May 17, 2014

Religion Professors Patrick Mason and Karen Torjesen named Fulbright Scholars

Two professors from Claremont Graduate University’s Department of Religion have received Fulbright Scholar grants that will enable them to research and teach in foreign countries in 2015.

Patrick Mason, CGU’s Howard W. Hunter Chair of Mormon Studies, will travel to the West University of Timisoara in Romania, where he will teach courses in American history, politics, and culture. He will also research the emergence of Mormonism in Romania and other post-communist nations of southeastern Europe.

Karen Jo Torjesen the Margo L. Goldsmith Professor of Women’s Studies will go to Kenyatta University in Kenya where she will research how cultural attitudes on gender and religion affect the stigma surrounding HIV and AIDS in Africa. Additionally she will teach a course on transnational feminism and lead student-writing projects. “These awards recognize what those of us at CGU already know which is that Patrick and Karen are the best in the world in their fields ” said Tammi Schneider dean of CGU’s School of Arts and Humanities. “It’s rare for two scholars from a single department to be chosen simultaneously for such an honor. While we will miss them We wish them well as they go out and launch projects that will foster cooperation build international trust and improve understanding across religions and cultures.” The Fulbright Program is the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government and is designed to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and other countries. Recipients of Fulbright grants are selected on the basis of academic or professional achievement as well as demonstrated leadership potential in their fields. Approximately 1 100 US faculty and professionals will travel abroad through the Fulbright US Scholar Program in 2014 – 2015.
For more than two decades Torjesen has taught and developed graduate courses on gender and religion and transnational feminism.

She will travel to Kenyatta University in Kenya in January to investigate how cultural attitudes regarding gender and religion affect the devastating spread of HIV and AIDS.

Across Africa education campaigns have been conducted condoms have been distributed and anti-retroviral drugs have been made widely available yet nearly 2 million new infections and 1.3 million deaths occur each year.

Torjesen plans to use knowledge gained from her research to create educational materials on gender religion and stigma that can be used by healthcare professionals social workers pastors and imams.

In addition to teaching at Kenyatta University she will assist students in the Gender Studies and Development Department to write articles for inclusion in a special edition of CGU’s Women’s Studies Journal.

Mason is a historian of the United States whose primary interests are religion politics race and violence will spend the spring in Romania. He believes his research into the growth of Mormonism in Eastern Europe will lead to better understanding of the global expansion of a relatively young religion that was born in the United States.

He plans to include the results of his research in his forthcoming textbook What is Mormonism? which is aimed at undergraduate religious studies and history classrooms.

Mason and Torjesen are the second and third CGU professors to receive Fulbright Scholar grants this year.

School of Educational Studies Professor William Pérez previously received a Fulbright Scholar grant that will allow him to travel to Mexico this summer to conduct the first major study into higher education access for undocumented young people who are deported from the United States.