New professor to connect OSU’s School of History, Philosophy, Religion
Published: Thursday, March 14, 2013
Updated: Thursday, March 14, 2013 02:03
New assistant professor Amy Koehlinger is the missing link in Oregon State University’s new School of History, Philosophy and Religion.
Six months ago, Koehlinger and her husband traded the Florida sunshine for the drizzles and mists of the Willamette Valley to bridge the OSU history and philosophy departments with the new addition of religion, as she is the only professor specific to the field of religious studies.
At OSU, Koehlinger said, religious studies has been under the umbrella major of philosophy for years, rather than being its own major.
The School of History, Philosophy and Religion hopes to change that, and Koehlinger is taking initiative for this change as the primary faculty adviser of the new student club that invites students to join the academic conversation of religion.
It’s called the Religious Studies Club, for the time being.
“The hope is that the group will name itself,” Koehlinger said.
She and her colleagues hope this club will give students a place to expand their knowledge of religion and better understand the field of study.
“This is about creating a culture of inquiry among the students,” Koehlinger said.
Koehlinger’s resume includes teaching religious studies at Florida State University for 10 years; writing a book about American Catholic nuns, which has been nominated for five awards and has won one; earning three degrees and receiving an undergraduate teaching award from Florida State University.
Koehlinger applied her interest in religious studies to extensive research on various American religious traditions, including the Catholic sisterhood.
Koehlinger isn’t Catholic, but considers herself an agnostic Lutheran, “appreciative of the power of religion.”
In her article, “Demythologizing Catholic Women Religious in the 1960s” for the Journal of Southern Religion, Koehlinger said due to the culture she was raised in, she was misinformed about the character and professions of Catholic nuns when she met one face to face at the age of age 21.
“My first sustained encounter with a sister exploded everything I thought I knew about Catholic nuns, igniting a decade-long intellectual quest to discover exactly who these women really were,” Koehlinger wrote.
As an undergraduate, she lived with a nun while taking a year off of college to volunteer for a Catholic HIV/AIDS service organization in Washington, D.C.
Her experiences witnessing Catholic social justice in action served as a catalyst for her continuing academic pursuits.
Although Corvallis is a long trip from Tallahassee, Fla., Koehlinger is not new to the area. She spent two years in Eugene earning a Master of Arts in U.S. history from the University of Oregon before tackling her Ph.D. at Yale.
She noted she had many great experiences with students at FSU, but students there tended to have strong religious commitments that sometimes made it difficult for them to learn the history of American religion.
“Their traditions had given them a particular narrative about American religion that was often historically inaccurate, so it was hard for them to hear historians say otherwise,” Koehlinger said.
Spring quarter, Koehlinger will teach a course on literature in American religion where students will examine five different novels from different historical time periods, and consider the religious content therein.
One goal she shares with the School of History, Philosophy and Religion plans to create a major in religious studies at OSU.
“In order to do that, the administration has to see that students want this,” Koehlinger said. “If students respond positively to the idea of a club and it has energy, that would be one really excellent way for the faculty to know and the administration to know that students are interested.”
Maddy Duthie, new reporter