June 10, 1999
Vol. 18 No. 18

current issue
archive / search

    Faculty integrate religious, non-religious lives through project

    By Theresa Carson
    News Office

    The Faculty Mentoring Project fosters the life of the mind by encouraging the life of the spirit, according to Alison Boden, Dean of Rockefeller Memorial Chapel, which sponsors the program.

    “What this project is designed to do is to create a structure, so junior faculty can meet with senior faculty and integrate their religious lives with their non-religious lives as scholars,” said Boden.

    Three senior faculty members and 11 junior faculty members took part in the pilot project, which Boden hopes to continue next academic year. Senior faculty members David Oxtoby, Dean of the Physical Sciences Division; Tikva Frymer-Kensky, Professor in the Divinity School; and Mahmoud Ismail, Professor in Obstetrics & Gynecology, led small groups of three or four junior faculty members. Members planned for their smaller groups to meet for one meal per quarter and for all 14 participants to gather for one meeting. Impromptu topics of conversation ranged from careers to medical ethics to the philosophy of charitable giving.

    The diverse group of faculty members involved in the project came from different disciplines. “A great thing about the University in general is connecting to different networks. Everyone gets to know people in their own department, but one of the things I enjoy most about the University is getting to know people from other departments, other areas,” Oxtoby said.

    The project “brings faculty from all over the University, from professional schools as well as the arts and sciences together. They (the project organizers) deliberately tried to create groups that mix up different communities,” Oxtoby said. Both Boden and Oxtoby said they were aware of professional concerns. “I explicitly said that I did not want to have any physical scientists in my group, because given that I’m the Dean, I felt that it would create awkward relationships if there was someone assigned to my group who was actually a member of my division,” Oxtoby said.

    Religious diversity also existed among the professors in the group. Oxtoby said participants came from many faith traditions, and they held “different types of beliefs, ranging from very traditional to very non-traditional. It’s quite an interesting group.”

    Oxtoby’s involvement with the Faculty Mentoring Project partly stems from his participation in the A Believer and a Scholar series sponsored by Rockefeller Memorial Chapel and the University’s Campus Ministers.

    This lecture series, which is open to students, “brings together faculty from different faith traditions to talk about the connections between their faith and their lives at the University as scholars.

    “It is intended for students to show that faculty members have lives and interests and concerns outside of their immediate research and teaching obligations,” explained Oxtoby.

    Although coordinating schedules can be frustrating, Oxtoby said he will participate again if the project continues. “I always enjoy meeting new people from different areas and having intellectual discussions about different issues. I get plenty of time to talk about chemistry and physics, so it is always interesting to have other types of discussions.”

    Boden added, “People with so much in common should get to know each other.”

    More information about the Faculty Mentoring Project may be obtained by phoning Boden at (773) 702-8282.

    The Faculty Mentoring Project is funded by the Association for Religion and Intellectual Life.