Student Events at the Annual Meeting

Annual Meetings Information page

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 Sheraton Inner Harbor, room Severn II-III*, and the lounge will be open Saturday–Monday, 8:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m. 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:

Digital Tools for Dissertation Writers

Saturday, 10:00 AM–11:00 AM

Jennifer Adler, Vanderbilt University, Presiding

Writing a dissertation is a complex, multidimensional process—and basic word processing software is hardly up to the task of managing such an iterative, heterogeneous task. Fortunately, there are an increasing number of new digital writing tools available to dissertation writers. This roundtable will introduce a variety of resources for all stages of the writing process, from conceptualizing a project to putting on the finishing touches. We will discuss options for managing notes, annotating sources, drafting chapters, and managing citations. We will also consider tools for fostering motivation, tracking progress, minimizing distractions, and backing up one’s work. Participants will be invited to reflect on the nature of the dissertation writing process and to share with other roundtable participants the digital tools that they have found useful.

Employment Beyond the Academy

Saturday, 11:00 AM–12:00 PM

Maren Wood, Lilli Research Group, Washington, DC, Presiding
Nathan Schneider, Brooklyn, NY, Presiding

The crisis in the academic job market in one sense presents a serious challenge to those pursuing doctoral studies in religion today—but it also presents opportunities for creatively rethinking the value and potential of expertise in religion in today's world. Maren Wood will share her research about the specific paths that humanities PhDs have taken—often with great success—outside of academia as such. Nathan Schneider will speak from his experience as a former religious studies PhD student who uses his training as a journalist, including particular skills that religion scholars have to offer in the workforce. They will hold a workshop to help participants identify the tools they need to bring the kind of rich scholarship that happens in the AAR to a public that stands to benefit greatly from it.

How to Thrive in Grad School: The Tips You Won’t Find in Your Departmental Handbook

Saturday, 4:00 PM–5:00 PM

Raj Balkaran, University of Calgary, Presiding

Academic engagement provides abundant food for thought, amply catering to the intellect. But what about our other parts of self? How are they fed? Do we even know they hunger? Burn out, breakdowns, stagnation, abandoned degrees, and overall grad school malaise can often be traced to a lack of wellness, indeed to an inability to perceive and address the needs of physical, emotional, and social life. This roundtable therefore discusses avenues of remaining dynamic and productive throughout your studies by offering strategies for maintaining wellness on bodily, social, and emotional levels. We will also entertain avenues of creative inspiration, e.g., engagement with nature, music, art and poetry. Effort expended to nourish the various aspects of self can only enrich the soil from which the intellect must draw to bear fruit.

Grant-Writing 101: Crafting a Successful Proposal

Saturday, 5:00 PM–6:00 PM

Elizabeth Mary Rohlman, University of Calgary, Presiding

Grant-writing is an inextricable aspect of academic life, whether at the grad student or faculty level. Yet the mechanics of how to craft a successful grant proposal appear to evade most of us. This presentation aims at demystifying this process. We will first discuss the various types of grants (pre-dissertation, dissertation research, dissertation writing) and granting agencies (private, institutional, federal) before delving into the process of how to lay the foundation for a strong proposal through appropriate research and consultation. We will then examine in depth the key components of a successful proposal. This presentation will address grant-writing in both American and Canadian contexts.

Publishing Options for Graduate Students

Sunday, 1:00 PM–2:30 PM

Amir Hussain, Loyola Marymount University, Presiding
Aaron W. Hughes, University of Rochester, Presiding
April Favara, University of Denver and Iliff School of Theology, Presiding

This graduate student roundtable will focus on publishing. In the current competitive job market, students often perceive publishing to be an important part of attaining full-time employment in the academy. This session will introduce several different publication venues where graduate students might publish their work. Panelists will include the editor of the AAR’s Academy Series, which publishes dissertations; the editor of JAAR, the flagship journal in Religious Studies; and the managing editor of the Journal of Religion, Identity, and Politics, a graduate run journal which publishes only graduate student work. The panelists will discuss opportunities for graduate students to publish their work, along with some of the logistical details and challenges of publishing. The session will include ample time for questions and discussion.

Tips for Finding Academic Employment: Beyond Publish or Perish

Sunday, 3:00 PM–4:00 PM

This presentation will focus on what is distinct about teaching at a private, undergraduate, liberal arts college and how it is different from a large public university, what the work of a professor is like at each one, how to know which is better for you, and what hiring committees at each might expect. Topics to be discussed include the question of "fit" and how to figure out what you in particular have to contribute to and gain from a specific kind of institution, as well as the nuances of balancing teaching, scholarship, and college service as it applies to different institutions. We'll also discuss the different kinds of colleges and why you should choose carefully and how to effectively present yourself as a candidate to each.

