Professor of Philosophy and Religious Studies Carl Olson’s essay “The Shadow of Kali Over the Goddess Kamaksi and Her City” has been published in “On Meaning and Mantras: Essays in Honor of Frits Staal” edited by George Thompson and Richard Payne and published in Berkeley, Calif., by the Institute of Buddhist Studies and BDK America. This volume is a memorial book dedicated to the memory of Frits Staal, a longtime professor of Sanskrit at the University of California, Berkeley. The volume contains contributions from many famous Indologists from around the globe.
April 3rd 2017
March 2nd 2017
Professor of Philosophy and Religious Studies Carl Olson‘s essay, “Place, Play, Escape, and Identity: A Reconsideration of the Thought of Yi-fu Tuan in Light of the Work of Ramanuja and Zhuangzi” has been published in the International Communication of Chinese Culture.
His essay “Violence, the Demonic, and Indian Asceticism” also has been accepted for publication in a forthcoming book, “Modern Hinduism in History and Practice,” edited by Lavanya Vemsani and to be published by Bloomsbury Publishing.
February 9th 2017
A desk seldom separates the Rev. Jane Ellen Nickell from visitors in her office.
Rather than sequester herself behind furniture, the Allegheny College chaplain much prefers to sit adjacent to her guests, the room encased with bookshelves and filled with gentle, dim light.
Nickell’s office is as warm and inviting as her presence is on Allegheny’s campus. The ordained United Methodist minister oversees the Office of Spiritual and Religious Life, leads Sunday worship services, advises student groups and teaches religious studies courses.
Nickell accepted her position at Allegheny 11 years ago. Her history is widespread geographically – she grew up in West Virginia, moved from Pennsylvania to Illinois and to Tennessee, back to West Virginia, then to New Jersey before settling in Meadville. She has also traveled so far as to Israel, Mexico and Romania.
Graduating first as an English major from West Virginia Wesleyan College, she began a career at the University of Illinois’ Krannert Center for the Performing Arts. She took courses in the university’s musicology program while working but still retained her Methodist roots. Eventually she decided to transition into the ministry, but didn’t see it as a drastic change. She said both vocations were about “bringing people into experiences that touch their spirits and their souls.”
After completing seminary at Vanderbilt Divinity School in 2000 and working at a church for three years, she attended Drew University in 2003 to complete her doctorate in religion. She came in 2006 to Allegheny, which she appreciated for its fostering of interfaith work, and open discussions on challenging topics between people of all faith backgrounds.
During her years at Allegheny, Nickell has embraced the increase in diversity on campus—in race and ethnicity, gender identities, and religious preference. She says that it’s important to have a worship area, like the College’s Ford Memorial Chapel, that is welcoming to all members of the community.
The chapel has become one of her favorite places on campus. “Obviously that’s where I do a lot of my work,” she says, “I find it a really warm and inviting space. But I was also involved in the renovation of the building seven years ago, and doing that was able to learn a lot about the history.” She is equally fond of the Prayer and Meditation Retreat, the red house next to Arter Hall, where Hindu, Muslim and Buddhist students have created a welcoming space.
Nickell’s scholarly work also has focused on the significance of diversity. She has been published in various books and journals, such as “Worship Arts,” “Ecospirit” and “The Prophetic Voice and Making Peace.” Many of her writings focus on gender and sexuality as they pertain to religion. Her dissertation – “We Shall Not Be Moved: Methodists Debate Race, Gender, and Homosexuality” – is her attempt to “understand why people in the same church or same family read the Bible very differently.”
Nickell’s book by that title is now on this year’s United Methodist Women’s reading list, and she has also given various talks on the subject.
Nickell says she sees herself not as a frontrunner for pushing her beliefs, but as a mediator to find out “what’s at stake for people on both ends of the spectrum” in hopes of closing the gap. “What I can contribute to this is scholarship,” she adds.
The following are excerpts from a recent interview with Nickell:
What is something most people don’t know about Allegheny?
