New IU consortium to further global study of religion, ethics, society

Jan. 30, 2014


BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- A new consortium that builds on longstanding Indiana University strengths in fields related to religion, spirituality and ethics has been established as a university-wide partnership, potentially involving several hundred faculty members from core campuses and regional campuses.

IU is launching the Consortium for the Study of Religion, Ethics and Society to encourage research examining the interaction of religious ideas and practices with ethical, legal and other social and cultural frameworks. Jorge José, IU vice president for research, notes that Indiana University has exceptional strengths in the interdisciplinary global study of religion, especially in the nationally recognized departments of religious studies at IU Bloomington and Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, which gives the new consortium the potential to be a leading voice among public universities in the academic study of religion, ethics and society.

"Few universities, particularly public and non-religiously affiliated institutions, have the capacity to focus on these issues in the way that IU does," José said. "In addition to the outstanding intellectual resources within departments of religious studies, we have unparalleled multidisciplinary resources in other departments and related fields of study, which make this consortium unique and intellectually significant."

José noted that faculty members from the Maurer School of Law, the McKinney School of Law and the IU School of Medicine are just some of the faculty from outside religious studies whose research interests will enable the consortium to engage in innovative research into the influences of religion on society.

The consortium will sponsor a biannual internal grant competition paired with a national conference, both focused on a research theme such as religion and politics, religion and the environment, or the ethics of war and peace. IU faculty from various disciplines are eligible to apply for the internal research grants, with the first biannual national conference planned for 2015-16. The conferences will involve scholars from IU and other institutions.

IUPUI Chancellor Charles R. Bantz said the establishment of the consortium comes as IUPUI’s Center for the Study of Religion and American Culture marks 25 years as a leading center dedicated to exploring the connection between religion and American life.

"Over the years, the center and its faculty of research fellows have built a national reputation as a source of scholarship and expertise," Bantz said. "A university-wide partnership focused on the global study of religion and ethics will distinctly enhance the center's reputation and strengthen its contribution to society."

Larry Singell, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at IU Bloomington, welcomes the new consortium as well.

"The College is proud to be the academic home of one of the most innovative departments of religious studies in the country," he said. "This new consortium and the opportunities it will bring will inspire and strengthen the national discourse on the academic study of religion, ethics and society."

Lisa Sideris, associate professor in the College of Arts and Sciences’ Department of Religious Studies at IU Bloomington, has been selected as the consortium’s first director. She will begin working immediately with an executive committee that includes representatives from IU Bloomington, IUPUI and Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne to select the topic for the first biannual series of grants, workshops and conferences.

"As a scholar within the study of religion and ethics, I am very excited about the opportunities for collaboration and multidisciplinary research that the consortium will foster, here at IU and at the national and international level," Sideris said. "I am impressed by the hard work and planning that have gone into creating the consortium and articulating its goals and mission, and I look forward to a fruitful and stimulating partnership across IU’s campuses."

The consortium will be supported by IU’s Office of the President and Office of the Vice President for Research as well as the Office of the Chancellor at IUPUI and the College of Arts and Sciences at IU Bloomington.