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2017 Department Awards Ceremony


On Wednesday, April 19, the department held its annual awards ceremony at which we celebrated the accomplishments of our students and faculty over the past year. The ceremony was held in the University Room at Hyde Hall and was followed by a wonderful time of conversation over refreshments. The many recognitions we noted that day include:

Undergraduate Student Awards:

Phi Beta Kappa inductee: Morgan Ferone

Honors Theses:

  • Averyl Edwards, “Beyond a Cisgender Genesis: Reading the Creation Narratives Through a Transgender Feminist Lens”
  • Amrithaa Gunabalan, “An Unknowable Ideal: Objectivism as a New Religious Movement and the Subsequent Institutionalization of Ayn Rand’s Ideas in American Politics”

Bernard Boyd Memorial Prize: Averyl Edwards

Graduate Student Awards:

Peck Prize for Graduate Student Teaching: Joanna Smith

Religious Studies Department Summer Research Awards: Patrick D’Silva, Brad Erickson, Shannon Schorey, Joanna Smith, and Tim Smith

GSOC Peer Recognition Teaching Award: Micah Hughes


Welcome from Prof. Randall Styers


Prof. Todd Ochoa with Averyl Edwards, winner of the Boyd Prize


Prof. Lauren Leve presents a summer research award to Patrick D’Silva


Joanna Smith and Isaiah Ellis presenting the coveted “ABD” mugs


Books published by our faculty over the past year

Posted in Faculty News, Graduate Student News, News & Events, Undergraduate Accomplishments on April 26, 2017  

RELIxperience Video: “Mysticism–What is it?”

The next of the three winning videos from our RELIxperience Video Contest (titled “Mysticism–What is it?”) was produced by Jessica Coates, Avery Mavroudis, and Marlena Moore, a group of students from Patrick D’Silva’s RELI 165: Mysticism class. The video combines the reactions of various UNC students to the term “mysticism” with reflections on the idea gleaned from the course:

For a list of all our RELIxperience video contest winners, click here.

Posted in News & Events, Undergraduate Accomplishments on April 18, 2017  
Virtual Reality Meets Archaeology: Visualizing Ancient Synagogues

Brad Erickson, a doctoral student in Ancient Mediterranean Religions and a scholar of ancient Judaism, has incorporated 3-D virtual modeling in his archaeological research to aid in the visualization of ancient synagogues. On Thursday, April 6, Brad participated in the UNC Research Hub Showcase, an event in which scholars from across the university had the opportunity to demonstrate how the resources of the Research Hub have advanced their work. Brad’s station at the event allowed participants to walk through virtual models he created of the ancient synagogues at Sepphoris and Beit Alpha using a virtual reality headset.

To view some of Brad’s 3-D models for yourself, click here (synagogue models) and here (synagogue mosaics).


Brad Erickson explaining the intricacies of 3-D modeling


Prof. Joseph Lam gazing up at the ceiling of the synagogue


Getting accustomed to the VR headset


A rendering from inside the virtual reality model: the interior of the Sepphoris synagogue

Posted in Graduate Student News on April 13, 2017  

Summer 2017 Courses

Below are flyers for some of the courses we are offering in the Maymester and summer sessions this year. (Click on each poster for a PDF version of the flyer.) For a detailed schedule of Maymester, Summer I, and Summer II courses, click here.

Posted in News & Events on April 11, 2017  
RELIxperience Video: “This is Carolina Religion”

The first of the three winning videos from our RELIxperience Video Contest is titled “This is Carolina Religion,” and it features the different members of the group (Devyn Davis, Kalleen Kelley, Rachel McMillen, and Mallory Meek) describing their experiences with religious studies at Carolina. The video stood out for its focused reflections on the importance of religious studies to a well-rounded undergraduate education as well as for its overall production quality:

For the announcement of our RELIxperience video contest winners, click here.

Posted in News & Events, Undergraduate Accomplishments on April 10, 2017  
Recent Lecture Events: J. Derrick Lemons and Jennifer Eichman (McLester Colloquium)

On March 2, Dr. J. Derrick Lemons from the University of Georgia came to speak on the topic of how millennials read the Bible regarding the issue of same sex marriage. The talk was co-sponsored by the Department of Women and Gender Studies, the Program in Sexuality Studies, and the Provost’s Committee on LGBTQ life. Students who attended were highly engaged, as shown by their many questions after the talk and by the fact that the room was literally overflowing.

