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Religion Newsletter 2019-2020

In this year’s letter we honor our 2020 graduates and Religion students who are award winners. You will also find news about student activities and profiles of new faculty members.

Encountering Religion class

Encountering Religion

Above left, the “Encountering Religion” class observes a Torah scroll with Rabbi Linda Bertenthal at Temple Emmanuel in Davenport. At right, Joe Gauthier from the Lamrim Kadampa Buddhist Center in Davenport speaks to the class last fall.

“Encountering Religion” class

A group photo of the “Encountering Religion” class with Imam Bachir at the Islamic Center of the Quad Cities.

Faculty news and notes

We welcome three new faculty members to the department this year. This Fall, the Religion Department was happy to welcome two new Conrad Bergendoff fellows, Dr. Taido Chino and Dr. Breanna Nickel. Dr. Khalil Andani, Assistant Professor of Islam, joined the department this Spring. Read on for more information about their areas of interest and recent work.

Dr. Khalil Andani – Assistant Professor

khalil andani

Dr. Andani joined the Religion Department in the Spring of 2020.  He holds a Ph.D. in Islamic Studies from Harvard University’s Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations. He teaches courses on Islamic history and thought, Islamic ethics, Christian-Muslim interactions, the study of religion, and comparative mysticism. 

Andani’s research areas are Qur’anic studies, Islamic intellectual history, Shi‘i Islam, and Sufism. His public and academic talks can be viewed on his YouTube channel

Andani presented “From Transcendent Kitab to Piecemeal Qur’ans: A Qur”anic Model of Revelation” at the November 2019 SBL-AAR Meeting. In January 2020, he accepted appointments to the Steering Committee of the AAR Constructive Muslim Thought and Engaged Scholarship Seminar and as a Unit Co-Chair in the International Qur’anic Studies Association and was selected to participate in the 2021 Teaching Interfaith Understanding Seminar, organized by the Council of Independent Churches. 

He recently published “Isma‘iliyya and Isma‘ilism: From Polemical Portrayal to Academic Inquiry,” in Majid Daneshghar and Aaron W. Hughes (eds.), Deconstructing Islamic Studies (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2020), 254-313. 
Other published work includes contributions to The Oxford Handbook of Islamic Philosophy, The Oxford Journal of Islamic Studies, Religion Compass, and The Journal of Islamic and Muslim Studies

He is currently writing his first book based on his dissertation, titled “Revelation in Islam: Qur’anic, Sunni, and Shi‘i Ismaili Perspectives,” which is a historical investigation of Islamic theologies of revelation in the formative and classical periods of Islam, beginning with the Qur’an and extending through Qur’anic commentary (tafsir), Sunni and Shi‘i prophetic tradition (hadith), Sunni theology, and Shi‘i Ismaili philosophy. 

Dr. Taido Chino – Conrad Bergendoff Fellow

taido chino

Dr. Taido Chino comes to Augie after doctoral studies in Scotland and post-doctoral work in Germany. His area of specialization is Christian theology with a particular interest in the history of Protestant thought. His recent work has centered on the religious influence of the 19th century German philosopher, Ludwig Feuerbach, which has resulted in a published article, video presentation, and a forthcoming handbook contribution. Dr. Chino is currently working on revising his doctoral dissertation for publication with Lexington/Fortress Academic Press.

Dr. Breanna Nickel – Conrad Bergendoff Fellow

breanna nickel

Originally from Colorado, Breanna J. Nickel completed her doctorate in medieval/early modern historical theology in 2018. Her current research focuses on medieval Christian/Jewish relations as well as the early Anabaptists. She has previously taught courses on the Bible and religious perspectives on violence; her upcoming courses include Global Christianities and Religion & Film. Outside of teaching, she is an avid violinist and cinephile. Her publications include:

“The Influence of Medieval Scholastic Theology on the Anabaptists.” In T&T Clark  Companion to Anabaptism. Edited by Brian C. Brewer. T&T Clark/Bloomsbury, forthcoming in 2020.
“Historical Trinitarianism: A Response to John D. Rempel.” Conrad Grebel Review Special Edition, October 2019.
Catena Scholarium, ed. and trans. Aelred of Rievaulx: Liturgical Sermons 3: Durham Collection. Liturgical Press, 2019.
Catena Scholarium, ed. and trans. Three Pseudo-Bernardine Works. Liturgical Press, 2018.

