The Department of Philosophy and Religion at Coe offers courses designed to lead students to reflect on their views concerning fundamental issues in life and thought. These issues concern the nature of our world; the nature and possibilities of knowledge; and issues concerning the nature of society, values (both moral and religious), faith commitments and the divine.
The Department of Philosophy and Religion houses two distinct programs each offering a separate major with a broad range of course offerings. Class sizes within the Department vary, with most classes limited to twenty students, and enrollment in upper-level courses is generally fewer than fifteen. This small class size permits individualized attention and provides the opportunity for active participation in classroom discussion.
Last spring four of our students graduated with degrees in philosophy; these were: Dane "Shade" Brusuelas-Hannum, Hannah Gustafson, Robert Pounds, and Raquel Robles. Hannah Gustafson was honored with the Eutsler-Prize as the outstanding senior philosophy major. Shade and Raquel had the honor of having papers published in Stance, a respected undergraduate philosophy journal. Shade's paper, "Criminal Justice Without Moral Responsibility: Addressing Problems with Consequentialism," and Raquel's paper, "Just Visiting: A Working Concept of 'Wilderness' for Environmental Ethics and Ordinary Language," were also presented at the annual Midwest Undergraduate Philosophy Conference held at Creighton University in Omaha, NE. Professor John Lemos went with them to Omaha. Other students in attendance were Sarafina Feldman, Wesley Hoyer, and Robert Kowynia. Shade's and Raquel's papers were well-presented and well-received. A good time was had by all members of the Coe contingent who made the trip.
Jeff Hoover was on sabbatical during the spring semester of the past academic year. He continued with his research on accounts of subjectivity and self-awareness and the role embodied experience may play in them. One historical account in particular figures centrally in this research, namely, that of F.D.E. Schleiermacher who originates a theory involving organic bases of awareness in opposition to Kantian and post-Kantian accounts of his day.
Tom Javoroski and his wife Shauna spent some time in Honduras last year doing volunteer work in poor rural areas of the country. They worked with an organization out of Atlanta called HOI. They plan to go back to Honduras again this year with the same group. This year, they'll be spending the week working in La Fuente, a small mountain village in the Agalta Valley, in the rural department of Olancho, about eight hours from Tegucigalpa. It's one of the poorer areas of Honduras, which is one of the poorest nations in the Western Hemisphere.
Among other things, they will be helping the people of La Fuente construct latrines and 'pilas' (water storage cisterns), and hopefully expanding the new in-home water filtration systems being introduced to the area. The first test village that received the new filter systems saw a 75%+ reduction in health clinic visits by the village's children, and similar rates from the adults. Water pollution is one of the more significant problems, along with other health concerns.
In the last academic year, John Lemos presented papers at several conferences. In January, he presented "Kane, Balaguer, Libertarianism, and Luck" at the Agency, Causality, and Free Will Conference at the Institute of Philosophy in Zagreb, Croatia. This paper will also be published in a volume of selected papers from the conference. He also presented, "Moral Concerns About Responsibility Denial and the Quarantine of Violent Criminals," at the Illinois Philosophical Association Meetings as well as the American Philosophical Association Pacific Division Meetings in San Francisco. This paper is part of a longer paper which is forthcoming in Law and Philosophy. Professor Lemos has other papers forthcoming in Sophia and The Journal of Philosophical Research.
Peter McCormick continues to devote attention to working on his courses, and he says he is learning to fly planes in his spare time.
Last year, we had several students leave us to study off-campus! Allison DeArcangelis '16 and Maisie Iven '16 spent Fall 2015 at the Newberry Library in Chicago, Meredith Wall '19 spent Spring 2016 on Asia Term, and Gibson Odderstol '17 spent Hillary and Trinity terms at St. Catherine's College, Oxford. Luckily for us they all returned: Gibson was awarded the David M. Hay Research Award to spend the summer doing research towards his honor's thesis at the Newberry Library in Chicago, and Meredith, along with Alyssa Olson '19, picked up the First-Year Prize in Religion. Allison last Spring was awarded the Eutsler Prize in Religion for outstanding work over all four years at Coe, and Brendan McLean '16 was awarded the Hawkins-Shepler Prize for a student showing potential for a great future in Christian ministry. Allison Stubbs '19 was awarded the American Bible Society Prize. Additionally this year our department was honored that two of our students, Gibson Odderstol and Qierra Brockman '18 were named as Clark Merit Scholars.
Spring 2016 was also sad for us as we bid farewell to many students who had been part of our department for years. Luckily we now get to hear about all the exciting things they are doing. Samantha Burt '16 is now employed as a Youth Service Worker at Tanager Place here in Cedar Rapids. Sara Sweeney '16 has taken a position with the Colorado Episcopal Service Corps working at the Tread of Pioneer Museum. Allison DeArcangelis is working as a Special Collections Library Assistant at the Newberry Library. Several of our number are headed to graduate school: Masie Iven has begun a Master's program in Library and Information Science at the University of Illinois, and Brendan McLean a Master's program in Divinity at McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago.
Last summer Chris Hatchell visited Menri Monastery, located in Northern India, where he spent time speaking to monks about his translation of a Tibetan biographical text. This work is part of a long term translation project. His summer travels were funded through the Beahl and Irene H. Perrine Grant Program, which provides support for Coe faculty engaged in research projects.
This past year, Meira Kensky presented a well-received paper at the Annual Meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature in Atlanta, GA, entitled "Timothy in Ephesus? 1 Timothy, the Acts of the Apostles, and the Acts of Timothy Reconsidered." The longer version of the paper will form the core of a chapter in her second book. This fall Kensky will return to the Annual Meeting to serve as a panelist in a joint meeting of the Biblical Law and Theology of the Hebrew Scriptures sections on the issue of "Theodicy and Biblical Law," where she will participate in a discussion of, among other things, a chapter of her first book.
This past year Kensky was also invited to give the Winter 2016 University of Chicago Divinity School's Dean's Craft of Teaching Seminar on the topic of "Building the Religion Major in the Era of the Death of the Humanities." In this seminar, which is now available to be viewed on-line at the University of Chicago's website, she discussed strategies of curricular design and challenges facing humanities departments in the current Higher Education climate with advanced graduate students and University of Chicago faculty. While in residence at Chicago, she also gave a seminar on "Biblical Studies Expertise and the Generalist Classroom" to advanced graduate students in Biblical Studies, Early Christian Literature, and Early Judaism.
This summer, she continued her ongoing research on the figure of Timothy in Early Christian Literature, researching how Timothy appears in the homilies of John Chrysostom, spending extensive time with Chrysostom's homilies on Philippians, 1 Corinthians, 1-2 Timothy, and the Homilies on the Statues. She recently published a short piece called "The Wedding of Ezra and Olivia" in the most recent issue of Perspectives, the journal of the Association for Jewish Studies.
On campus, Kensky spent last year working as Faculty Advising Facilitator and Advisor at Large with the Coe College Learning Commons, and then was selected as the new Director of First-Year Experience, which is occupying a lot of her time right now. She was also, along with Amber Shaw in English, selected to lead the 2018 ACM Newberry Library Seminar in the Humanities.
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