Moderator’s note: This marvelous FAR site has been running for 10 years and has had more than 3,600 posts in that time. There are so many treasures that have been posted in this decade that they tend to get lost in the archives. We are beginning this column so that we can all revisit some of these gems. Today’s blogpost was originally posted August 11, 2015. You can visit it here to see the original comments.
I recently came back from a weeklong camping retreat for Christian faculty and their families in beautiful Catalina (an island an hour’s boat ride away from the Southern Californian mainland). This year’s conference theme was “Power Revealed: Gifts, Dangers, and Possibilities.” Not surprisingly, the topics of race, race relations, and institutional racism came-up repeatedly in sessions and informal conversations.
Yesterday, the institution at which I work hosted an Orientation for some 50 new students who will begin their graduate theological education imminently. I was asked to provide an informal talk to a smaller group of them about student success. What follows below are the revised and expanded tips I made for how to get the most out of their degree programs, which may or may not have ready application outside of the seminary context (or graduate school in religion) for which they were designed.
In my work with doctoral students, I’ve noticed that what often sets apart “good” graduate students from “good” junior scholars is the ability for the latter to say something important and distinctive. That is, while it may be sufficient during coursework and qualifying exams to master the canon of whatever counts as good scholarship in one’s field, success beyond graduate school will require academic hopefuls to make a bona-fide scholarly contribution to her field of study.
For this reason, I am frequently asked by the graduate students I mentor, particularly those who are women, about the process by which I came to find–or claim–my scholarly voice.
In the midst of doing last-minute shopping, decorating, and entertaining for the holidays, I find myself on the eves of Christmas and New Year furiously trying to meet several important work deadlines. While burning the candle at both ends writing and grading, I also find myself from time to time breaking out in a wry smile. The reason? I get to start out the New Year with a one-semester sabbatical leave. Continue reading “Dreaming of Sabbatical by Grace Yia-Hei Kao”
We had an incredible time. La Plaza UMC, led by CST alum Rev. Vilma Cruz-Baez (’07), graciously hosted a reception before our panel discussion. As we feasted on hearty Mexican food (my favorite was the watermelon agua fresca), we perused the Exodus exhibition in the Museum of Social Justice, which featured dramatic black and white photographs of migrants and others who had made their lives in Los Angeles (n.b., the Museum is located in the basement of the Church, which is itself located on historic Olvera Street). I was grateful for the warm welcome and short history of the Museum that Director Leonara Barron provided.
In honor of all the new, especially female, matriculates (at my school or elsewhere), I’m reposting below one of my first entries on this blogsite. It was entitled “Undermining Our Own Authority.” The advice I gave then still captures what I’d say now.
As I write this blog, I am nearing the end of my week-long family vacation in Palm Desert. While we’ve had lots of fun splashing around in the pool, everywhere I turn I am bombarded by scenes and memories of violence.
“Did you know that…the Asian population grew faster than any other race group in the United States between 2000 and 2010…[and that] Chinese is the second most widely spoken non-English language in the country (behind Spanish)”?
Ben Siegel is a 2nd year graduate student at the Claremont School of Theology, working on his M.A. in Religion, Hebrew Bible and Ancient Near Eastern Studies. He is a loud-mouthed native New Yorker, a Jewish atheist, a passionate feminist, an unapologetic tree-hugger, a raging comic book nerd and long-time lover of punk rock music.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s World Population Clock,* the earth sustains the lives of approximately 6,976,289,710 human beings and counting. Unfortunately, the carrying capacity of our planet is anything but unlimited. Unmanaged population growth will demand, among other things, encroachment into more hitherto unindustrialized regions, meaning further despeciation and environmental degradation. A globalized capitalist economy, seemingly undaunted by such paltry concerns as labor laws and emissions standards – with its preference for monocultural farming techniques and yields – threatens to eliminate biodiversity in the pursuit of a broader profit margin. This begs the question: are we demanding too much of Mother Earth? Continue reading “When the Bough Breaks, the Cradle will Fall: Ecofeminism and the Problem of Population Density By Ben Siegel”
Besides being a Feminist Ethics student, Peggy is a Physical Therapy Assistant specializing in Barnes technique myofascial release; Deacon (soon to be priest) in charge under special circumstances at St. Martin-in-the-Fields Episcopal Church, Twentynine Palms; a fourth year joint M. Div. student at ETSC/CST; a multi-moved(while her husband was off flying) military wife 20 of 43 married years; privileged oldest of four daughters of medical professionals; 21-year grateful member of Al-Anon; mother and grandmother; budding feminist; all in no particular order of importance.
