“Professor Harkins demonstrates a genuine sense of ‘scholarly hospitality,’” says Dr. Nancy Dallavalle, Chair and associate professor of religious studies. “Her distinguished record of research animates her classroom presence, and her mentoring relationships with both students and faculty at Fairfield are mirrored in her many fruitful connections in the community of professional scholars.”
A member of the faculty at Fairfield since 2006, Dr. Harkins immediately established herself as a professor dedicated to creating engaging academic experiences for her students both in and outside the classroom. The scripture and Dead Sea Scroll specialist says, “What interests me the most are the stories that these ancient texts relate about the human experience.”
The introductory and upper-level courses Dr. Harkins teaches are open to all students and focus on a variety of topics related to her areas of expertise, such as the:
- Phenomenal experience of religion
- Idea of scripture in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam
- Literary and historical examination of ancient religious texts
- Study of women in the Bible
Recent alumna Iulia (Oana) Basu ’10 (Psychology) had taken two of Dr. Harkins’ classes and shares this about her teaching: “Above all, Dr. Harkins conveyed passion for the subject matter. Furthermore, her classes introduced me to the world of religious studies and opened a large door to inquiry and analysis.”
Dr. Harkins mentored Basu who received funding from the College Advisory Board during the spring and summer of 2009 to complete a summer-long research project in the area of Religious Studies. Basu recalls the experience as an “intellectual journey into a fascinating subject.”
Dr. Harkins describes her experience directing Basu’s research project as a great example of how research and undergraduate teaching can dovetail nicely. “Oana is a wonderful example of how a bright and talented student can flourish in the interdisciplinary environment of the CAS. We met regularly for biweekly meetings in the spring and first half of the summer of 2009 to discuss her research, and Oana worked tirelessly during the final phase of the grant project to write up her findings before heading off to a summer Psychology internship at the University of South Carolina!”
Dr. Harkins encouraged Basu to submit her completed research project to the annual Albert Clark Undergraduate Paper Award competition held by the National Honor Society for Religious Studies and Theology, an organization which Fairfield’s own Rev. Vincent (Vinny) Burns, S.J. of the Religious Studies Department was involved with since its founding.
While Basu was not chosen as the winner that year, the panel of judges urged her to submit it for publication in the society’s journal. Basu’s essay was published as “The Harlot and the Mother: Gendered Metaphors in First and Second Isaiah,” in the Journal of Theta Alpha Kappa, 35.1 (2011): 22-50. In it, Basu traces how feminine imagery appears in the prophetic literature, taking into account the historical and literary development of these metaphors.
Basu, who graduated summa cum laude in 2010, will be finishing a master’s degree in the Program in the Social Sciences at the University of Chicago and plans to apply to Ph.D. programs in social psychology later this year. “Working with Oana was an extremely positive and rewarding experience,” Dr. Harkins reports.
Since Basu’s project, Dr. Harkins has mentored Niles Muzyk ’12 (a Psychology Major; with minors in Computer Science, Religious Studies, Judaic Studies, and Asian Studies) who was also awarded a College Board of Advisor Research Grant in summer 2010. Muzyk’s project compared out-of-body experiences and altered states of consciousness in both Judaism and Daoism. Harkins notes, “I like to encourage students to work on a topic that resonates with their own interests and allows them to think about their major discipline in an interdisciplinary way.”
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