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Graduate students win AAR awards


April 09, 2009

At a time when religion plays an increasing role in shaping the politics, society and culture of nations as well as the individual, three doctoral students in ASU's Religious Studies program have received prestigious honors for their research in religious diversity and communication.

At the March western regional meeting of the American Academy of Religion (AAR) Seth Clippard was awarded first prize for his paper "The Conversation between Deep Ecology and Buddhism." The competition included papers presented by graduate students throughout the western United States.

Patricia Power received third prize in the same competition for "Blurring the Boundaries: The American Messianic Jew."

In another accolade to the department, Brooke Schedneck has been named as a Fulbright Scholar for her research into the use of meditation as a link between Euro-Americans and Thai Buddhists.

"The achievements of these students are due to their hard work, intelligence and insight," says Joel Gereboff, chair of ASU's Department of Religious Studies. "It also speaks well for the accomplishments of our doctoral program."

Seth Clippard concentrates his research on Religions of Asia and the intersection of Chinese religion, particularly Buddhism, with environmental issues.  "It was certainly an honor to have my work recognized with this award, but it is equally a reflection on the strength of the Department of Religious Studies and the quality of scholarship that is the standard among faculty and graduate students," says Clippard. "The transdisciplinary nature of the project (Religion and Ecology) demonstrates how graduate students in the humanities at ASU are given the opportunity and support to push research in innovative and constructive directions."

Patricia Power is a third year doctoral student and faculty associate who researches Religion in the Americas. "I am specifically interested in the way the contemporary American Messianic Jewish Movement challenges our conception of Judaism and Christianity as distinct and bounded religious traditions," she says. "Although on the surface it may seem that they are primarily separated by theological or ideological differences, in fact the movement uses theology as a tool to create new social realities."

Brooke Schedneck is also studying Religions of Asia and focuses on Buddhism in Thailand. "I am looking at transnational communications between Euro-Americans and Thai Buddhists, and how meditation is used as the link between these two communities," Schedneck says. Her Fulbright will give her the opportunity to do dissertation research in Thailand, where she will participate in meditation retreats, interview teachers, and analyze how they are presenting their tradition to English speakers.