“One of the things is that we’re United Methodist affiliated. I hear people say ‘well loosely’ or ‘we used to be,’ but we are. We’re on the list of 120-or-so affiliated schools. And I don’t think that needs to be a scary thing. There’s a lot of common ground. I look at things like their Imagine No Malaria campaign, and work with the World Health Organization. And we have a global health department. We’re concerned about the same things. We’re concerned with social justice. And also, we bring faith into conversation with academics and intellectual life. John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, was an Oxford tutor. His faith was always very intellectual. Methodism brings reason and faith together; we are pressed to question things, rather than just taking things at face value. It’s an inquisitive faith.”
Who is your favorite musician?
“James Taylor. I should be saying something classical, having worked in the performing arts, but I love J.T.”
What instruments do you play?
“I play piano, I studied piano all through graduate school, and have done a lot of choirs, and choral singing. I was in the band too, but it’s been a long time.”
What do you do in your spare time?
“I spend time working in my yard, cooking, watching the Food Network; either learning about or doing food. I spend time with my cats – I have two cats who love to play, and snuggle lots. Just doing things with friends and with my family; I’m closer to my family, I’ve lived farther away so it’s nice to be close.
Where is your favorite place you’ve traveled to?
“The place that I really want to go back to is Israel. Eric (Pallant, professor of environmental science) led a faculty/staff trip about four years ago, and part of it was the group I went with, but it was also just such a fascinating place, layers and layers of religious history and tension, but just really wonderful. We spent several days in Jerusalem itself. We were in Capernaum, and it was ‘here’s Peter’s house, and here’s the synagogue where Jesus preached, and here’s the Sea of Galilee,’ and I just went, ‘oh my gosh – Jesus was here!’ And it kind of overwhelmed me.
“We also visited the Arava Institute, and that’s where we send a lot of students working on environmental issues. Arava intentionally brings Israeli, and Arab, Palestinians together to work on issues of water and energy. All the things that are pressing all of us but especially in a country with limited resources. We hear students from the institute say ‘in 20 years the wars are not going to be over religious issues; they’re going to be over water.’”
What is your most important advice for today’s college students?
“Take time. Take pauses. Students should find whatever helps them slow down, and reflect, and pause, and give themselves time to absorb. Technology has allowed us to process so much information, but I don’t think our brains, and definitely not our spirits, have caught up. Give yourself that time to just take it all in.”
February 1st 2017
Professor of Philosophy Eric Palmer’s essay “Less Radical Enlightenment: A Christian Wing of the French Enlightenment” was published this past January by Routledge Press in Reassessing the Radical Enlightenment (Steffen Ducheyne, editor). The volume concerns the influence of the radical ideas of Benedict Spinoza upon European thought and the work of historian Jonathan Israel concerning such “radical enlightenment.” Palmer’s contribution traces a group of scientific writers and intellectual journalists of the early Eighteenth century whose contribution to the conversation is now obscure because it was effaced later in the century by the victors of Enlightenment culture – Voltaire, Diderot and Hume in particular.
Information at https://www.routledge.com/Reassessing-the-Radical-Enlightenment/Ducheyne/p/book/9781138280045
Allegheny College Students to Attend National Conference at Harvard Kennedy School’s Institute of Politics
February 1st 2017
Allegheny College students will participate in the National Campaign for Political and Civic Engagement conference at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Institute of Politics (IOP), February 3-5.
The 2017 National Campaign conference will focus on identifying the root causes of national divisiveness following the 2016 presidential election and work to formulate strategies to bridge gaps between all Americans. Student ambassadors and staff members from 28 colleges and universities across the country will convene on the Harvard campus with the mission to create a nationally coordinated program to Reconnect America.
Allegheny students Jesse Tomkiewicz and Hannah Firestone will attend the conference along with Dr. Patrick Jackson, visiting assistant professor of History and Philosophy and Religious Studies.
“The conference presents a unique opportunity for tomorrow’s leaders to have a vitally important discussion about divisiveness in our country and how we as a nation can best move forward with civility and respect for all,” said Allegheny College President James H. Mullen, Jr. Brian Harward, director of Allegheny’s Center for Political Participation, said students come away from the conference inspired.
“Allegheny has sent students from its Center for Political Participation for several years. Each time, students return to our campus and community energized to engage the important and complex issues that confront us,” Harward said.
Since 2003, the National Campaign has held annual conferences to identify collaborative projects, foster engagement in electoral politics, assist students in pursuing careers in public service, and provide a foundation in civic education. Led by a team of Harvard undergraduate students, the collegiate ambassadors to the National Campaign work together to achieve concrete goals, such as working with local election offices to improve the voting experience for their campus communities.
