Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Partnership with Oxford Caps Initiatives from New Institute for Religion, Politics and Culture

CHESTERTOWN, MD—The Institute for Religion, Politics and Culture at Washington College has announced a new partnership with Oxford University that will provide students with research and study opportunities during the summer and prepare them for possible graduate studies at the renowned British institution.

Starting June of 2011, up to 12 high-achieving Washington College students will be selected to participate in seminars that explore the impact of religion on politics and society. Participating students will reside at Oxford, meet in tutorials with Oxford professors, conduct research at the renowned Bodleian library and, at the end of their stay, present their research to their Oxford professors. In addition, students will engage in faculty-led study trips to culturally significant sites in the region.

Joseph Prud’homme, PhD., director of the Institute and a member of the political science faculty at Washington College, says another invaluable aspect of the new partnership is its commitment to mentoring students interested in pursuing graduate work at Oxford. As a culmination of that mentoring, Kellogg College, one of Oxford’s largest and most international graduate colleges, has agreed to reserve a spot each year for a qualified Washington College student interested in further studies in religion, politics and culture.

Additional partnership arrangements between the Institute and Oxford are under development, including yearlong stays for highly qualified students and joint programming with the Oxford Centre for the Study of Religion in Public Life.

The Institute celebrated its relationship with Oxford with a November 2010 visit and lecture by Marilyn McCord Adams, the first female and first American to be named Regius Professor of Divinity at Oxford. The prestigious Regius professorship was created in 1535 by King Henry VIII, and Adams held the position from 2004 to 2009. Continuing the close partnership, Oxford professor of theology Nicholas Wood will come to the Chestertown campus on January 31 of this year. He will lecture on religious pluralism and meet with Washington College students.

The Adams visit capped a week of special events sponsored by the Institute that included a panel of national experts discussing the role of Bible studies in public schools.

Participants included the Rev. Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, Dr. Diane Moore of Harvard University’s Divinity School, and Dr. Daniel Dreisbach of American University’s School of Public Affairs.

Such events reflect the mission of the Institute for Religion, Politics and Culture, which was launched in September 2009 as a forum for the objective study of religion’s influence on American and world history, as well as its contemporary role in political and cultural affairs.

Washington College president Mitchell Reiss says that in an age when religion, politics and culture continue to intersect and frequently clash, with profound effects on communities and countries, there is great need for the kinds of study and contemplation the Institute promotes. “The Institute for Religion, Politics and Culture presents events and programs that respect both religious faith and rigorous intellectual inquiry,” he says. “It is an approach that this country’s Founders—and our founding patron George Washington—would endorse, and one Washington College is proud to embrace.”

In its first year, the Institute has already accomplished important initiatives, including:

    • Academic partnerships not only with Oxford, but also with Charles University in Prague and, soon to be announced, a new partner in Rome.
    • An impressive list of distinguished speakers and visitors.
    • Several symposia on the role of religion in American history, including “The Forum on Faith, Freedom and the American Founding,” and “The African American Church and American Ideals.”
    • A peer-reviewed book series, entitled Washington College Studies in Politics, Religion & Culture, edited by Professor Prud’homme and published by Peter Lang Press. The first title is scheduled for release in August 2011.
    • The Cincinnatus Leadership Scholars Program, which honors Washington College patron George Washington and exposes undergraduates to the importance of civic engagement through public and community service.

Director Prud’homme says Washington College is the perfect setting for the Institute by virtue of its history. “The College was founded in 1782 by a devout Anglican cleric yet was from its beginning a non-sectarian institution,” he points out. “And Washington evinced this duality even as he proclaimed in his farewell address, ‘Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports.’ Our close relationship to the nation’s first president strengthens our role in discussing the vitally important questions of faith, citizenship and culture.”

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