From the GSC:
New Opportunities for AAR Graduate Student Members
The Graduate Student Committee has been working assiduously over the past year on ways for graduate students to be engaged with the AAR. This has primarily been through developing additional networking venues and opportunities for presenting and publishing work. We want to take a moment to bring you up to date on these new opportunities.
First, if you are “on Facebook,” we encourage you to become a member of the AAR Graduate Student Group. This is a good place to network, find announcements and voice your concerns to the GSC and wider student community. In addition, we initiated a “Town Hall Meeting” for students at the 2008 Chicago annual meeting to capture student ideas and queries.
Second, there are two publication venues especially for students. You are probably familiar with the “From the Student Desk” column in the AAR’s Religious Studies News. In addition, the GSC has launched this newsletter, Speaking of Students. You can learn more about making submissions to these two outlets in the last item below. While the column and the newsletter are primarily for AAR student members, you can also submit scholarly research to the Journal of the American Academy of Religion, whose editor, Charles Matthews, has expressed a desire to publish more student work. Furthermore, the JAAR is always in need of book reviewers. Submission information is available online at: http://www.oxfordjournals.org/our_journals/jaarel/for_authors/index.html.
Third, the GSC is working on a number of projects that will foster the professional development of the AAR’s student members. One such project — “Religion Beyond the Boundaries” — was launched at the November annual meeting. Its purpose is to provide a venue away from the meeting for students to present on topics that intersect with a wider public audience. In Chicago, for instance, GSC member Annie Blakeney-Glazer’s lecture on the history of Christianity and sports provided some prospective for understanding why so many football players take a knee after scoring a touchdown or thank God in the post game interview. GSC members Whitney Bauman and Cameron Jorgenson also made presentations. The new forum both provides students with a venue to present cutting-edge research and furthers the AAR’s mission to bridge the gap between academic and public understandings of religion.
Another project is the AAR Graduate Student Essay Prize. Developed in consultation with the Publications Committee, this prize will be awarded for the first time at the 2009 annual meeting for the best student essay, which will then be sent to the JAAR editor for publication consideration. The winning student also will receive a monetary award and be honored at the annual awards ceremony.
Finally — something that is still in the conceptualization stage — we would like to organize an edited volume that focuses on being a graduate student in religious studies. The idea is to have 10 to 12 chapter-length essays on the existential, practical, spiritual, and intellectual challenges and joys of getting a PhD in religious studies. We can imagine a number of questions being raised such as: Why a PhD in religious studies in this day and age? How do I get a PhD in religious studies without breaking up with my significant other? What intellectual and spiritual transformations occur in the process of writing a dissertation? We envision this publication being a useful guide for those who are in PhD programs in religious studies and those who are considering one. The book may also find a wider audience with graduate students in other disciplines and those outside of the academy who are curious about religious studies.
We want to know what you think about these new and developing efforts and what other programs would be helpful for you. So please do not hesitate in contacting the committee: http://www.aarweb.org/About_AAR/Committees/Graduate_Student/default.asp.
See you in Montreal!
|Whitney A. Bauman
|Spring is for Students:
Regional Meetings Provide More Access and Opportunities
By Brian K. Pennington
My initiation into the AAR began when I was an M.T.S. student at Emory’s Candler School of Theology. I had petitioned to get into a PhD seminar in biblical archaeology whose professor required attendance at a particular session of the regional AAR meeting whenever it was held in Atlanta. Fresh from my undergraduate theology degree, I found the experience intimidating and the papers well beyond anything I could imagine composing myself. While later PhD coursework trained me in crafting and defending academic prose, my grad school participation in southeastern regional meetings acculturated me to the academy in equally significant ways. I began to give papers regularly there, and I made many acquaintances who became valued friends and colleagues.
At some point after I graduated and took a position at a college in the region, I was asked to chair the history of religions programming section. My experience as a section chair introduced me to the programming and governance practices of the AAR and helped me make contacts in the region and beyond as I put paper sessions together. After serving five years in that capacity, I was elected into the regional presidential line and eventually became the elected director of the southeastern region.
On the basis of my own experience and observing the work of others in the region, I think it is primarily in terms of socialization to professional life that the regional meetings offer important advantages to graduate students over the national meeting. With considerably smaller gatherings and leaner, more accessible governing practices, the regional AARs provide many opportunities for meaningful student participation. I like to stress that the regional AAR is the real AAR. In many respects regional meetings and regional governance replicate the real circumstances and relationships that professional life in an academic department entails. The national meeting, with its high-profile plenary sessions and competitive atmosphere, hardly represents actual professorial life, nor does it aim to. Regional gatherings are typically collegial affairs with smaller sessions animated by real give-and-take. Because their attendees come from the same and neighboring institutions, they provide opportunities for networking, collaboration, and sustained professional friendships.
The specific opportunities the regional AAR meetings offer to graduate students are many. They give students the opportunity to present papers, thereby gaining experience and opening a new line on the CV. In future job applications, participation at the regional level demonstrates that others regard your work as relevant and compelling, that you have sought feedback from colleagues, and that you have been proactive in entering the guild. Regional meetings are also considerably less expensive to attend than the sprawling national meetings housed in luxury hotels in major cities. Because competition is less intense and getting a paper accepted more likely, the regional meetings offer students more opportunities to present and to do so in less pressurized circumstances. Finally, one explicit mission of many regional bodies is to welcome and initiate students into life in the academy. Graduate students are, after all, the future colleagues and interlocutors of the teaching and research faculty there.
