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Religious Studies in the News

Scott, Darby Recognized for Excellence in Teaching and Advising

Each year, Dean Theresa Lee and members of her cabinet, with help from department heads, recognize faculty in the College of Arts and Sciences for their excellence in teaching, research and creative activity, and lifetime achievements.

Due to the ongoing pandemic, however, we were unable to host the annual awards banquet in-person. Each faculty member received a plaque and congratulations from the dean. We posted a video to the college YouTube channel here, which features each faculty award winner.

Rachelle ScottEach year, the college recognizes tenured and tenure-track faculty excellence in teaching by presenting both junior- and senior-level teaching awards. The lecturer excellence teaching award recognizes lecturers.

Rachelle Scott, associate professor of religious studies, received the Senior-Level Excellence in Teaching Award. Scott is a beloved teacher whose pedagogical excellence has been well documented for 10 years in the department. As the nominator wrote in a peer teaching evaluation in 2009 and remains true, “Rachelle is a kind, thoughtful, and engaging teacher who is passionate both about the material she teaches and about conveying that material to her students.”

Erin DarbyErin Darby, associate professor of religious studies, received the Junior-Level Excellence in Teaching Award. Darby has long been recognized as an outstanding teacher by her students and her peers. In 2014, she received the department teaching award. In 2018, her students nominated her for the Office of Research's Humanities Division Undergraduate Research Mentor of the Year Award, which she received.

Alternating summers, she leads an archaeological dig in Jordan as a study abroad opportunity. The research she oversees on those trips alone is astonishing – leading not only to numerous research presentations, but even publications by her students. She also regularly oversees independent study and honors thesis research projects as a teaching overload. She has mentored more than 100 undergraduate research projects in her short time. Nearly 40 of those students delivered public presentations on their research, some of them gave presentations at regional or national conferences, and nearly 20 have gone on to graduate school. Each semester she receives a long list of glowing teaching evaluation comments that consistently rank her with very high 4’s and sometimes even 5's.

Darby also received a faculty advising award, which recognizes in undergraduate advising, providing rewards for past achievements and encouraging future resourceful and creative efforts in undergraduate advising. She received this award for her leadership as chair of the department’s Student Engagement Committee. In this role, Darby has restructured the department’s approach to advising, connecting students with faculty in their specific area of interest and streamlining the major declaration system. Not only does she meet with prospective students in the major, she has also contributed significantly to the college and university’s recruitment efforts, speaking frequently with future students, families, and college ambassadors at university-wide admissions and diversity events.

Most recently, Darby has been tracking the impact of COVID on students in religious studies classes through an instrument she created in collaboration with the Division of Diversity and Engagement, the Pride Center, and Multicultural Student Life. The results have informed the religious studies faculty on student wellness issues and student perceptions of online pedagogical strategies. 

“Her students love her and rely on her for information as well as support,” said Tina Shepardson, head of the religious studies department. “Her commitment to all undergraduate students and their experience is immense and broad in scope. She does this work passionately and always with the diversity of our students in mind, working to reach and include First-Generation students, returning students, and students of color more fully and seamlessly in our community.”

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