured in the June edition of “Spotlight” in the Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences Newsletter. Brittany is spending summer 2012 as an Amgen Scholar. The Amgen Scholars U.S. Program provides selected undergraduate students with the opportunity to engage in a hands-on research experience at some of the nation’s leading educational institutions. Currently, 10 universities in the U.S. host the summer research program in science and technology.

Students in Jews and the City, a course introduced in the Fall Term by Rachel Kranson, reported on their research on Jewish Pittsburgh at the Heinz History Center on Sunday, December 2, 2012. These presentations were part of a yearlong community outreach project called The Squirrel Hill Project: Squirrel Hill's Jewish Community, Urban History, and American Jewish History.

Religious Studies Minors Inducted into Phi Beta Kappa 
  • Genevieve Dobital
  • Katrina Han
  • Young-Gyue Yi
Religious Studies Sophomore Wins Multiple Honors for Leadership

Kudos to Michael Deckebach for his service to Pitt and his fellow classmates. Michael won the 2012 "Rookie of the Year" Award, a Residence Life award given to the top first-year Resident Assistant at the University of Pittsburgh); the RSA Student of the Year Scholarship, a $1,000 award given to one student living in a Pitt residence hall who displays involvement and leadership in their residence hall; and the Outstanding Sophomore Student Leader Award, part of the Blue Stars and Red Carpet Awards given to one Sophomore student who displays leadership amongst their peers. Michael was also chosen to introduce Kathy Humphrey, Vice Provost and Dean of Students, at the Honors College 125 Anniversary Celebration in February. Click for Podcast.

Senior Major Lectures at the Warhol Museum

TYLER PHAN (Class of 2012) spoke on “Death in the Age of the Bardo” in conjunction with a performance by Lilith Bailey-Kroll, at the Warhol Museum. This lecture and performance interpreting Tibet's 8th-century bodhisattva, Padmasambhava's timeless Bardo Thödol (Liberation Through Hearing), was part of the 2011 Pittsburgh Biennial: Gertrude’s/LOT exhibition.

Eleven 2012 Majors Graduate With University Honors

Kudos to our summa cum laude graduates (GPA 3.75 or higher):

  • Jennifer Dandy
  • Sarah Jones

Congratulations to our magna cum laude graduates (GPA 3.5):

  • Douglas Adams
  • Peter Alter
  • Allison Huggins
  • Anthony LaCava

Bravo to our cum laude graduates (GPA 3.25):

  • Nayana Baby, Cum laude
  • Katherine Barbera, Cum laude
  • Alicia Harris, Cum laude
  • Tyler Phan, Cum laude
  • Charlotte Slack, Cum laude
Thirteen 2012 Majors Graduate with Department Honors
  • Peter Alter
  • Nayana Baby
  • Katherine Barbera
  • Jennifer Dandy
  • Alicia Harris
  • William Houstoun
  • Allison Huggins
  • Sarah Jones
  • Anthony LaCava
  • Tyler Phan
  • Colleen Schreiber
  • Charlotte Slack
  • Samuel Suzuki
Summer 2012 Brackenridge Fellowship Winners

Callum Abbott won a second, consecutive UHC Brackenridge Summer Research Fellowship for 2012, for “Yes We Can: Illegality in Action.”  

Eric Wiegandt (School of Education) won a 2012 UHC Brackenridge Summer Research Fellowship, for “A Historical Account of Atheism in Higher Education” (faculty mentor: Kristen Tobey, Postdoctoral Associate, Religious Studies).

Religious Studies Major Wins Ethel M. Halpern Award in Jewish Studies

Kate Beach was awarded the 2012 Ethel M. Halpern Award in Jewish Studies by the Jewish Studies Program for research at the National Museum of American Jewish History in Philadelphia this summer.

Graduating Senior Wins Woodenfish Project Scholarship

William Houstoun (Class of 2012) won a Woodenfish Project Scholarship in Chinese Buddhism to spend summer 2012 at the Fo Guang Shan Monastery in Taiwan and participate in the World Youth Summit on Cross-Cultural Education, which gathers together students from Taiwan, Hong Kong, and China.

Religious Studies Majors See the World

Erica Deardon interned with the Green Party of the United Kingdom in London.

Alicia Harris (Class of 2012) studied in Buenos Aires, Argentina at the Facultad Latino America de Ciencias Sociales (FLACSO), taking classes at the Universidad de Buenos Aires and the Universidad Catolica (conducted in Spanish). Her research project focused around the the Jewish population and culture of Buenos Aires and involved work at the Templo Nacional de la Republica de Argentina, the national synagogue of Argentina.

Mia Jacobs is currently at Vesalius College in Brussels, Belgium and interning with the European Youth Forum, a policy and advocacy non-profit for youth rights at the European Union.

Religious Studies Minor Wins Prestigious Fulbright Award

Congratulations to Paulina Gonzales (Class of 2011) who earned her BA in English literature and history with a minor in religious studies. She is teaching English and serving as a mentor in an English-language teaching program for refugees who have been granted asylum in Malta. Paulina was one of 14 Pitt students—nine undergraduates and five graduate students—to win this prestigious fellowship for 2011-2012.

Religious Studies Major Wins Prestigious 2011-2012 Boren Award in International Studies

Cody Dickerson is one of four Pitt UHC undergraduates and 151 students nationally (out of 940 applicants) to win a David L. Boren Award in International Studies for 2011-2012 sponsored by the National Security Education Program (NSEP). Cody will spend his Boren year in China. Cody plans intensive language training at Beijing Foreign Studies University in the fall term. For the spring term, he will move to Kunming, China, where he will continue his language training and begin research on Chinese minority policies at Yunnan Nationalities University. Cody, who will be a junior this fall, is planning to graduate with a BPhil degree in Religious Studies and International & Area Studies. Cody is also a winner of a 2011 UHC Brackenridge Summer Research Fellowship for "Continuing Revelation and Homosexuality in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints" (faculty supervisor, Paula Kane, Religious Studies).

Boren Scholarships and Fellowships are sponsored by NSEP, a major federal initiative designed to build a broader and more qualified pool of U.S. citizens with foreign language and international skills. Boren Awards provide U.S. undergraduate and graduate students with the resources and encouragement to acquire language skills and experience in countries critical to the future security and stability of the nation. In exchange for funding, Boren award recipients agree to work in the federal government for a period of at least one year.

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