The AAR has 10 regional affiliates. While each of them is governed in slightly different ways and operates by its own by-laws, they are fully functioning elements of the AAR. Most hold an annual meeting in the spring featuring academic paper and panel sessions, with paper proposals due the previous fall or winter. Some regions meet independently of the Society for Biblical Literature (SBL); others are “commissions,” that is, they share governance and meeting space with other regional organizations such as the SBL and the American Schools for Oriental Research. Some meet in hotels; some at host institutions. Each has an elected president who is responsible for programming, a governing board, and a regionally elected director who serves as representative to and liaison with the AAR board of directors.
(Brian K. Pennington, associate professor of religion at Maryville College in Maryville, Tenn., is chairman of the AAR’s Regions Committee and the elected director of the Southeastern Region.)
Here’s a list of the 10 regional organizations, the dates and locations of their annual meetings, the states and provinces they include, and links to their calls for papers and, where available, their Web sites and 2009 conference programs.
Eastern International Region, May 1-2 at Le Moyne College, Syracuse, NY. Includes Ontario and Quebec, Canada, and western Pennsylvania and New York state outside the New York City area.
Call for papers: www.aarweb.org/About_AAR/Regions/Eastern_International/call.asp
Mid-Atlantic Region, March 26-27 at the Radisson Hotel at Cross Keys in Baltimore, MD. Includes the New York City area, eastern Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, northern Virginia and Washington D.C.
Call for papers: http://www.aarweb.org/About_AAR/Regions/Mid-Atlantic/call.asp
Midwest Region, April 3-4 at Dominican University in River Forest, IL. Includes Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and the eastern two-thirds of Missouri.
2009 conference program: http://www.aarweb.org/About_AAR/Regions/Midwest/Website/program.asp
New England-Maritimes Region does not have an annual meeting but instead co-sponsors conferences proposed by its members. Send conference proposals to Grove Harris at email@example.com. The regional organization, which includes all the Canadian Maritime provinces and New England states, also helps sponsor teaching workshops and a series of lunches or dinners focusing on the works of regional authors.
Pacific Northwest Region, April 24-26 at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, WA. Includes British Columbia, Alberta, the Yukon Territory, Washington, Idaho, Oregon and western Montana.
Call for papers: http://www.aarweb.org/About_AAR/Regions/Pacific_Northwest/call.asp
Rocky Mountain-Great Plains Region, March 6-7 at Regis University in Denver, CO. It offers a $1,000 Regional Scholars Award for PhD students or recent PhD recipients. Includes eastern Montana, Wyoming, Nebraska, western Kansas, Colorado, Utah and New Mexico.
Call for papers: http://www.aarweb.org/About_AAR/Regions/Rocky_Mountain-Great_Plains/call.asp
Southeast Region, March 13-15 at the Sheraton Chapel Hill in Chapel Hill, NC. Includes West Virginia, Kentucky, Southern Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.
Website (with 2009 conference program): http://www.secsor.appstate.edu
Southwest Region, March 7-8 at the Marriott Hotel (DFW International Airport) in Irving, TX. Includes western Missouri, eastern Kansas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Texas and Louisiana.
Website (with 2009 conference program): http://www.swcrs-online.org/
Upper Midwest Region, March 27-28 at Luther Seminary in St. Paul, MN. Includes the Northwest Territory, Nunavut, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa and Wisconsin.
Call for papers: http://www.aarweb.org/About_AAR/Regions/Upper_Midwest/call.asp
Western Region, March 21-23 at Santa Clara University in Santa Clara, CA. Includes California, Nevada, Arizona, Hawaii and Pacific islands.
Call for papers: http://www.aarweb.org/About_AAR/Regions/Western/Website/call.asp
Calls — or Desperate Pleas — from New Student Editors
Carl S. Hughes is the 2009-2010 editor of the "From the Student Desk Column" in Religious Studies News. He is a third-year PhD student in theological studies in the Graduate Division of Religion at Emory University.
Carl welcomes submissions for the FSD column from across the graduate student membership of the AAR. The FSD series seeks to give voice to the distinctive experiences, insights, and challenges of the AAR's student members. Submissions should not exceed 800 words and should be written in an accessible and relatively informal style. Writing for RSN is a great way to build your CV and to get your name and some aspect of your story before the eyes of the entire membership of the AAR.
FSD articles can cover a vast array of themes. You can address timely matters like the impact of the current economic crisis on graduate students and job seekers. You can share a quirky, rewarding, or eye-opening experience that you had as a graduate student. You can dish out gallows humor about the bleaker aspects of graduate student life. You can reflect on the unique academic challenges and gifts that arise from your distinctive personal background or subject area. You can suggest hard-won advice on how to manage work and family, navigate the AAR annual meeting and more.
To submit your essay — or to ask any questions about deadlines or appropriate topics —please e-mail Carl at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Charles Bernsen is the 2009 editor of this new publication, Speaking of Students. He is a fourth year PhD student in the history and critical theories of religion at Vanderbilt University.
SOS aims to report news about religious studies programs and students as well to provide practical information related to the academic life of religious studies students. Charles is looking for short news items about calls for papers, upcoming student conferences, grant application deadlines, grants and other awards, and interesting events or innovations at religious studies departments. Speaking of Students also seeks news articles recapping student conferences such as the one at Northwestern or that highlight the work of individual graduate students.
In addition to news items, each issue will carry an article or two like the one by Dr. Ashcraft that address practical concerns or interests of graduate students in the field of religion. Possible topics include managing one’s dissertation committee, the search for funding or reducing isolation and promoting camaraderie among graduate students.
To send news or suggestions about practical issues that you would like to see SOS address, please e-mail Charles at email@example.com.
View this newsletter online at: