Colorado Christian University students in the School of Theology recently had the opportunity to participate in a local academic conference, thereby getting a taste of professional academia beyond their undergraduate years.
The annual Rocky Mountain-Great Plains meeting of the American Academy of Religion, the Society of Biblical Literature, and the American Schools of Oriental Research, held at the University of Denver, provided an opportunity for eight School of Theology students and four professors to present work and experience the latest research in the field of religion.
“I wanted to get into the field that I see myself heading toward,” noted Jessica Schaeffer, a senior theology major at CCU. “As an aspiring professor, I was excited for the opportunity to hear papers presented by those who have ‘gone before me.’”
Thirteen schools in the region brought over 120 students and faculty to discuss important issues in religious studies. Four CCU faculty presented papers, including Dr. Johann Kim, Dr. Aaron Smith, Dr. Kyle Greenwood, and Dr. Ryan Murphy.
“Learning is a lifelong process,” explained Murphy. “The university is the organ in society tasked with carrying on this process at the highest level. At conferences, faculty discover what is being learned in their field, and are able to stay current in terms of the developments the new learning constitutes.”
Murphy’s own presentation explored the “relationship between religion and democracy, particularly the way political convictions grounded in religion function in the ostensibly secular public square.”
The conference provided an opportunity to expose students to higher levels of academia, as well as providing deeper connection between students and professors. “It was really special to take part in an event alongside my professors, which had more of a ‘peer to peer’ feel,” said Schaeffer.
Such opportunities offer a chance for students to begin to see themselves on the same level with professors – where they may be in a few years. They also show students what research is happening in their field, and how to present and critique such research.
“It is tremendously valuable for our faculty and students to attend these conferences because it raises the profile of CCU in the community, and in the field in general,” added Murphy. “The level of engagement from the CCU School of Theology in AAR/SBL meetings over the past few years has been noted in the field, and generated increased interest in our program on the part of institutions, as well as academic publishers.”