Exploring Pedagogies for Religious Studies Educators Within and Outside of Academia

Sunday, 4:00 PM–5:00 PM

James Dennis LoRusso, Emory University, Presiding
Sabrina MisirHiralall, Montclair State University, Presiding

Learning occurs in a range of contexts through a number of ways, often outside the formality of academic settings. Teaching in conjunction to learning is not a practice limited to the lecture halls within academia. For this reason, graduate students need to explore pedagogical perspectives outside the traditional educational paradigm. The presenters of this session will explore the pressing pedagogical concerns that arise in pedagogical spaces within and outside of academia. Dennis LoRusso will share how he employs an embodied pedagogy acquired through nearly seven years of experience as a corporate trainer. Sabrina MisirHiralall will relate how her background as a Kuchipudi Indian Classical Hindu dancer influences the contemplative pedagogy that she embodies within and outside of the Academy. Essentially, the presenters will focus on how embodied pedagogy is essential to pay attention to as graduate students prepare for a career within or outside of the Academy. The goal for this session is to understand teaching as a deliberately performative process that views learners as collaborators in the learning process, and acknowledges how physical spaces engages all involved stakeholders.

Expanding the Classroom: Online Tools to Enhance Learning

Monday, 9:00 AM–10:00 AM

Justin Tanis, Graduate Theological Union, Presiding

Online tools offer educators incredible opportunities to move beyond the walls of the classroom and increase students’ engagement. Online tools—free and readily available—can let you take your students on a virtual tour of a holy site or look closely at sacred art in some of the world’s leading museums. Students can engage with others across the world, discovering new perspectives and ideas, through social media. Teachers can use videos and other resources to frame students’ understanding of a subject. In this roundtable, we will consider the pedagogical reasons why using online tools can enhance our students’ learning and mastery of subject material. We’ll share practical tools to expand the classroom, discuss how to help students (and teachers) identify authoritative academic information on the internet, and consider when and how it is appropriate to use these tools. Attendees are encouraged to bring their ideas and tools to share with others.

Rewarding Online Teaching

Monday, 10:00 AM–11:00 AM

David Walsh, Arizona State University, Presiding

Online classrooms are becoming increasingly popular for both students and college administrations, while educators tend to be more reluctant to embrace this trend. Through years of online education experience, using diverse platforms such as Blackboard, Canvas, Moodle, and LearningStudio, I have found that teaching online can be as rewarding albeit in different ways from the in-person classroom. The question we will explore in this discussion is how to make online teaching an effective and rewarding activity for students and educators. In what ways can the online classroom mimic the in-person experience, and when is it best to leave behind old methods and explore new pedagogies in order to maximize what the online class offers? Whether you have years of online teaching experience, or are curious as to what all the fuss is about, help us discuss the problems and possibilities of effective online teaching.

Blogging to Learn in Religious Studies Classrooms

Monday, 11:00 AM–12:00 PM

John Soboslai, University of California, Santa Barbara, Presiding
Martha Smith Roberts, University of California, Santa Barbara, Presiding

A constant source of difficulty for those teaching religious studies, especially lower level courses often with large enrollment, is the balance between the presentation of information and a space for students to reflect on the material and how it connects with their lives. As social media outlets provide people new avenues of identity construction, academics should make use of the opportunities they present. One such form that we have experimented with is blogging; a good proportion of students already blog, making it a medium they are already comfortable in, and blogging offers a place for them to ruminate on the week’s lessons while encouraging them to find their own voice on religious subjects. It is also a genre of writing that can be used as a graded assignment or something more informal. Graduate students looking to be employed in the academy, as well as faculty members in all stages can look to blogging as an innovative mode of instruction that can supplement our standard methods.

Leveraging Web Based Technologies for Teaching in the Humanities

Monday, 1:00 PM–2:00 PM

Jeremy Kidwell, University of Edinburgh, Presiding

As graduate students we are called upon to invest a great deal of time in teaching for little or no compensation whilst balancing a full research load and attending to our own professional development. In this seminar, I will seek to demonstrate several web-based tools that can enhance your teaching practice, student experience, and make your teaching more efficient (Omeka, Wordpress, Crowdsourcing, and I will also seek to illuminate some of the benefits and dangers of using web-based technologies for teaching with regards to the broader pedagogical implications which are associated with these tools based on my own teaching experience and research in the digital humanities.

Publishing Your Research Online—for Your Peers and for the Public

Monday, 2:00 PM–3:00 PM

Joseph Blankholm, Columbia University, Presiding

Young scholars have more and more opportunities to publish their research online—sometimes in scholarly venues and sometimes targeting the larger public. How do graduate students distinguish between worthy and unworthy venues? How much time and effort should students spend preparing articles that are not peer reviewed, and what are the risks and rewards of publishing outside academic journals? Should graduate students agree to be interviewed for programs like HuffPost Live or to present through TED? This discussion will draw on my own experiences founding an online, non-peer-reviewed scholarly magazine (; publishing in scholarly and non-scholarly online venues; and fielding offers for video-based interviews and presentations. With so many young scholars having already published online, I anticipate a lively discussion and one in which we can learn from each other’s experiences.

Using Social Media to Develop Your Academic Brand

Monday, 3:00 PM–4:00 PM

Krista Dalton, Columbia University, Presiding

As a graduate student, I have found that social media services such as Twitter,, and blogs have been a unique source of social networking and academic conversation. I propose to lead a discussion on the tips and tricks to maximizing these social media outlets for graduate student life and scholarship. Big names such as Anthea Butler and Stephen Prothero use these forums regularly, and even Thomas Tweed made an appearance this year. I have found my career and brand have been defined by my social media use far more than my academic work.


