Yale Women's, Gender and Sexuality Studies
Volume 3, Issue 2
spring 2013
Editor, Geetanjali Singh Chanda
Managing Editors, Linda Hase & Craig Canfield
Layout Design, Nick Appleby

Farewell from Emilie Townes


Deciding to leave people you enjoy working with is not an easy decision.  For me, it became a tangible opportunity to help shape the future of the more progressive voice of theological education and to engage in university-wide interdisciplinary conversations and projects along the way. As the search process unfolded, it became clear to me that I had begun to think in terms of the larger picture of institutional leadership and once that genie had been loosed from the bottle, I could not put it back.  I intend to, as I have done at Yale Divinity School as academic dean, to approach my new job as dean of the Vanderbilt Divinity School as a social ethicist who employs a womanist methodology as a teacher and researcher.  In other words, administration is an extension of what I do as a scholar.  I have found that taking this approach keeps me engaged and fresh when dealing with the mundane minutiae of administrative tasks and creative when taking on challenges and setting a tone for the institution. This is where I find my academic, methodological, theological, and pedagogical home.

Key for me in this move are things that matured for me while here at Yale:  the importance of intercultural understanding, diversity and inclusion, increased pluralism, academic excellence, and global education. Part of my association with WGSS helped to grow these ideals much larger than they had been previously.  Through my relationships with members of WGSS, personal and intellectual, I gained a greater appreciation of how the politics of women in academia find a peculiar home in universities.  This has made me a more astute interlocutor of education that expands beyond the US borders and what may or may not be possible in the name of enhancing liberal democracy abroad through educational programming.  I have become very aware of the unique place university-based divinity schools such as Vanderbilt and Yale hold and must engage in teaching and learning with its students who will be (or are) ministers and academic leaders in a variety of contexts.  I hope to explore with faculty, staff, and students how to engage in theological education that is rigorous academically and passionate in creating new generations of activists who understand the important role religion must play in bring in greater circles of justice and hope in our daily lives.

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