[Danielle Chaloux]: Welcome to Live and Learn, a production of the Honors Program at the University of Connecticut. I’m Danielle Chaloux, and this is Episode 7 for the week of November 6th. On Tuesday, November 7th, at 5PM in Laurel Hall 201, Dr. Erin Cox from Counseling and Mental Health Services will discuss strategies and tips to manage stress levels, perfectionism, and demanding schedules. We’ve heard from Dr. Cox in Episode 3, so check that out for a teaser. This week, we’re going to get a peek into ANTH 2400: Analyzing Religion. It’s an Honors Core class taught by Jocelyn Linnekin. Here’s Professor Linnekin.
[DC]: Can you provide a brief overview about what that class is?
[Jocelyn Linnekin]: This is the course where I, um, mess with their minds as much as I possibly can. I want to make them rethink, push, probe, everything they ever thought about religion. It’s very wide ranging, it’s challenging, but I think I guide the students through very well. It’s very excited because with Honors students you have a tremendous amount of discussion and they’re smart. It’s great fun!
[DC]: And what are some of the topics in this wide-ranging course that you’re covering?
[JL]: I start out with, what is religion, and I ask if religion has to be theistic, do there have to be deities, do there have to be supernatural beings? So we start out with various definitions of religion. And rather quickly move into different famous scholarly approaches to and rejections of religion. I rather like putting Sigmund Freud, Friedrich Nietzsche, alongside anthropologists,and the K’iche’ Maya Book of the Dead. It’s intended to be a juxtaposition of very different sorts of sources but, having Freud and Marx and Nietzche and the Christian mystic Gregory of Nyssa, and Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite, just go home and tell them you’re reading THAT, they’re going to know the tuition is worth it.
[DC]: What’s the importance of this course?
[JL]: My pitch for this class initially was that there are few institutions that are more implicated in today’s crises, conflicts, politics, one hardly needs to say, religion is implicated in so many arenas of life globally from one end of the earth to another. That the wide ranging nature of this course, I hope makes them better world citizens, better informed, better able to understand conflicts that seem overtly religious but actually there are always underlying claims that could be ethnic or national or based on territory.
[DC]: And from a student perspective, here’s Nathan Friday, a sophomore studying Biomedical Engineering with minors in Math and Computer Science and Engineering.
Last semester you took an Honors Core class.
[Nathan Friday]: Yup.
[DC]: What course did you take?
[NF]: The course I took was ANTH 2400: Analyzing Religion, and it’s really, I don’t know, I really liked the course just in general because it felt very different than a lot of the other courses I’ve been taking up until that point.
[DC]: How is it different?
[NF]: Just in terms of engagement, assignments, and expectations in the classroom I think. So, you know, we had a lot of expected readings that we’re supposed to do, so that we could come to class prepared to talk about whatever concepts she wanted to bring up. She really focused on bringing up a wide range of examples for each concept that we talked about, despite the fact that it was kind of a point of the class that it’s very difficult to make broad assumptions about any particular belief system. There is an interesting element to that, that you can talk about things in a general sense but we also had this caveat that nothing applies to everything universally.
[DC]: At the end of the semester, when you looked back at the class, and you said, “Oh, you know, in my ANTH 2400 class, this is what I learned.”
[NF]: What I learned exactly from it? Oh, man. I would say that I learned an appreciation for the anthropological method more than anything else, you know, understanding the role of ethnography, that kind of thing, where somebody goes into the field and does work with these people who are completely different from them in some senses. And, it really comes away with a different understanding, and you can spread that to other people, and help expand our view of the world.
[DC]: And how did this class square with your very science heavy major coursework.
[NF]: It was refreshing, honestly. The previous semester I had taken a presidential election class as one of my UNIVs, and, I liked the break from the science sometimes, you know, because I do like politics, religion, I like those topics and I like talking to people about that. I like the interaction you can get in those kinds of classes. It’s why I’m taking a modern drama class this semester, is that I like that interaction you can get. It doesn’t happen as much in the science heavy courses.
[DC]: How will you apply the things you’ve learned in these classes that are nothing like your major to your major?
[NF]: I don’t know if I feel like I have to apply to my major, I feel like it makes me a more well-rounded person just in general. And I think that benefits me.
