A Letter from the Chair: Dr. Robert Geraci

Hello and welcome back to Manhattan College for a new year!

After a year of sabbatical, including five months in India, I returned as Chair of Religious Studies in the fall semester and I’m delighted to offer a few quick thoughts about the current year and changes in our department. First, though, I have to extend my heartfelt thanks to Dr. Skotnicki and Dr. Shefferman, who each took a semester as Chair so that I could steal away for my research.

We’re particularly delighted by the arrival of one new full-time faculty member and two new part-time faculty members. Teaching two courses each this fall are Dr. Elizabeth Rigotti and Dr. Mary Jett. Dr. Rigotti comes to us straight from her successful PhD work at Wilfrid Laurier University in Ontario, where she completed her dissertation, “The Indulgence of Professionalization: Adoption Services, Maternity Homes, and Catholic Negotiations in American Society, 1895-1990.” Dr. Jett finished her PhD at Union Theological Seminary and double-times as an Episcopal priest in under-resourced congregations here in New York City. Dr. Rodney Sebastian has joined as Assistant Professor and as the new Director for Veterans Success (which he inherits from its founder and champion, Dr. Kaplan). Dr. Sebastian earned his PhD from the University of Florida, where he completed his dissertation: “Cultural Fusion in a Religious Dance Drama: Sociopolitical Origins of the Manipuri Rāsalīlās.” You can read a bit more about him in the interview conducted by Zand O’Neill and published here on our webpage. We’re delighted to welcome all three of our new colleagues to the department!

Now seems like a good time to also welcome our new work study student, Zand O’Neill. She takes over after two great years with Jack Melanson (who has graduated and headed off to the West Coast). Zand will be in charge of this newsletter in addition to all the other responsibilities (great and small) that she takes on. I’m happy to have another terrific student to share the burden of the Chair’s office!

I’m delighted by a new study conducted internally at Manhattan College this year: it turns out that the Religious Studies faculty are media moguls! The good folks in the administration’s marketing domain compiled data on how often individual faculty are cited in popular and news media. There are more RELS faculty cited in popular media than come from any other department. Three out of the top five most cited are all from RELS (and four out of the top eight). Out of the 520 total mentions of MC faculty in pop media over the past three years, a whopping 199 are mentions of RELS faculty. That’s almost 40% of all faculty mentions! Needless to say, I’m awfully proud of my colleagues.

This fall we hosted a number of great events as part of our Religion Matters lecture series and this spring we have the eminent theologian M. Shawn Copeland as speaker for the Judith Plaskow Lecture on Women and Religion in March. Other highlights include the opening of the Lea and Herman Ziering Archive by the Holocaust, Genocide, and Interfaith Education Center (run by Dr. Afridi) and a veritable host of faculty on sabbatical to pursue their research projects. I’m excited to see the fruits of those labors.

It’s an honor to serve our students and colleagues in the Department of Religious Studies and I look forward to another outstanding year. As always, if you have any thoughts or questions about the department’s activities, feel free to contact me.



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