Givens Going Back to Class

Dr. Givens teaching one of his classes.
Dr. Jay Givens takes an Old Testament class outdoors as part of his lesson on the history of the Israelites and the Ark of the Covenant. Givens will be participating in a summer institute dealing with the best approaches to teaching world religions.

PLAINVIEW – Dr. Jay Givens won’t get much of a summer break. But then, you can argue that with summer and online classes, as well as preparation for the upcoming fall semester, professors never do. This summer will be different for Givens, however, as, along with his typical summer activities, he will spend a month back in the classroom, learning instead of teaching.

Givens, professor of religion for Wayland Baptist University, has been selected to participate in the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) Summer Institute: Challenges of Teaching World Religions. According to its website, the NEH is an independent federal agency that provides grants to programs designed to promote excellence in the humanities. Grants are awarded to top-rated proposals based on independent reviews from external examiners. Grants are typically awarded to cultural institutions such as museums, libraries, universities, public television and radio stations, as well as individual scholars.

Directed by Dr. James W. Laine, professor and chair of religious studies at Macalester College in Saint Paul, Minn., the summer institute will address the issues facing professors as they teach broad survey courses on world religions.

“How do you help students understand the variety without getting lost in all the differences,” Givens said. “Some [religions] don’t define themselves as what we usually teach as religion.”

Those attending the institute will look at the question of what constitutes “religion” and if various traditions (Hinduism, Buddhism, and Islam) should be classified differently. Givens said 30 individuals from both public and private institutions from across the United States will participate in the institute.

To be selected for participation, Givens had to submit a project proposal, as well as his resume and an essay on why he wanted to participate. Givens said his project will consist of reworking the curriculum for online graduate and undergraduate world religions courses. The four-week institute will run from July 10 through Aug. 4.