After serving as Chair from 2002 to 2007, I spent the next five years, besides teaching and working with graduate
students, mainly hunkered down trying to complete a book project on Immanuel Kant’s approach to religion with which I had been preoccupied for years. This ended up becoming two books, one published in 2011 (Kant, Religion, and Politics) and the other in 2012 (Kant’s Religion within the Boundaries of Mere Reason: a Commentary). Just as the second book was going into production, I was asked to fill in for the year while John Kloppenborg enjoyed a well-deserved sabbatical before returning for another five year term as Chair. The timing was right and, given John’s outstanding service to the Department, I couldn’t say no; hence I ended up back as Acting Chair for 2012-13.
It was an unusually intense year, particularly because of the external review being conducted, three UTSG and 2 UTM tenure cases, and shared searches in South Asian Religious Literatures with Historical Studies UTM, and Modern Hebrew with Jewish Studies. In fact, the final procedure for the external review occurred just the day prior to my writing this (April 16th), where the report and Decanal response were discussed at Governing Council. Both John Kloppenborg and I were present, in case there were questions or concerns, but the review was so positive we weren’t called upon at all. Indeed, it was a pleasure to see that we were assessed as “extremely successful, innovative, interdisciplinary … formidable.” Among the many strengths and achievements noted, the reviewers called us “a high quality Department that could serve as a model for others,” stated that our programs “make a necessary contribution to the Faculty’s goal of advancing a liberal education,” and that we have “one of the richest sets of course offerings in N. America.” At the graduate level, we were described as “a great program with areas of world-wide excellence.” To be sure, there are areas where we will need to continue to develop and grow, but we now have a strong basis for doing so.
Overall, it was a great pleasure to see how the Department had evolved and improved since 2002, and to get a better sense of the wide range of outstanding work being done by our colleagues. It was a particular pleasure to see people whom I had been involved in hiring (or whose positions I had designed) now excelling as scholars and teachers, receiving tenure and promotion, and in some cases serving as administrators. If I tried to name all those who had major achievements in the past year, who deserve special recognition, or who stepped up with extra service contributions when the need was so great, it would be overwhelming (and most of these are detailed within this Newsletter in any case). Hence I’ll restrict myself to thanking John Kloppenborg for his continued advice and support while he was on leave, Arti Dhand for her outstanding work as Associate Chair, and Jennifer Harris for her unparalleled contributions as Director of Graduate Studies. Finally, Irene Kao, Marilyn Colaco, and Fereshteh Hashimi were stellar in their administrative roles (and yes, the external reviewers did take note of our “extremely dedicated staff”).