It’s never too late to be something new like a budding feminist. It doesn’t take rocket science to learn that the system oppresses its members, but it does take a clear-eyed look at privilege. “The man” keeping folks down isn’t just an excuse for school or job dropout; it may be a colloquial naming of patriarchal society. Solidarity is action to name oppression and take steps to push back against injustice. I learned all this in grad school since the big 60th and find in it the best hope for survival of our world. Continue reading “Feminist Awakening By Peggy Ventris”
Valentina Khan is a first year Master of Muslim Leadership Context student at the Claremont School of Theology. She is a co-founder of I Am Jerusalem, an interfaith organization which promotes friendship, understanding, and striving for the “greater purpose” by dedicating time to community service and social justice. Born and raised in Southern California, to Iranian mother, and Indian father, Valentina has a diverse background that helps her identify as a “citizen of the world”. Valentina hopes to mediate conflicts between intra-religious and inter-religious groups and cultures, via conflict resolution, as well as promote the peace she knows can exist between people if they just put in the effort. Valentina is a yoga teacher and the creator of Enerji barre, where she enjoys empowering her students to love their bodies, appreciate their health and live in the moment!
“I Am Jerusalem, that’s it, we got it, I Am Jerusalem! You are Jerusalem! We are all Jerusalem!” My best friend Sarah and I exclaimed on our yoga mats one day after a 90 minute intensive Vinyasa flow. Sarah was raised as a Christian, and I as a Muslim. It was when we were in the 7th grade when she asked me the heavy question, “so do Muslims believe in Jesus?” This question was the common theme in my life, growing up in suburban Orange County and surrounded predominately by white, Anglo-Saxon, Protestants. As a child, and still today, I can look up and down any major street in my town and find multitudes of churches: Trinity Presbyterian, a progressive church, First Church of Christ, Christian Science, Lutheran, Episcopalian, Unitarian, Methodist, and Catholic, all within a 5 mile radius. I remember we had to drive about 25 minutes to get to Sunday School at the local Mosque, and I wished so much to just go with my Christian friends down the street, after all God was the same…right? Continue reading “Recession Proof Devotion By Valentina Khan”
Hannah Heinzekehr is a second year Masters student at Claremont School of Theology, studying theology and community development. She also works as a Church Relations Associate for Mennonite Mission Network. She enjoys cooking with and for friends, watching and playing sports (especially soccer), drinking coffee and talking about the future of the Mennonite Church.
Feminism is not a word or a movement that I came to easily. In fact, in an article that she wrote for a Mennonite women’s publication when I was 15, my mom noted that I had chosen to reject the word feminism, because it carried too much baggage and wasn’t relevant to me. It wasn’t that I didn’t care about women’s issues. On the contrary, I was very aware of some of the difficulties that faced my mother when she decided to become a pastor, I felt free to use gender neutral and feminine language for God (for awhile, my favorite image of the Divine was a large oak tree with a swing for me to sit in), and I had an inkling that the discourses I heard at regional church youth rallies about modesty and sexuality seemed to be directed particularly towards women. But I didn’t feel that I needed feminism, because sexism didn’t seem to limit any of my opportunities. The fact that I felt this sense of “limitlessness” is a testament to the work of previous waves of feminism, and to the community that I grew up within. It is also likely a function of my privilege as a white, middle-class child and teenager, who wasn’t constrained by other forms of oppression. I moved through college feeling affirmed by fellow students, faculty and staff. I found that I had access to leadership opportunities and was well-respected in the classroom. Continue reading “Seeking Shared Voices By Hannah Heinzekehr”
Ruth Marston is a third year Master of Divinity student at the Claremont School of Theology. She is currently seeking Elders Orders in the Pacific Northwest Conference of the United Methodist Church. A lifelong feminist, Ruth hopes to serve churches by helping construct communities of faith that educate, empower and value diversity as a divine gift. She enjoys Science Fiction, dry humor, and has been known to drive twenty miles for a quality cup of coffee.
A fellow student spontaneously invited me into her apartment in for tea. It was at the beginning of our Master of Divinity Degree. We were just discovering the physically and spiritually grueling nature of the three years in front of us, and I think we both sensed that friends would make this journey possible. Continue reading “The Crosshairs of Connotation By Ruth Marston”
Annie Wells is a 3rd year MDiv student at CST. Once a newspaper photographer, she is now studying to become a chaplain. To see her work from the banana plantations in Nicaragua use this link and click on the picture of bananas next to the text entitled “Pesticides.”http://www.anniewellsphotography.com/content.html?page=2
I have been learning to speak Spanish for years. Sometimes Spanish speakers can understand me. Sometimes I don’t come close to saying what I mean to say. Sometimes when I’m trying to speak Spanish I cannot remember one word in Spanish or English. But I remember clearly the woman who inspired me to learn and for her I will keep trying until I die. Continue reading “Learning Language By Annie Wells”
“[W]e have not gone the store-bought, costume-in-a-bag route, even though we recognize that the proliferation of ready-made options is a godsend to time-strapped, dual-career parents.”
This is a second part of a previous post about the shifting personal importance of Halloween. Now that I’m a mother of two young boys, I find that my husband and I are constantly looking for teachable opportunities. The holidays have accordingly become excellent ways for us not only to spend quality time together, but also to impart our values. We manifest our commitments even in something as simple as costume choices, as I explain below.
