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Preston H. Kelsey Professor in Religion
Elizabeth Howland Hand-Otis Norton Pierce Award for a Faculty Member Who Is an Outstanding Teacher of Undergraduates
When I came to Dartmouth as an undergraduate, my adviser said, “Liberal arts is for exploring; take courses in things you know nothing about.” One of the things I decided I knew nothing about was religion. I grew up in Arkansas in a very nonreligious family, and all I knew about religion was what my family said, which was dismissive, or what my peers said, which was a very literalistic reading of the Bible. So I took “Religion 1” and loved it. It was a way of thinking about the Bible as a body of literature created by an ancient people who were trying to express something about their religiosity. Now I work on the religions of the ancient Middle East. My professors opened up new worlds to me, and coming back to Dartmouth as their colleague was tremendously exciting. And teaching Dartmouth undergraduates is fun. It allows me a kind of freedom compared to when I was teaching in a graduate program. Most are not going to go be Bible scholars, so I get to play a bit more with them to help them analyze and think critically about complex and rich material.