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Religion and Philosophy Department Welcomes Two New Professors

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    Molly Jensen

New faculty members bring expertise in Judaism, Native American traditions

The Religion and Philosophy Department is welcoming two new faculty members this fall.

Molly Jensen is joining the faculty as a tenure-track assistant professor of religion and philosophy. She has been teaching in the department since 2002 as a part-time and then visiting instructor/assistant professor. 

“Whenever I had the opportunity over the last several years (between having children and working for non-profits in Austin), I would teach at Southwestern,” Jensen said.

This fall, Jensen will be teaching two sections of Introduction to Judaism and a Religion and Literature course.

Her research focuses on religion and society. “I like to explore the intersection of belief and culture,” Jensen said. “I am especially interested in the role of religious language, images, and practices in political and social movements.”

Jensen is currently studying prophetic imagery in contemporary food gardening efforts of Jewish and Christian communities.

Jensen earned undergraduate degrees in religion and English from Centre College in Kentucky. She earned a master of theological studies from Vanderbilt Divinity School and completed her Ph.D. in religion, ethics and society from Vanderbilt University while she was teaching part-time at Southwestern.

“My class at the time gave me a standing ovation when I returned from defending my dissertation,” Jensen said. “They were so encouraging! I look forward to supporting my colleagues and students in their efforts and to celebrate the milestones and successes with them.”

Kenneth Mello also will be joining the department as an assistant professor of religion and philosophy. He will be teaching courses in native traditions of North America.

Mello joins Southwestern from the University of Vermont, where he held a joint appointment in the Religion Department and the Native American Studies Program. His research focuses on defining “religion” in native traditions, which manifests itself differently than in the dominant “Western” traditions. For example, he is researching both basket weaving and running as rituals for Native Americans.

Mello received his undergraduate degree in religion and philosophy from Colgate University. He also earned a master’s degree in religious studies from Colgate, as well as a master’s degree in American Indian studies from the University of Arizona. He earned his Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of California, Santa Barbara.

“These two new additions to the Religion Program expand the areas of expertise and course offerings significantly,” said Program Chair Laura Hobgood-Oster. “We are extremely excited about the opportunities they will provide to our students.”