Dean Margaret M. Mitchell
Why at this point in your career did you accept the deanship?
I am committed to this School that formed me and so many others intellectually and that has a unique and vital place in American higher education. I know of no other institution where religion is studied with such intensity, sophistication, rigor, and collegial engagement. Serving on the faculty over the last 12 years with outstanding colleagues and superb students has been “living the dream,” as one of my colleagues put it. To serve as ambassador for this School and to work with the faculty to make the best decisions for its work in the years ahead—training people to think and talk about religion seriously—could only be a privilege.
Besides your appointment, what are some exciting developments in the Divinity School?
We have five searches next year for new faculty members in the Divinity School: one in the area of anthropology and sociology of religion; one in religious ethics; one in history of religions; one in Islamic studies, and one in theology. Since the Divinity School currently has 31 full-time faculty members, these five new hires represent significant growth. Additionally, the School had two of its proposals approved for the president and provost’s faculty expansion initiative. These junior faculty positions, for which we shall be searching in the next few years, are in Byzantine theology and visual culture and in environmental ethics.
Another success that I’m glad to share is that we’ve received a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for $600,000 to support a University-wide initiative in Islamic studies, which will be overseen by Divinity School professor Michael Sells and a steering committee from throughout the Divisions. This grant will allow us to bring internationally recognized scholars of Islam to campus over a three-year period.
How do gifts to the Annual Fund make a difference in the day-to-day workings of the School?
Annual Fund support helps make a career in the academic study of religion possible for students who may not otherwise have that opportunity. Each year, students make decisions about where they’re going to go to graduate school based upon finances. And to the degree that we can match or better the financial-aid packages of our incoming students, we will have the best students in the country.