Existential Feelings, Teaching, and the Wabash Experience

Kate Bowler                                                 
I have just returned from rural Indiana with a favorable report about the land and its people. So for those who haven’t heard the news, Crawfordsville, Indiana, is the Promised Land for pre-tenure faculty in the study of religion.

Ostensibly, the Wabash Center workshops and colloquies for Teaching and Learning in Theology and Religion, held every summer in Crawfordsville, Indiana, are about contemplating teaching as “a craft developed over a lifetime of critically reflective practice.” (“Our Philosophy,” Wabash Center.) But in truth, it’s the place where more than 1000 faculty members have gone to have their feelings. You know, their institutional feelings.

The Wabash Center hosts annual weeklong workshops for pre-tenure faculty—one track for theological schools and another for religion departments—and others for mid-career folks and deans to contemplate life as teachers and scholars with a diverse set of competing and complimentary bids for their time. The result is a lively series of conversations that excavate the oft-buried hopes and anxieties scholars have for and about their teaching and their careers.

“The Wabash experience,” as it is often called in reverential tones, is a combination of focused discussion, free time, and obesity-fostering hospitality that tries to crack open space to think intentionally about what the academic life might yet hold. So when my husband asked what I did all week, the answer was something like: “You know, they helped me make a time budget. I canoed. I humiliated myself in series of improv sketches about teaching dilemmas. And I ate a lot cheesecake.”

The commitment is substantial: two summers of weeklong workshops and a winter retreat. But the experience, hospitality, stipend, and research grant in the final summer are well worth the effort. For more information on applying see: http://www.wabashcenter.wabash.edu/programs/apply-program.aspx?i=0


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