Lemons flyer

  Lemons lecture flyer


J. Derrick Lemons before the lecture attendees

On March 22, Dr. Jennifer Eichman of the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) at the University of London was featured for our last McLester Colloquium of this academic year. The lecture was titled “Women and Animals: Culinary Dilemmas and Karmic Entanglements,” and the talk explored issues surrounding women, Buddhist attitudes toward the eating of meat, and societal changes in China after the end of imperial rule. This event was similarly well attended and offered another opportunity for faculty and students to interact over a topic of critical interest in religious studies.


Jennifer Eichman at the McLester Colloquium

Eichman flyer

  Eichman lecture flyer

Posted in Events, Graduate Student News on April 7, 2017  

Recent Faculty Awards: Carl Ernst and Todd Ochoa

Two members of our faculty have recently received support and recognition for their scholarship with major awards:

ErnstCarl Ernst, William R. Kenan, Jr., Distinguished Professor in Religious Studies, is one of the inaugural recipients of the Global Humanities Translation Prize from the Global Humanities Initiative, a program of the Buffett Institute for Global Studies at Northwestern University. Professor Ernst’s project will involve producing an annotated translation of the classical Arabic poems of the Persian mystic Mansur al-Hallaj, and the finished work will be published by Northwestern University Press in 2018. For the official award announcement, see here.

OchoaTodd Ochoa, Associate Professor in the Department of Religious Studies, has won a National Humanities Center fellowship for the 2017-18 academic year, representing one of only 35 fellows chosen out of 630 applications. Professor Ochoa will be working on a research project titled “Conjecture for a Bembé: Religious Recombination in the Black Atlantic,” and the fellowship provides the opportunity for interaction with the other resident fellows over the course of the academic year through seminars, lectures, and conferences. The announcement and full list of 2017-18 fellows can be found here.

Congratulations, Carl and Todd!

Posted in Faculty News on April 4, 2017  
RELIxperience Video Contest Winners

Video Contest

We are pleased to announce the three winning groups for our 2017 RELIxperience Undergraduate Video Contest:

  • Jessica Coates, Avery Mavroudis, and Marlena Moore (students in Patrick D’Silva’s course, RELI 165: Mysticism) for their video “Mysticism–What is it?” [link]
  • Mistyre Bonds, Margaret Humble, and Claire Johnson (students in Harshita Kamath’s course, RELI 424: Gender Theory and the Study of Religion) for their video “Tarheel Religions”
  • Devyn Davis, Kalleen Kelley, Rachel McMillen, and Mallory Meek (students in Harshita Kamath’s course, RELI 424: Gender Theory and the Study of Religion) for their video “This is Carolina Religion” [link]

Each group will be receiving a $100 prize. We will also be featuring each of these videos in a separate post on our website in the coming days, so stay tuned! (Update: links are being added to the list above as videos are posted.)

We wanted to thank every group that submitted a video, and so for helping to make our video contest a success.

Posted in News & Events, Undergraduate Accomplishments on March 30, 2017  
Fall 2017 Courses

(Updated 4/5/2017) Course registration for Fall 2017 begins the week of April 4. Below are many of the courses we are offering in the fall semester (click on an image to open the PDF flyer):

Posted in News & Events on March 20, 2017  
Sand Mandala at UNC’s Asia Week 2017

Last week, as part of the festivities for UNC’s Asia Week 2017, a Tibetan Monk from the Kadampa Center in Raleigh, Geshe Palden Sangpo, was invited to the FedEx Global Education Center to build a sand mandala over the course of several days. The building of the sand mandala, and its subsequent destruction, are part of an ancient Tibetan Buddhist tradition that embodies themes of harmony and the transitoriness of life.

A student in our department, Brodie Heginbotham, who is a double major in Religious Studies and Journalism at UNC, wrote an article describing the event and covering the different dimensions of its significance. To read the article, click here.


Building the sand mandala


The completed sand mandala

Posted in Events, Undergraduate Accomplishments on March 1, 2017  

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