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End of Year Message from Chair Duncan Williams

Dear School of Religion Community,

It is my great pleasure to announce that Professor Lori Meeks has been appointed the incoming chair of the School of Religion when my term ends this summer. She is a leading scholar of Buddhism and Japanese religions with national and international prominence in those respective fields as reflected in her service as the American Academy of Religion Buddhism Section Co-Chair and the Society for the Study of Japanese Religion’s President. Please help me welcome her to this new leadership role.

As this newsletter is one of the last ones of the semester, let me briefly list up some of our department’s recent developments. First, we have recently added three new tenure-track faculty members: Rongdao Lai (Chinese religions), Jessica Marglin (modern Judaic studies), and Cavan Concannon (early Christianity). Second, we have revamped the undergraduate curriculum, reversing some previous trends with a gradual increase in majors, double majors, and minors. Third, the faculty worked hard to develop a new Ph.D. program proposal and curriculum, which should be on track to be approved in the near future. Finally, several development initiatives such as the funding of a new endowed chair in Hindu Studies (pledge to be completed by the end of the year) has added new momentum to the already robust development efforts of the various religion-related research centers directed by SOR faculty.

On a personal note, it has been a privilege to work with everyone in the SOR community (students, faculty, staff, external supporters) during the past three years. With the recent establishment of the newly renamed USC Shinso Ito Center for Japanese Religions and Culture, I will be shifting over to directing that center as a hub for the study of Japan on the USC campus.

Please continue your enthusiastic support for the department under the new leadership of Lori Meeks. I am very confident that she will take the department to new heights with your ever warm-hearted support.

Finally, just a reminder that the department is hosting a welcome reception for Rongdao Lai, who joined us this semester from McGill and a celebration for James McHugh, who has recently been promoted to Associate Professor with tenure. This event will take place at 5pm on Monday, May 5th at the University Club.

Please join us if you can,