(1) We do not indulge the Manichean-like stage that our four-year old child is in. As befitting a boy his age, our primo is fascinated by superheroes and has asked on a number of occasions if he could be one for Halloween.
“I had realized that my parents legitimately had more important things to do than to carve pumpkins or buy costumes. But as a young child, I equated participating in the cultural phenomenon that is Halloween with being an American. I, as a daughter of immigrants, just wanted to fit in and join the fun.”
Jaji Crocker received her MFA in Creative Writing from Northwestern University, and is now pursuing a dual degree at Claremont Graduate University, studying for her PhD in English and MA in Religion. Her research interests and approach are innately interdisciplinary as she explores the evolution of the ethics buttressing and changing religious philosophies and practices in North America and the Middle East, as well as the evolution of the theological imagination and feminist influences in post WWII American literature. Jaji continues to write fiction and teach creative writing.
“Are you going to the Vagina Monologues try-outs tonight?” my friend asked me last year after class.
“I hadn’t planned on it,” I replied cautiously. Truth be told, the word ‘vagina’ made me uncomfortable. There were yearly productions of the Vagina Monologues at my undergraduate institution, but I never went. I thought it was a time when women gathered and performed monologues they had written, and I thought it demeaning to have these monologues named metonymically. I did not want to be associated with the Monologues: I was in favor of women’s equality, but I did not want to claim my sexuality in so visceral a manner. In my mind, the ‘Vagina’ of Vagina Monologues just referred to the actresses, not the content.
Amanda Pumphrey is a first year Ph.D. student in women’s studies in religion at Claremont Graduate University. She received her MA in religion from Claremont School of Theology and her BA in religious studies from Valdosta State University in Valdosta, Georgia. Amanda enjoys studying Christian sexual ethics and feminist and queer theologies.
It’s 8th grade. I’m in the girls’ bathroom during lunch time and I ask my friend in the stall next to me if she has a tampon that I can use. “Amanda Brookins, I didn’t know you wasn’t a virgin nomore!” screams another friend who is waiting on me. I was confused by her comment, but I later learned that her mother had explained to her that girls could not wear tampons unless they had had sex. Which translated into only married women should be utilizing tampons. This is the context in which I grew up: South Georgia where there is virtually no comprehensive sex education in the public school systems. In this small southern town, I learned about sex through my youth group at a country, Pentecostal church. What I learned was that sex was sinful and it was not something that I should even think about until I was married. Christianity and southern culture go hand in hand within my hometown, so as a born again Christian and a girl I was expected to “save myself for marriage” and my future husband, and to uphold my status as a polite and proper southern belle. The norms were already established: sex is for marriage which is a Christian institution between one man and one woman. Continue reading “Sexual Ethics and Southern Belles By Amanda Pumphrey”
“I’ll be the first to admit that it can be difficult, if not exhausting, for women professionals to discern how to be strong and assertive (and thus be taken seriously) without coming across as arrogant or b*tchy. But there is indeed room for play between over-deference and cockiness, and the ability to code-switch while in formal settings would be a good step in the right direction for many of us.”
Whatever your take is on Madonna’s feminist bona fides, she was definitely on to something in her 2001 hit “What it Feels Like For a Girl.” Madonna sang about the tremendous pressures females of all ages face to conform to gendered norms of physical appearance and demeanor. I want to use her lyrics to discuss some ways I have seen young women in academe subtly undermine their own authority.
During the past two years, I had the opportunity to serve as a Peace Corps volunteer in the country of Georgia, which is located in Eastern Europe. There I worked as a schoolteacher and lived in a tiny, homogenous, Georgian village in the Kakheti region.
I quickly learned the encompassing influence of the Georgian Orthodox Church, which upholds an ideal hierarchy: God, Jesus, Patriarch, Man, Woman. The church champions traditional gender roles; men are to be strong leaders and heads of the community and their households, while women are expected to be virginal, modest, obedient and subservient. In Georgian culture, the influence of the Church and the teachings of Patriarch Ilia II and his predecessors are indisputable. Continue reading “Georgia and The Virginity Institute By Katrina Myers”
Lara Helfer is a 3rd year MDiv Student at Claremont School of Theology. She is humbled and excited by the intelligence, passion, and commitment of her classmates and professors, and looks forward their feedback and challenges to her very first blog post.
As an out lesbian for more than 25 years, I have always struggled with the separatist movements associated with radical feminism. For me, affiliating as a ‘woman loving woman’ means just that, I love women. But wait – I love men too! Whom I partner with – and yes, as a lesbian my partner is a woman – is but one aspect of me. Being a lesbian is not all of who I am, by far. I can’t, and do not wish to, imagine my life without men as an integral part of it. Continue reading “Room at the Table: The “Problem” of Men By Lara Helfer”