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Albright College Assistant Professor of Religious Studies Awarded Two Fellowships, Will Co-Chair Multi-Year Seminar

May 30, 2017

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Samira Mehta, Ph.D.

Reading, Pa. – Albright College assistant professor of religious studies Samira Mehta, Ph.D., has been awarded two national fellowships. She will also co-chair a new, multi-year seminar on religion and family.

Teaching Interfaith Understanding:

An expert on American religion and family life, Mehta has been selected from a competitive, national pool of nominees to participate in Teaching Interfaith Understanding, a faculty seminar offered by the Council of Independent Colleges and Interfaith Youth Core, with support from the Henry Luce Foundation. The five-day seminar, which runs from June 18 to 22 at DePaul University in Chicago, aims to broaden faculty members’ knowledge and strengthen their teaching of interfaith understanding, with the development of new courses and resources.

“The purpose is to really think about how to teach religious pluralism and diversity in your classroom,” said Mehta. “It’s about getting students to understand how different another person’s worldview can be.”

Early Career Religion Faculty of Asian and Pacific Islander Descent

Beginning this summer, Mehta will also participate in the three-session workshop “Early Career Religion Faculty of Asian and Pacific Islander Descent,” run by the Wabash Institute. The workshop will gather faculty members from diverse religious specializations who are in their first years of teaching to explore various topics, including pedagogy and politics of faculty of Asian and Pacific Islander descent; dealing with religious, social, ethnic, racial and learning diversities in the classroom; connecting the classroom to broader social issues; and more.

The workshops run July 10-15 at Wabash College (Indiana); Jan. 25-28, 2018, in Corpus Christi, Texas; and June 25-30, 2018, at Wabash College.

Religions and Families in North America

Mehta will also co-chair Religions and Families in North America, a five-year seminar group organized by the American Academy of Religion to explore understudied areas of religion. The group will consider issues of rhetoric surrounding families, reproduction of families, ritual of families, and regulation of families. Specific topics may include the role of the religious right in the so-called “mommy wars” (working vs. non-working mothers); Orthodox Jewish family structures; Christmas as an American Hindu holiday; alternative structure of the family during the AIDS crisis; mothers and daughters and beauty pageant culture; and more.

Mehta proposed the idea for the working group and recruited Susan Ridgely of the University of Wisconsin-Madison to serve as co-chair.

“When people talk about religion in the United States, they talk about individual religions or communities, but they don’t think about the family together,” said Mehta. “We think we know what ‘family’ means, but we don’t all sit down and talk about it. How do we define families, those not connected by blood, or networks of friends, for example? Family isn’t a stable definition.”

The end goal of the working group, which will meet annually, is an edited volume of essays.

Mehta will return to her teaching duties at Albright this fall following her yearlong fellowship at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. She received the David B. Larson Fellowship in Health and Spirituality to research contraception and American religion.