Courtney Bryant, Ph.D. will officially join the Religious Studies Department at Manhattan College in the fall of 2018.
In her first year, Bryant will teach "Nature and Experience of Religion" along with "Womanist Ethics".
Before arriving to campus, a brief question and answer session was conducted with Bryant. Her responses are below.
Q.) If you were stranded on an island, what is the one tool that you would wish for and why? What would you do with this one tool?
A.) I have questions. Am I alone? Is there food, shelter, maybe a high end resort? lol. This question brings to mind the devastating events of 911. I was actually stranded in Mexico with my mother. They had suspended all flights and we thought we would have to stay at the resort we were staying for another week. It was pretty crazy that though we were stranded in paradise, all we wanted was to get home. In those circumstances a computer with a secure network that didn’t cost 50 billon dollars a minute would have been a miracle. When you are stranded, there is nothing like being able to reach out to loved ones and connect. To hear their voices, see their faces makes everything ok.
Q.) What inspired you to become a teacher at the collegiate level?
A.) I consider my calling to be a professor a part of my calling to ministry. It is an extension of my ministry in the church and on the pulpit. My ministerial call is all about helping people to discover the unique gifts they have inside of themselves. This is often accomplished through the academic study of religion because of the very personal nature of the topic. While it is not my intent to preach a particular faith tradition, I think the facilitation of knowledge, especially during the pivotal college years is a key way to help people blossom into the best versions of themselves. I am excited to be a part of that journey in the various spaces these discoveries occur, especially the classroom.
Q.) How do you feel that you bring your background and past experiences to the classroom setting?
A.) I was raised in a family where questions were welcome. No matter how old I was, no matter the topic, if I had a question, my parents, especially my mother, had an answer. For this reason, I value intellectual curiosity, rather than fear it, and believe the classroom should be a space of honest inquiry. I try to make my classroom a space where people feel comfortable asking questions and feel comfortable taking a shot at the answers, despite the possibility of getting it wrong. This requires respect and humility from everyone involved. In a world where we are taught that its easier to just go along with group think, or that it's wrong to question authority or what is politically correct, I believe it is essential for the classroom to be a space where people can acknowledge their lack of knowledge about a topic without being judged or ridiculed. They should be able to ask unpopular questions. However, they should also be asking those questions in the spirit of enlightenment, that is, seeking to know more and as a result, be better. Establishing a posture of humble curiosty electrifies the classroom and I hope to continue in the tradition set forth by my parents of honoring that kind of curiosity so that we can all grow, myself included.
Q.) What is your most unique trait as a professor? - That is, what separates you from other professors?
A.) I am hesitant to answer this question because we are all unique in your experiences and approaches. Instead, I will say that my teaching is characterized by interdisciplinarity, an emphasis on our bodies and how the world experiences them, and how that impacts our identities, and an eye for how history has informed our current moment. I am also always thinking about the perspectives of those who are left out, and how power shapes our ethics. No matter what I am teaching these chords will always run through my syllabi, which means if you take a course with me, there will always be a degree of self-work and conscientiazation happening in the background.
Q.) What excites you most about teaching at Manhattan College?
A.) I am super excited about Manhattan College’s tradition of social justice, as well as the diversity of its student body. I think both position students and professor to be able too have really dynamic conversations and take part in a variety of activities that will move us toward becoming a more just and compassionate community and nation.