Dr. Dan Lee

dan lee book

Dr. Lee’s eleventh book, Caring for Creation: Hope in Difficult Times was published in October 2019 by Rowman & Littlefield. Caring for Creation notes the progress that has been made in areas such as protection of endangered species, new ways of farming that reduce environmental impact, and recycling. The cover copy observes, “Today we face new challenges, among them climate change...Yet Caring for Creation argues that as we look at the progress previously made, we may embrace the future with hope. The author contends that if we live our lives in ways conducive to the well-being of the biotic communities that sustain life...our children and grandchildren will have the opportunity to experience the goodness of a flourishing creation.”

Dr. Jason Mahn

Dr. Mahn was the organizer and keynote speaker at the 2019 Convocation of Teaching Theologians, hosted by Augustana July 29-31. A revision of his keynote address, “White Privilege as Cheap Grace” will be published in a forthcoming edition of Currents in Theology and Mission. 

In November 2019, Mahn was a speaker at the NetVUE-sponsored regional gathering, “Colleges Can Have Vocations, Too,” hosted by Lipscomb University in Nashville, Tennessee. His panel presented “Stories of Mission, Identity, Vocation, and Saga.” 

In February 2020, Mahn’s reflective essay on interfaith understanding and faith formation, was the cover feature for the February 12, 2020 issue of The Christian Century, a mainline Protestant magazine. The essay, “Taking Religion to Heart” can be read in the print version or online here.

Mahn was also recently featured in WQAD’s news piece: “Augustana professor teaches in an empty classroom to maintain normalcy.

Dr. Nirmala Salgado

Dr. Nirmala Salgado’s article “Tradition: Nuns and "Theravada” was accepted for publication in the Routledge Handbook of Theravāda Buddhism.

Salgado’s research is scheduled to be presented as follows:

● “Buddhist Nuns in Sri Lanka: Debates, Authority and the Question of Theravāda Orthodoxy” for the panel on “Dynamics of Female Agency in Religious Settings in India” at the European Conference on South Asian Studies in Vienna, Austria, July 2020 (postponed till 2021)
● "Privilege and 'Choice' in Buddhist Studies" for the panel on "Challenging Privilege in Buddhist Institutions and in Buddhist Studies" at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Religion in Boston, 2020.

Dr. Eric Stewart

Dr. Stewart published “You’re Not a Man, None of You are Men! Early Christian Masculinity and Lucian’s The Passing of Peregrinus.” Hervormde Teologiese Studies 75.4 (2019) and (with Mischa Hooker and Emil Kramer) "Space" in The Ancient Mediterranean Social World: A Sourcebook. Edited by Zeba A. Crook. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2020. Pp. 124-140. 

Stewart also presented locally as follows:

● “St. Thecla and Other Saints.” First Presbyterian Church. Davenport, IA. October 2019.
● “In What Sense(s) is the Bible True?” St. Paul Lutheran Church. Davenport, IA. October, 2019.
● “The Bible and Sexual Orientation.” Hope United Church of Christ. Moline, IL. September, 2019.

At the 2019 Society of Biblical Literature meeting in San Diego, Stewart gave a response to Peter Oakes' paper, "A House Church Account of Economics and Empire" in the Social-Scientific Criticism of the New Testament section. 

Dr. Michelle Wolff

Dr. Wolff published peer reviewed articles “Karl Barth’s Christology and Jan Christian Smuts’ Human Rights Rhetoric,” in Stellenbosch Theological Journal, “A Diptych Reading of Christ’s Transfiguration: Trans and Intersex Aesthetics Reveal Baptismal Identity,” in Theology & Sexuality, and a book review for Divine Variations: How Christian Thought Became Racial Science, by Terence Keel in The Journal of Religion
Wolff presented papers “Sally Gross: Mother of Transnational Intersex Activism Died Alone,” at National Women’s Studies Association annual conference and “Collective Acts of Civil Disobedience: How Karl Bonhoeffer’s medical ethics & Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s political theology mutually informed one another,” at the International Bonhoeffer Congress, held this year at Stellenbosch University, South Africa. At the Convocation of Teaching Theologians Annual Meeting, Wolff held a session titled “Privilege and Pedagogy.” With others in the department, Wolff is participating in the Education for Vocation Seminar through the Presidential Center for Faith and Learning.
In addition, Wolff organized an online symposium for Linn Tonstad’s Queer Theology: Beyond Apologetics and two panels at the American Academy of Religion annual meeting. With Dr. Meg DuBray and Dr. Lucy Burgchardt, Wolff secured a Freistat Center Grant and Jaeke Family Life grant in order to bring Native American performance artist Frank Waln for a concert at 8 p.m. April 25 in Centennial Hall. Due to COVID-19 this event has unfortunately been cancelled with the hope of rescheduling. The New Faculty Research grant enabled Wolff to go to Cape Town to continue research for the Sally Gross biography. 

