Summer Experience Helps Doctoral Students Better Understand World Religions
Last Updated on October 01, 2018 at 12:00 AM
Originally published October 01, 2018
By Rick and Rocio Acevedo
The main academic purpose of the Peer Summer Institute at Yale University was to learn about the historical development of African and Middle Eastern religions, and about how ancient and contemporary religious practices influenced and continue to influence the daily lives in those regions.
The expert speakers delivered profound and passionate lectures that provided knowledge and wisdom that will guide us for a lifetime. The information made us reflect deeply on our own religious practices as human beings and as UTEP doctoral students (Rocio is in the Teaching, Learning, and Culture program and Rick completed his Ed.D. studies in the Department of Educational Leadership and Foundations this summer). At the end of the program, we were able to better discern and understand the most polemic issues among three religions through time and space: Islam, Judaism and Christianity.
The academic environment was extremely positive. Our peers were historians from different parts of the U.S. who enriched the lectures. The UTEP contingent contributed its share of comments and questions in each lecture. One of the most important lessons learned at the institute was that we must never stereotype or minimize the value of people based on their religious or cultural beliefs and practices.
The speakers challenged and intensely touched our hearts and minds with intimate yet heroic stories of determination. The institute’s professors emphasized that knowledge and reason relate inherently to the human heart and soul, especially when dealing with religious matters.
This program enhanced our tolerance of students, peers and faculty who may have different religious beliefs and practices than ours. As educators, we will implement more culturally responsive curricula in our instruction and be culturally aware as we deal with people who follow Jewish, Christian or Islamic faiths. Now we put greater value on ethnic, cultural, sexual and religious diversity. We will implement what we learned personally and professionally because we engage students from different religions socially and academically in our classrooms and communities.
On a related note, we toured Yale’s Robert B. Haas Family Arts Library, where we saw and touched religious artifacts that were approximately 5,000 years old. We saw religious books written in their original language and the first printed Bible. We explored different sections of the library, which used to be a church, where history and knowledge peacefully coexist.
For fun, our group visited well-known restaurants and bars in New Haven, where we spent hours enjoying good company and food, and danced alongside locals to live Latin music at the plaza. This experience made us realize the influx and importance of Latin music even on the East Coast.
We closed the program with a stop at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Our guide took us to the Egyptian and Middle Eastern sections and showed us how to do research on the museum’s website. This was amazing because we learned that art, history and religion could be intrinsically and extrinsically associated.
Finally, we want to thank UTEP’s Graduate School and Dr. Timothy Cashman for their roles in providing us with such a valuable and unforgettable opportunity.