Laurel Kearns is among five professors who teach some 14 courses on faith-based environmental education.
Laurel Kearns is among five professors who teach some 14 courses on faith-based environmental education.

Global nonprofit recognizes breadth of school’s offerings.

December 2015 – Drew Theological School is being recognized for its wide range of course offerings related to religion and ecology.

The school is among 25 that are featured in a report on faith and ecology courses in North America from the Interfaith Center for Sustainable Development in Jerusalem. The featured schools, which emerged from a pool of 231 that the nonprofit center examined, “excel in offering courses on faith and ecology,” the report said.

The report also noted 14 courses on faith-based environmental education at Drew and the school’s concentration in ecology and religion, “which is considered a major draw for students.” Five professors teach those courses, including Laurel Kearns, Catherine Keller and Heather Elkins.

The Theological School’s environmental focus has influenced many students, who have gone on to teach and work in related areas, including the Rev. Dr. Jim Ball, former director of the Evangelical Environmental Network. Also, the exposure isn’t limited to the classroom. For example, the school has a longstanding relationship with GreenFaith, which gives students access to conferences, New York City events, internships, guest speakers, a Green Seminary Initiative, a fellows program and environmental justice tours in Newark.

“That has really enriched us,” said Kearns, an associate professor of the sociology of religion and environmental studies. “Students get these hands-on understandings.”

And from those understandings come real-world applications. For example, many students grow food in a campus community garden, work on sustainability issues such as the phasing out bottled water and join groups like Transforming Ecological and Religious Resources into Action (TERRA).

Kearns further noted that Drew’s environmental coursework is an umbrella that encompasses all faiths and belief systems, adding that concern about the planet is shared among people of all religions.

“The interfaith learning happening in the classroom is really reflective of Drew’s values of being a diverse and inclusive campus,” she said.