2020 graduates and their plans

Taylor Ashby has accepted the position of Operational Support Technician at the Department of Justice in Minneapolis, Minnesota. 

Jessica Bolton will spend a year working on a field sampler crew for a landfill organization in Peoria, IL, before beginning the graduate program in geography at Minnesota State University in fall 2021. 

Grace Fitzpatrick has accepted a position as an HIV/AIDS and Adolescent Health Advocate with the United States Peace Corps. In September of 2020, she will be moving to Lesotho for 27 months. 

Cora Habeger will be attending the University of Texas Medical Branch to pursue a PhD in occupational therapy. 

Sandra Morales plans to attend law school with a specialization in immigration law. 

Delaney Page is considering a gap year program, such as Americorps or similar volunteer program. 

Michelle Summers plans to do non-profit work before enrolling in graduate school.

Jakob Weiss plans to enlist in the United States Army, hoping to become a commissioned officer.

Student awards

Floyd and Louise Anderson Award for Excellence in Religious Studies

chloe anderson
Chloe Anderson '21

Junior Chloe Anderson is the 2019-2020 recipient of the Floyd and Louise Anderson Award for Excellence in Religious Studies.

Established by Sharon L. Anderson Telleen ’68 (daughter), Barbara R. Anderson Lindquist ’71 (daughter), Katherine Telleen Steve (granddaughter), Paul Telleen (grandson), Anders Lindquist ’04 (grandson), Britt Lindquist Simonson (granddaughter), and in memory of Floyd and Louise Anderson, the award is given to a student in the junior year, selected by Religion Department faculty for recognition of excellence in religious studies (as measured and defined by the faculty).

Excellence in Liberal Arts Award

molly bastida
Molly Bastida '21

Molly Bastida '21 was one of the eight students to receive the Excellence in the Liberal Arts Award, established by Dr. Dan Lee, professor of religion, and his wife, Ruth Lee. 

The award provides Augustana students with $400-$4,000 for international study or summer programs in the humanities, recognizing students’ academic achievements, the amount of scholarly work done in the liberal arts, including the humanities, achievement in co-curricular programs and leadership and service both on and off campus.

taylor ashby
Taylor Ashby '20

Outstanding Major in Religion Award

The Outstanding Religion Major Award, given to a senior who majors in Religion, has been given to Taylor Ashby this year.

The department would like to recognize Taylor among a very talented, engaged and dedicated senior class of religion majors.





virtual senior party

Virtual Senior Celebration

COVID-19 changed our daily routines, but it didn’t cancel the annual year-end celebration. The event was held in early May from the safety of our homes with gifts for graduating seniors and games for all.


Student activities

Senior Inquiry projects

Six religion seniors had proposals, based on their Senior Inquiry (SI) research, accepted for presentation at the Midwest American Academy of Religion conference in early March. All eight seniors were ready to present their capstone projects there or at Augustana’s Celebration of Learning in April. Both events were cancelled as Augustana moved to distance learning and graduating seniors finished their studies from home. Their project titles are listed below.

