By Melanie Howard, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Biblical & Religious Studies, Fresno Pacific University
“Do you wear your hair like that for religious reasons?” a student asked me, after she had seen me with my hair styled in low bun for the first several weeks of class.
“No,” I replied with a smile, “I just don’t like having hair fall in my face.”
This unusual exchange led me to wonder whether and how a professor’s own religious commitments should overtly enter the classroom. As an Assistant Professor of Biblical and Religious Studies, I cannot escape questions about religious identity in my classes. On the first day of class, I assure students that I do not grade on the basis of what they personally believe. Rather, I am interested in their ability to evaluate religious traditions critically and to consider the place of those traditions within contemporary culture.