Doctoral candidate Matt Riley is testimony that one needn’t wait until after graduation to make a tangible contribution to scholarship in one’s field. Riley is currently working as a Research Associate at the Forum on Religion and Ecology at Yale, the largest international and multi-religious project of its kind, and has been intimately involved with some of the groundbreaking and award-winning scholarly work produced by this innovative forum.
Recently, Forum Co-Founder and Co-Director Mary Evelyn Tucker has teamed up with evolutionary philosopher Brian Thomas Swimme to produce an Emmy Award winning documentary film, book, and Educational DVD series called Journey of the Universe. This series draws together insights from the sciences, the humanities, and the world religions to create a one-of-a-kind narrative of the human place in the cosmos. As part of the Journey of the Universe project, Riley created Curricular Materials which contain science guides, bibliographies, discussion questions, and other teaching resources. These curricular materials have been used by educators in university settings, religious organizations, and other fora of ecological education. Riley reflects, “It has been a fascinating journey to be a part of and it is an aspect of my work at the Forum which will continue long into the future.”
Riley credits his experience with Dr. Laurel Kearns and her leadership at the Green Seminary Initiative (http://www.greenseminaries.org/index.php) as “central to informing my work at the Forum on Religion and Ecology at Yale.” Of equal importance was his study of the intersection of Christianity and ecology in his courses with Dr. Kearns and Dr. Catherine Keller. He also notes that his experience as a Teaching Assistant for a Drew undergraduate course on Environmental History class with Dr. Luis Campos, along with other colloquia and events hosted by Drew’s Theological School, were formative of his academic approach to these issues as well.
Riley’s experience at the Forum on Religion and Ecology has deepened and broadened his academic development, while also drawing profoundly on the formative experiences provided by the academic approach of the Drew GDR community. “Through my work here I am in constant contact with an international network of scholars, religious leaders, activists, and students engaged in the study of religion and the environment,” Riley notes. Further, his academic work has received greater exposure via conference presentations, and he has secured a teaching job at the Interdisciplinary Center for Bioethics at Yale University. Riley’s passion for this interdisciplinary study is clear: “Although it is difficult to predict future trends in the academic study of religion, my work at the Forum has shown me that religion and ecology is more than just a field of study, it is also a wellspring for an ongoing creative collaboration which transcends disciplinary, religious, and professional boundaries.”
Riley closed our conversation with an invitation: “Our field is an exciting one and it is constantly growing and we welcome newcomers to be in touch, to contact us if they have any questions, and to join our mailing list. I would encourage those students to visit our website and make use of our publications, our annotated bibliographies, and to attend our events.”—Shelley Dennis, GDR Student Intern