“Narrative of Sati: A Brief Exploration of the Theoretical Foundations for Existing Narratives on Sati,” by Taylor Ashby

“Geographic Christianity in Peoria, IL: How Location Affects How Christian Churches Provide Community Ministry and Service,” by Jessica Bolton

“Refuge in Religion?” (an ethnographic study of perceived meaning and community among Congolese refugees living in the Quad Cities), by Grace Fitzpatrick

“A Neuroscientific and Philosophy of Religion Approach to Secular Meditation as a Form of Religious Appropriation,” by Cora Habeger

“Unaccompanied Minors: Where Theological and Humanitarian Perspectives Matter the Most,” by Sandra Morales

“Jesus’s Modeling Career” (a study of the images of Jesus in the Gospel of Mark, Aristotle’s Poetics, and Martyrdom in the Late Roman Empire), by Delaney Page

“‘Sex Equals Death, Okay?’: Slasher Films, Necropolitics, and Sexual Purity,” by Shelly Summers

“Seemingly American” (a microhistory of the Bishop’s Hill community and analysis of the Jansonist sense of calling), by Jakob Weiss

womanist book

The Womanist Dictionary

"Cece" Ngan Vu and Thao Chu's project from Dr. Wolff’s Christian Ethics class has been published and is available in paperback or e-book from Wipf and Stock.





"Spring into Religion" event

In February 2020, students interacted with Anita Lumpkin, Associate Dean of Students at the University of Chicago Divinity School. Lumpkin spent the day at Augustana and met with majors and minors as well as faculty members in the Religion Department. She visited several Religion classes and met individually with students throughout the day. She discussed graduate and career opportunities with students in Religion and the value of Religion classes for undergraduates majoring in disciplines outside Religion.

Here is what some students said about her visit: 

 “Meeting Dean Lumpkin was incredibly helpful in considering how I’d like to further my education. It opened up so many more possibilities and interests for me to follow.”

 “I found the visit by Dean Lumpkin to be very fulfilling as it helped me in organizing the thoughts I had for my future after Augie. When it came to any broad questions I had about grad school she was able to help me in understanding the process and its intricacies. I am very glad I had the opportunity to speak with her.”

 “The meeting with Anita Lumpkin was extremely helpful and allowed me to explore other higher education routes to further and deepen my study of religion without necessarily earning a PhD."

Reflections on J-term in Montana

“The experience exceeded my wildest expectations!” That’s how religion major Taylor Ashby described the Montana J-term experience. Taylor and seven other Augustana students—Jessica Bolton, Ranzy Collins, Matt Contreras, Jordyn Liebelt, Laney Page, Jessica Rahn, and Monica Wong — joined religion professor Dr. Dan Lee for the two-week J-term experience in Montana. 

Highlights included meeting with the Confederated Salish-Kootenai Tribal Council, attending a Sunday morning service with members of the Mission Valley Amish community, going on a hayrack ride pulled by two beautiful Percheron draft horses owned by an Amish farmer, visiting the historic St. Ignatius Mission Church, and going dog sledding. While in Montana, the group stayed at the Flathead Lutheran Bible Camp, a winterized camp on the shore of Flathead Lake with the snow-capped Mission Mountains visible across the lake.

dr. dan lee

The class took a two-credit preparatory course on campus fall semester prior to journeying to Montana in January for the Montana portion of the experience. The Montana J-term program is scheduled to go again in 2022.

Celebrating 45+ years of service

Plans to hold a celebration in appreciation of Dan Lee’s 45+ years of service to the Religion Department and Augustana College were to be held this Spring. This event, sponsored by the Religion Department, together with the Phi Rho Sorority and the Rainbows and Unicorns fund has been postponed.




The Joy of Spring: Photos by (and about) Dan Lee

Autumn Peele

Celebration of Learning showcases the work behind the future of students

From art and anthropology to philosophy and physics, nearly 100 students shared their research and creative projects during the first virtual Celebration of Learning.

Annelisa Burns

Hasselmo winner to explore where religion, environmentalism intersect

A triple major in religion, English and German studies, Annelisa Burns '22 of Naperville, Ill., is the winner of the 2021 Hasselmo Award for Academic Pursuit.

Dr. Jason Mahn

Professor fills empty classroom with sense of normalcy

Dr. Jason Mahn conducts his Encountering Religion class in an empty Old Main as a way of anchoring his students.


Tuesday Meditation

This is a half-hour introduction to different types of meditation. Each week there is some initial orientation/teaching and then we practice together. Led by Jake Romaniello, Allison Mirell-Heaton, Bill Ivarone and Chaplain Melinda Pupillo.

Lessons and Carols

The Augustana Chamber Singers present Lessons and Carols, the story of Christ's birth conducted through readings and songs.

Lessons and Carols

The Augustana Chamber Singers present Lessons and Carols, the story of Christ's birth conducted through readings and songs.