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Student Spotlight: Neda Kikhia

*Neda is a senior double-majoring in Communications and Religious Studies, minoring in Leadership Studies. Neda recently studied abroad in Turkey. 

Student Neda KikhiaCould you tell us a little about your four months studying aboard in Turkey?

So I left to Istanbul with my parents and younger sister at the end of August before my program started to get “accustomed” to the city before my program or classes started. My sister and I studied abroad together and had the chance to be two or three people to experiment with living in the city versus on the college campus and hour and a half from the city’s buzz. I’ve been here four months and am about to go home after the New Year. It’s an extremely bitter sweet and very surreal time for me now as I’m mentally trying to prepare for the fact that in only a few days I'm leaving a city that has changed me in so many capacities. My life here in Istanbul doesn’t feel like a shallow “cultural-experience”  where I eat the food, pretend to learn the language, and explore a new city, no. It’s been a more intimate and profound time than a trip  of a basic nature.

I came to Istanbul for many many reasons, but one component was the possibility of completing my distinction in the major for my Religious Studies degree. I need to talk with my advisor before I go on, but check back in with me and I’d love to talk your ear off about it!

Was there a culture shock or period of adjustment?

You know, I think so, but the idea of culture shock is honestly still hard for me to clearly see as I think the definition I’ve been exposed to is very vague. I mean yes, there were times when I’d find myself comparing so many cultures all at once, but I was always careful to check my assumptions and identify the worldview(s) I was processing my surroundings with. I think settling in wasn’t very “foreign” to me as I have deep roots in the Middle East, but Turkey is very unique place and I noticed that… often haha!

What I’ve been thinking a lot about, in relation to culture shock, is what I’ll experience when I leave Istanbul, this incredible country that is Turkey, and settle back in at home in the breathtaking and familiar Colorado. I think about the differences in transportation systems, the climate and weather patterns, the fact that I won’t visibly blend in like I did in Turkey, or the fact that I will know a widely spoken and understood language upon returning. I think about the security and comfort of my home, the fact that I won’t be leaving in four months and am not only a temporary visitor (unless I decide to leave Colorado). I think about seeing the faces of my family, friends, and mentors that have seen me grow and change usually in timelines longer than four months. I just think a lot about the resettlement I might face where I might take who I am now and socially be forced into a mold that may not fit who I’ve become over my time abroad. I’m nervous, hopeful, worried, even already nostalgic when thinking about my experience abroad and how I won’t be this person forever. I look forward to growing in ways currently unimaginable, but that doesn’t suppress my thoughts about what reverse culture-shock may be like and what slipping back into life in the US will be like.

Did you visit any religious shrines?

YES! So many. The obvious answer in Istanbul is that I’ve visited many mosques, but I made it a point to visit churches and even a synagogue during my time abroad. In my experience, churches are more wide-spread than synagogues, but usually quite hidden or subtle. I think this fact has deep roots in Turkey’s history, that is long and quite extensive, which may not surprise those who are familiar with the region or the country, but I didn’t know that before studying abroad. I didn’t go to any ceremonies, but one thing that really stuck with me about all my visits was the stories told about the importance of the place politically, socially, religiously, culturally, and even economically if they applied. I think that by not only by visiting, but also by asking questions and being active in my learning about these places, I was exposed to a side of these stories that a mere visit couldn’t provide alone.

What has your travel taught you about religion?Turkey

Yes, in every context of the word. Living abroad in a Muslim majority country that is so intimately tied to a lot of the current international tensions facing our world today, has been unfathomably complex. Living abroad, especially at a time where hateful notions towards Muslims rage back at home, even amongst people I know well, I’ve found myself contemplating religion and its impact on society. I have extensive views on this topic, but ultimately, I think religion matters… a lot.

I know people will say it’s a way for people to control one another, or say that if there were no religions in this world, everything would be peaceful… But I think that by dismissing the intensity, vast presence, and need for religion, we’re readily discrediting one of so many people’s ways of understanding the world. People can backlash on religion and use it as a scapegoat to try to blame one or more religions in order to understand the pain and atrocities that people commit, but by doing so, we further alienate; we selectively choose to ignore religion’s power to heal, build community, and establish worldviews. I’ve learned that in times where hate speech is circulated on the daily and passed off as the truth, there’s an even greater need for the sharing of knowledge, even “education” if you will, to create a welcoming, open, and innovative space to make meaning together.

Will you be able to use these experiences in your studies and/or future career plans?

Absolutely, 150%, her zaman, evet, çok evet, yes. I’m still processing exactly how, but I think the knowledge gained, personal leadership development, and being pushed to be innovative in complex cultural opportunities will affect my life in all capacities moving forward.

Do you have any stories you’d like to share?

I do!

Faculty Spotlight: Carl Raschke

By Timothy  Snediker (MA Student, '16)

One thing can be said confidently of Professor  Carl Raschke : his reputation precedes him. One hears about his colorful, intricate lecture style; one reads his prose, equally intricate, rendered with a nearly impenetrable density of citations; one learns that he has been known to change his wardrobe mid-class, penciling in a thin mustache above his lip and bursting into the room as The Event; one hears so many stories about him that, taken together, they begin to resemble a sort of hagiography.

In a way, the mythical status that Raschke has achieved is well deserved. He obtained a PhD from Harvard in 1973. He has served as a faculty member in the department of Religious Studies at the University of Denver for over 40 years, throughout which he has authored nearly twenty books, co-authored two-dozen books (not to mention numerous articles and blog posts), sat on dozens and dozens of dissertation committees, and given countless lectures. To say Raschke is a fixture in the department is perhaps not enough—better to say he’s a force.

On the other hand, outside of the classroom, Raschke tends to shed his role as agent provocateur and assumes a more paternal or pastoral disposition. He joins his students after class for drinks, meets frequently at local coffee shops for advising sessions, and even leads a group of students on an annual trip to Vienna during the Winter intersession. DU alumna Kieryn Wurts said of Raschke: “he  is a remarkable advisor and mentor. He cares about each of his students, and really does all he can to resource them and make us successful—he's a true community-builder .”

Despite his long tenure at DU, Raschke has been phenomenally productive. His latest book is  Force of God: Political Theology and Crisis of Liberal Democracy , published in late 2015 by Columbia University Press. The book is, as Mike Grimshaw states on the back cover, “a manifesto of searing personal vision, with the rhetoric to match.” The book represents a certain culmination of Raschke’s thinking over the past decades, while simultaneously marking new forays into political theory and radical theological thinking.

Longtime readers of Raschke will not be disappointed: on one page a close reading of Hegel; on another an excoriating critique of late capitalist culture; and on still another page a synthesis of Marx and Baudrillard. New readers may initially be baffled by the intensity of Raschke’s style, but will be rewarded by a slow and careful reading.

If one is interested in tapping into the mind of Raschke, he tweets at @carlraschke, and blogs frequently at politicaltheology.com. You can also catch him on certain days at Kaladi Coffee near the DU campus, usually deep in conversation with one of his students. 

Associate Professor Alison Schofield featured in 2012 Best of DU

Every spring, DU student newspaper The Clarion publishes a special magazine: Best of DU. Associate Professor Alison Schofield was featured in the 2012 edition. Congratulations, Alison!

Best of DU cover:

Best of DU cover

"Any class taught by Alison Schofield" article:

Best of DU Schofield article

Best of DU Schofield article 2