Dear Frank: I received your letter regarding mission and interreligious dialogue, and I am responding to it via this email. Below are my answers to your questions.
1. My own current teaching and research: At Loyola U. Chicago, I have taught the following nine courses: Hinduism; Buddhism; Asian Religons; Women and Religion in India; Women, Religion, and Ethnography; Religion and Healing; Western and Eastern Mysticism; Introduction to the Study of Religion; and Theology and Culture: Christianity and World Religions (a doctoral course co-taught with my chairperson, John McCarthy). I am supposed to teach "Religion and Sexuality" in the near future, but I will be away next year and hence not teaching until fall 2001. In terms of research: past research has been on the Hindu Great Goddess tradition, including one book and one forthcoming edited volume on the Great Goddess; current research is on Hindu women's rituals, specifically women's devotions to Krishna during the month of Karttik (Oct.-Nov.). My research is entirely devoted to the study of Hinduism, unlike my teaching!
2. My perceptions of the dynamics of teaching/research: I can speak only about Loyola, not Jesuit universities in general, since I am only familiar with my own institution. At Loyola, my teaching role has been largely one of general service, and the courses I teach tend to have no prerequisites. Our current Theo major and Theo graduate programs center on the study of Christianity, so I teach mostly core-level classes. This spring, we just passed a new major in religious studies, so I will probably be more involved in the future in teaching majors in my area. Since my courses tend to be of the "general ed" variety, and since the students I teach cannot be expected to have any background in the materials that I cover in class, my teaching does not contribute much to my research.
In general, I think my department and university greatly value research. While Loyola professes to also value teaching very highly, good teaching is not rewarded much if at all, and teaching seems to me to be not a major consideration in the tenuring/promotion/merit pay process. At Loyola, unfortunately, I don't see any real cash-out value of the rhetoric regarding "cura personalis" and the insistance that teaching counts. In other words, I don't think that the teaching/research dynamic is any different at Loyola than it is at other, non-Jesuit institutions, although the rhetoric would have one believe that it is different.
In the past, I don't think my department has highly valued the teaching of religious traditions other than Christianity. This is now changing.
3. Whether a meeting of profs would be of value: Sure! I would very much like to discuss these issues with other faculty at Jesuit institutions who have some of the same concerns and issues.
Created: September 2, 2000 Updated: September 2, 2000