The Graduate Student Committe will also host two other sessions: a job market panel that will include perspectives and strategies related to pursuing careers inside and outside of academia; and a leadership series geared toward the development of leadership skills in academic and public community contexts:

Job Market Realities, Strategies, and Opportunities

Saturday, 1:00PM–3:30 PM
Convention Center – 321*

Matthew Puffer, University of Virginia, Presiding

What is the status of the job market, within and outside of the academy, for those holding or pursuing graduate degrees in religious studies and theology? In order to encourage graduate students to realistically diagnose and strategically respond to a difficult academic market, the Graduate Student Committee is dedicating this year’s Special Topics Forum to “Job Market Realities, Strategies, and Opportunities.” This event will feature panelists who will present on 1) the true state of the job market, 2) strategies for successfully navigating these realities, and 3) how to pursue opportunities both within and outside academia toward the end of vocationally fulfilling employment. Panelists will include grad students, recently hired professors, active search committee members, and PhDs enjoying extra-academic vocations. Attendees will have the opportunity to engage in conversations with the panelists, addressing particular issues and interests. Please join us for what promises to be an important and informative time!

Kristy Slominski, University of California, Santa Barbara
Charles Mathewes, University of Virginia
Maren Wood, Lilli Research Group, Washington, DC
R. Marie Griffith, Washington University, St. Louis
John R. Fitzmier, American Academy of Religion
Kate Ott, Drew University

Cultivating Leadership for the New Academy and Civic Engagement: Interrogating Leadership Skills, Styles, and Contexts

Sunday, 9:00 AM–11:30 AM
Sheraton Inner Harbor – Severn II-III*

Elonda Clay, Lutheran School of Theology, Chicago, Presiding

The aim of the Leadership Series is to facilitate the personal and professional development of graduate students through leadership development by providing them with resources, strategies, professional networks, and practical skills that will enable them to face new and evolving leadership challenges. The Leadership Series is also open to new scholarship and research on the practice, learning, and study of leadership and civic engagement in the field of religion.

Emily Michelle Ledder, Emory University
Public Leadership, Private Religion: Community-Based Advocacy and the Role of Religious and Theological Language

Kristy Slominski, University of California, Santa Barbara
Taking Initiative: Skills for Making Your Own Leadership Opportunities in Academia

Linwood Blizzard, Boston University
Prophetic Leadership in the Wake of Tragedy

Remi Alapo, Union Theological Seminary
Understanding Leadership Styles in a Multi-Cultural Society

Kyle Schenkewitz, Saint Louis University
Ignatian Pedagogy and the Cultivation of Graduate Student Leaders


Finally, the Graduate Student Committee invites new student members of the AAR to the New Member Welcome on Saturday morning and all members to a joint session with the Society of Biblical Literature's Student Advisory Board and the Wabash Center for Teaching and Learning in Theology and Religion:

Graduate Student Business Meeting and New Member Welcome

Saturday, 9:00 AM–10:00 AM
Sheraton Inner Harbor – Severn II-III*

Elonda Clay, Lutheran School of Theology, Chicago, Presiding

Students comprise one third of the membership of the AAR. Join us for our business meeting, a forum where you can offer your suggestions, hear about new initiatives led by the Graduate Student Committee, and meet national and regional student directors. Topics include how you can serve as a committee member and networking strategies that can maximize the annual meeting's potential for your professional development. New members are invited to drop by for conversation and useful information.

New Paradigms in Evolving Learning Contexts: Navigating Changes in Teaching Religion and Theology

Sunday, 5:00 PM–6:30 PM
Convention Center – 339*

Paul Myhre, Wabash Center, Presiding
Elonda Clay, Lutheran School of Theology, Chicago, Presiding
Patrick McCullough, University of California, Los Angeles, Presiding

The academic professions of religion and theology are currently facing multiple yet interrelated trends: growth in online education, increased preferences for part-time or adjunct faculty, and increasing student diversity. Instructors will need to acquire flexible teaching skills that are relevant to emerging academic contexts. This session discusses the pertinent need for graduate students to identify and acquire or improve necessary instructor competencies which include but are not limited to: diversifying instructional methods and teaching tactics for online or blended teaching, active learning techniques, and re-imagining pedagogical situations to address students’ needs. Panelists will share their classroom experiences and knowledge of emerging instructional strategies, discuss their motivation for becoming adaptive instructors, and reflect on the application of emerging instructional competencies within university, college, and theological school contexts. Participants will be introduced to a variety of instructional strategies and be able to apply insights from the session to address changing teacher expectations.

Lily Vuong, Valdosta State University
David Eastman, Ohio Wesleyan University
Adriana Nieto, Iliff School of Theology, University of Denver
Shauna K. Hannan, Princeton Theological Seminary
George Tsakiridis, South Dakota State University


*Please note that the room locations are subject to change. Be sure to check your Program Book and Annual Meetings At-a-Glance to find the most up to date information.