[DC]: Here’s another sophomore student, Nandan Tumu, studying Computer Science and also took ANTH 2400 last semester. Is there value in that interdisciplinary nature?
[Nandan Tumu]: I think there is enormous value in it, personally, I think that no matter how much of the sciences or how much of the field you know, everything boils down to people. At the end of the day you’re going to be working with people. The products you make are going to serve people. And your users are always going to be people. You’re going to work with people to create everything you create. Understanding religion, something so critical to how people carry on their daily lives, is I think important to understand. Because, if you do understand that,if you understand where people are coming from, you can build deeper connections with them, you can understand their drive, you know, what makes them tick.
[DC]: What’s the biggest takeaway you had at the end of the semester when you kind of had that moment of reflection on, “Well, I learned a lot this semester.” What was the thing that stood out for this class.
[NT] How much of an understanding I’d gained of other religions. There’s a lot of source text we read in that class. And, when we discuss it in class, I think that, our understanding of the material is deep in a way that’s unlike any non-Honors class I’ve taken. What we read and how we discuss what we read really makes a difference in terms of an Honors Core, because the discussion is not surface level, it goes deeper than that. The thoughts that your classmates bring to the table are sometime ones you never thought of before. And Professor Linnekin’s method of teaching the class I think really furthers students’ understanding of religion as a whole.
[DC]: Live and Learn spoke with the Women’s Center about what they do on campus, how to get involved, and what the cultural centers can do to help the student population be more aware of the world around them.
[Stephanie Goebel] My name is Steph Goebel, I’m the outreach committee chair for the Women’s Center here at UConn. The Women’s Center was created to establish gender equity here at the University of Connecticut, so it came out of campus activism, activism around equality in access to the field house, equality for university professors who weren’t receiving tenure on the basis of gender, just to continue to make sure that we’re educating the student body on what gender equity is and how they can help and pursue that as students here at UConn and then as they go into the greater world, achieve that in the spheres of influence after the university. It’s also to make sure that the university is holding themselves accountable to that equal treatment of everybody regardless of gender. They are able to create programs that address topics of gender-based violence, gender-based issues like pay equity, one thing we’re very focused on is campus safety, so they do things like the SlutWalk, and then they have the Speak Out afterward. And then we talk about different issues pertaining to what it’s like to be a woman on this campus, what it’s like to be a man on this campus as well. So they’ve got the Men’s Project which focuses on masculinity and the role that plays in young men’s lives here at the university and how masculinity influences the way you think about so many things. It’s also focused on making sure we’re not exclusionary in our work, that our work isn’t sexist or that it’s not classist and that we’re working within that to make sure we’re achieving goals on that sort of multi-dimensional level because everything is sort of interconnected.
[DC]: So what is gender equity, as a definition?
[SG]: It’s being treated in everybody’s eyes, regardless of gender, especially as a university student or somebody who teaches here that you’re going to be treated on the basis of your work, rather than your gender.
[DC]: And the Women in STEM program, what does that involve?
[SG]: That’s run by my friend Kavya. She runs it like this mentorship program, so you’re assigned another student who’s going to be your mentor in that program. It’s for younger students who are in that Woman in STEM program, and to make sure these women feel comfortable in the field that they’ve chosen, that they continue on with it. Especially, as a woman, when you’re one of the only women in the classroom. And I think it sort of encourages you, that yes it is hard but it can be done, and I’ve done it before and I’m so passionate about it and I love it so much now.
[DC]: What advice would you have for students who are maybe just starting their UConn career.
[SG]: I think it’s really about knowing yourself, finding out what your interests are, and being ok with that you don’t have something to fill every box, that if you’re passionate about something, run with it. And that your free time is so important, that element of self care is so important, it’s more important than your resume or how long it is. I think that coming to UConn, I would hope to tell myself, to take it slow and dive in headfirst, and experience and understand that you don’t have to be perfect.
Coming to the Women’s Center, coming to one of the Cultural Centers, figuring out how your identity plays into the work that you do here and how it informs the education you’re getting here, how it informs the work that you’re eventually going to do, understanding the intersection of your identities, because the Cultural Centers aren’t just for people who are of that identity, it’s for everybody to learn more about those cultures.
[DC]: That’s all for this week, stop by honors.uconn.edu/podcast and enter for a nifty long-sleeve t-shirt with the code word “self-care”.