Religious Studies Professor Timothy Brown
-story by Kaitlyn Sewell '15
Randolph-Macon College Professor Timothy Brown’s interests include “teaching to fascinate” and being fascinated by what he knows best: religious studies. This summer, he taught World Religions 221, leading his class through the process of understanding and appreciating seven different world religions, with their Asian origins, in a single month.
“It was a challenge for us,” Brown shares. “All religions deserve careful study with an open mind.”
Brown earned his B.A. from Wabash College, his M.A. from New York University, and his Ph.D. from Syracuse University. He came to R-MC after working as an adjunct at Pace University in New York City. He joined the R-MC faculty as a visiting assistant professor in 2008, and received a tenure track position in 2011.
“I am struck by how open R-MC students are to new ideas in the classroom,” Brown says. “They come to class interested and eager to learn.”
A Man of ReligionsBrown teaches a wide range of courses, including Hinduism, Buddhism, Introduction to Religious Studies, Islam, and Women and Religion. He considers Religion and the Environment one of his favorites.
“I have a love for the natural world,” says Brown, “and I find it interesting that all religions recognize some connection to the environment, and transform in very different ways to environmental changes or crises.” He equally enjoys Native American Religions, also because of its focus on appreciation for the natural world.
“Every student comes into a class with some notion of religion, usually formed around and strongly determined by their cultural and traditional backgrounds,” Brown explains. “It is my pleasure and responsibility to expose students to new ideas, and to give every religion – as multi-faceted and complex as each is—an even-handed treatment and respect during class.”
Experiences AbroadPerhaps one of the more remarkable facets of teaching Brown has experienced during his time at R-MC involves two trips to Japan. During the summer of 2012, Brown and several of his colleagues visited Japan in preparation of integrating Japanese studies into their curricula. Their trip was sponsored by The Japan Foundation Center for Global Partnership Grant, in honor of Taylor Anderson ’08, who died in the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake.
In 2013, Brown collaborated with Asian Studies Professor Todd Munson on a January (J-term) trip to Japan with their students. Annabelle O’Neil ’15, an Asian Studies major and religious studies minor, counts herself lucky to have had this opportunity.
“I’d never met Professor Brown before the first informational meeting for the study-abroad class,” O’Neil shares. Visiting temples and shrines, and experiencing the Japanese culture firsthand, were rewarding experiences and she quickly noticed Brown’s dedication to his students. “His enthusiasm for teaching is apparent in his lectures, and he genuinely cares about the students,” says O’Neil. “He was always willing to go above and beyond to help us.”
Knowledge is AppreciationOne of Brown’s greatest wishes for his students is that they simply have knowledge of and appreciate other religions. “Tradition and religion are mingling, especially in the U.S., and people of other religions are our neighbors now,” Brown says. “Every religion has something to offer. We can all learn new things from each other.” Mark Lotts '12, a mathematics and computer science major and a religious studies minor, is a computer scientist for the federal government and a part-time student at the University of Maryland. Lotts credits Brown for instilling in him an interest in religion. "I initially took his Buddhism course to fulfill a curriculum requirement," says Lotts, "but after spending a semester seeing how the same type of careful consideration and critical analysis that I used in the world of mathematics and computer science could be applied to religious studies, I was enthralled. That course's thought-provoking readings and well-crafted assignments really led me to care about the material and want to pursue more, so much so that I wound up earning a minor in religious studies!"