Muesse Receives National Teaching Award

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Publication Date: 11/16/2007


Dr. Mark W. Muesse, associate professor and chair of the Department of Religious Studies at Rhodes, has been named recipient of the 2007 Fortress Press Teaching Award that recognizes innovation in teaching.  Only two awards are given each year—one for graduate teaching and one for undergraduate.  The award will be presented Saturday, Nov. 17, at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Religion in San Diego, Calif. 

Muesse is being recognized for his approach to experiential and engaged teaching of world religions and its integration into the undergraduate curriculum. In courses such as "Spirituality West and East," he teaches students the practice of meditation and requires them to engage in periods of silence, fasting from media, and mindful speech.  Students learn to interpret Christian and Hindu icons and prepare a community meal to complement their study of monastic life.  Muesse regularly employs images, films, and music in his teaching to help impart a sense of place and life, and he requires students to visit religious settings of faiths other than their own.

Muesse says that he had no idea that he was being considered for the award. “This recognition came as a great surprise, and I am of course immensely gratified by it,” he adds.  “I am especially pleased to receive this honor from Fortress, one of the major publishers in religious studies.” 

Michael West, editor-in-chief of Fortress Press, said in announcing the award, “While there are many aspects to the study of religion and the disciplines that enable it, we have felt introducing students to the practices and feelings and venues of religion remain indispensable to understanding them.  No amount of technical tools or study can substitute for such engagement.”

Muesse received his Ph.D. from Harvard University and taught at Harvard, the University of Southern Maine, and Tamilnadu Theological Seminary in India.  He came to Rhodes College in 1988 and was appointed chair of the Department of Religious Studies in 2004.  Muesse has produced two recorded series of lectures for The Teaching Company entitled "Hinduism" and "Religions of the Axial Age."  Currently, he is working on a book about ancient Asian religions and is compiling an anthology of prayers from traditions around the world.