Chair’s Welcome

Dr. Molly Bassett (Chair) and family.

Dr. Molly Bassett (Chair) and family.

This is a time of celebration and change in the Department of Religious Studies at Georgia State. Many of our students, faculty, alumni, and friends are entering new phases in their lives and careers: new jobs, new graduate programs, new babies, awards, and promotions:

If you’ve missed any of these moments, please find and follow us on Facebook or Instagram! If we’ve missed any of your moments, please reach out to us!

Some of our celebrating came hand-in-hand with goodbye. Our longtime staff member Felicia Thomas left Religious Studies and Philosophy for a position in the University’s Development Office, and our colleague Brett Esaki departed for a new adventure at the University of Arizona. Felicia promises to come to an occasional Pizza Tuesday, and we wish Brett and his family the best.

With change comes opportunity! In the next year, we will be starting a new program for our graduate students, completing Annual Program Review, and entering into conversations about the Department’s future directions.

First, our new program.

We are working with colleagues in the College’s Gerontology Institute to develop a Concentration in Religion and Aging. Today, one in eight Americans are over the age of 65, and this number will only continue to grow. Our society needs experts trained in gerontology to address the policy and service needs of this new population of elders. The MA in Religious Studies with a Certificate in Religion and Aging will allow GSU students to develop expertise in interdisciplinary age-related research grounded in the social and behavioral sciences while gaining cultural and career competencies in the study of religions and an internship placement that integrates religion and aging. These skills will prepare them for service in metropolitan Atlanta as well as in national and international healthcare, policy, and social services organizations. We are thrilled to be working with faculty in Gerontology to develop this program, and we see it as an excellent fit with our established Certificate in Nonprofit Management and WellStar Fellowship.

Next, APR and our trajectory.

Annual Program Review is a year-long intensive review that involves surveys of our faculty, students, and alumni; a series of faculty meetings focused on future initiatives; a 30-page report on the state of the department; an external review by a team of Religious Studies colleagues from other institutions; and conversations with our administrators, including the Dean. APR is an opportunity for us to come together as a community, reflect on where we are, and plan for our future. This process culminates in an action plan for the Department, but we’re already in action. We’d love for you to be involved.

Open invitations:

In addition to the conversations we’ll have as part of APR, we are beginning to rethink our major in light of the successes of our MA certificate programs. We will be convening three midday colloquia to explore the applied liberal arts and how our department might better prepare our majors for their intended careers. I’m excited to share that we’ll be doing this work with support from the Wabash Center for Teaching and Learning in Theology and Religious Studies, from the College of Arts and Sciences Dean’s Office, and from GSU’s College-to-Career pilot study. We’re looking forward to involving majors, graduate students, and alumni in these conversations.

We’ll also be hosting a new Religion and Public Life Fellow, Rev. Kate McGregor Mosley, Executive Director of Georgia Interfaith Power and Light, a 15-year-old nonprofit serving 15,000 communities of faith across the state “in practices of environmental stewardship and sustainability.” Kate will convene a discussion about religion and environmentalism focused on water at Pizza Tuesday on September 25th starting at 12:30, and she will host a panel conversation on a similar topic on the evening of March 12th. Please plan to join us!

I ended last year’s welcome letter by saying, “Whoever you are, and whatever questions bring you to the Department of Religious Studies, you are welcome. Make our department your home at Georgia State.” In the past year, I have had so many opportunities to talk to prospective students, current students, and alumni, and to a person, you all are engaged in work that is transforming our communities, our city, and our world. This Department wouldn’t be what it is without you: past, present, and future. Thank you all, and welcome back!