Other participating colleges and universities include Arizona State University, Elon University, Franklin & Marshall College, Georgetown University, Harvard University, Louisiana State University, The Ohio State University, Rutgers University, Saint Anselm College, Simpson College, Tennessee State University, University of Florida, University of Louisville, University of Rochester, University of Southern California, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, University of Utah, University of Virginia, Vanderbilt University, University of Oklahoma, Howard University, United States Military Academy, Tufts University, University of Chicago, Colby College, and University of Texas at Austin.
January 2nd 2017
Assistant Professor of Religious Studies and Director of Jewish Life Adrienne Krone recently presented two papers on her research. On Nov. 21, at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Religion in San Antonio, Tex., she presented a paper entitled, “Free-Range Judaism.” The second paper, entitled “It’s Muddy on the Margins,” was delivered Dec. 19 at the annual meeting of the Association for Jewish Studies in San Diego, Calif. Both papers drew on her ethnographic study of the Jewish community farming movement in North America to discuss non-denominational Judaism.
November 29th 2016
Assistant Professor of Philosophy and Religious Studies Younus Mirza recently published the article “Ibn Taymiyya as Exegete” in the Journal of Qur’anic Studies. The articles discusses how Ibn Taymiyya, one of the most influential medieval Muslim scholars in modern times, engaged the Bible and biblical literature to better interpret parts of the Qur’an.
November 28th 2016
New Spring 2017 Courses
Environmental Philosophy (Phil 290 MWF 2:30-3:20, Prof Mark Steen). See the course description below.
Medical Ethics, section two, (Phil 385.01 MWF 9:00-9:50, Prof Mark Steen).
An introduction to philosophical ethics through an engagement with environmental issues of population growth and resource use, sustainability, non-human animal welfare, biodiversity loss, environmental justice, and global climate change. The two main goals of the course are to provide students with a more sophisticated conceptual vocabulary to make and evaluate ethical arguments across domains and to engage students’ ethical reasoning and reflection on environmental issues in particular.
September 1st 2016
Professor of Philosophy and Religious Studies Carl Olson in May presented a paper entitled “Place, Play, Escape, and Identity: A Reconsideration of the Thought of Yi-fu Tuan in Light of the Work of Ramajuna and Zhuangzi” at the 11th East-West Philosophers Conference at the East-West Center at the University of Hawaii. The conference drew 350 scholars from 35 different countries.
Allegheny College Senior Honored With Award From the Central PA Chapter of the American Society for Public Administration
April 19th 2016
April 19, 2016 – Allegheny College senior Abby Lombard has received the Outstanding Student Award from the Central Pennsylvania Chapter of the American Society for Public Administration.
The yearly award is given to one undergraduate student who displays excellence and promise in public administration.
Although she is a native of Syracuse, New York, Lombard was eligible for the award because she spent 13 weeks completing a Pennsylvania House Legislative Fellowship in Harrisburg. This highly competitive fellowship program places students in leadership offices, such as offices of committee chairmen, in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. Lombard was placed with two standing committees: the House Majority Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee and the House Majority Transportation Committee.
Lombard, a history and political science double major and philosophy minor, was nominated for the award during her time in Harrisburg. She will accept it May 2 during a celebration for national Public Service Recognition Week at the Dixon University Center in Harrisburg.
During her time at Allegheny, Lombard has served as a Student Fellow for the college’s Center for Political Participation and as a student representative on the History and Heritage Committee. In September 2014 she traveled to Harvard University to represent Allegheny at the Bipartisan National Conference, and in spring 2015 she spent the semester studying in Australia. She is a member of Alpha Phi Omega, the college’s service fraternity; executive board president of the Residence Hall Association; and student advisory board member for the Department of History.
In summer 2014 Lombard completed an internship at the Robert H. Jackson Center in Jamestown, New York. In 2015 she interned with Congressman John Katko in Syracuse. She also has worked in the Office of the Onondaga County Executive in Syracuse.
Following graduation, Lombard has accepted a position with Deloitte Consulting in Cleveland and eventually plans to attend graduate school and run for public office.