Professor giving a lecture to students in old main

Ten Questions for the Religion Department: Dr. Courtney Dorroll

Courtney Dorroll

1. Who are three teachers who’ve had a particularly significant impact on you, and (briefly for each) how have they impacted you?

Todd Golding (High School Russian Teacher)
I had my 1st study abroad experience with Mr. Golding to Tashkent, Uzbekistan during the summer before my junior year of high school. Mr. Golding allowed me to take Russian during our Student Resource Time (SRT—basically study break) because the class did not fit into my normal schedule. He would meet with me during SRT to teach me Russian—he went above and beyond by bringing Russian to a public high school in Indiana (which was not really the norm) and he took extra time to offer me the course during SRT. Mr. Golding taught me that learning non- Western languages and travel to nontraditional locations were possible. Mr. Golding also spent time mentoring me, a future first generation college student, on college applications. Having special secondary education teachers that help cultivate potential not previously known and give experiences not previously attainable paved my success in college and in my future endeavors to study Turkish and do research in Turkey. I could sense that Mr. Golding was not just teaching Russian but he was also sharing his passion and that was inspiring!

Dr. Klein Ileleji (mentor Professor at Purdue University)

While I was an undergraduate at Purdue University he encouraged me to take part in activities and projects beyond the scope of my major. I was majoring in German and Sociology but worked in his lab with two other classmates on soybean innovations (very Indiana, I know!). Seeing Dr. Ileleji’s passion for academia inspired me to continue onto my PhD—though I was not going to major in his field, Agriculture and Biological Engineering, I knew I wanted to work closely with students and stay within academia for my career thanks to the encouraging example Dr. Ileleji set.

Leila Hudson (PhD advisor University of Arizona)

Dr. Hudson was my PhD advisor and mentored me through my PhD coursework, comprehensive exams and dissertation. Her commitment to teaching in the MENA field are shown through her efforts at UofA but also her endeavors to create a textbook geared at freshman learning about the Middle East. The textbook Dr. Hudson edited and used in her freshman seminar on Middle East Humanities has served me well in my Wofford Humanities 101 courses on Exploring Middle Eastern Culture. Her work to clarify and streamline the field for beginning undergraduates has directly affected my teaching style and provided me with an invaluable resource for my students. She also taught me to tackle the hard stuff in manageable ways and her calm demeanor was great against PhD student angst.

2. What are your ten desert island discs?

Lana Del Ray—Ultraviolence, Born to Die
Maroon 5—It Won’t Be Soon Before Long
Patsy Cline-- anything
Johnny Cash-- everything
Gwen Stefani—The Sweet Escape
No Doubt—Tragic Kingdom
Dolly Parton-- Jolene
Edith Piaf-La vie en rose

3. What is one book that has changed you, and how did it change you?

Orientalism by Edward Said—his book taught me to reflect on who I was as a scholar and question why I studied the Middle East. The book asks reasearchers and scholars to check on privilege and knowledge production. I read this book as a graduate student and wish I had the chance to read it earlier in my academic career. It was the first book broke open the field of Middle Eastern and North African studies and showed me how complicated it is and would be and yet inspired me to keep going. This book also allowed me to say “Yes I am clearly a critical cultural scholar”—which allowed me to see the different paths one could take in the field of area studies and helped me securely see which path worked best for me.

4. Fill in the blank: “I am good at making ________.”

Epic salads.

5. What are the three research projects that you are currently most interested in working on?

1) An ethnographic research project on Germany’s new programs of confessional Islamic Theology (like Islamic Seminary) at state funded universities. This project was created by the German government to produce “home-grown” German-Muslim Imams and Islamic Chaplains. I am asking the questions of who is enrolling in these new programs and why to better understand this new field of study in Germany.

2) I am looking at the effects of using virtual exchanges across cultures in the classroom. Do students learn more or become more culturally sensitive by interacting with students from the region they are studying in a class? What is the role of new media in this type of pedagogy?

3) Editing and contributing to an anthology on Teaching Islamic Studies in the Age of ISIS, the Internet and Islamophobia. This project brings different professors together from different institutions to write on how we approach Islamic Studies in contemporary times.

6. If time allowed for you do so, what is the one TV series (whether you’ve seen it before or not) that you would watch in its entirety? Why?

Ok, I take television very seriously so it is not about if there is time because I will darn well MAKE TIME! It is more about what series did I just finish watching –Stranger Things—it is on Netflix and so this mode of television watching is preferred as I can watch multiple episodes in one sitting and I do not have to wait each week for a new episode to air. Also, I LOVE the soundtrack and 80’s vibe the series created. I would re-watch this series over and over again for the soundtrack alone! The setting is a fictitious small town in Indiana so it also has nostalgia from where I am from and the era of my childhood. The storyline was suspense but also science fiction.

7. In the last five years (or so), what is one way that your thinking about religion has changed?

After being trained as an ethnographer (to interview and do participant observation) I feel that I am the outsider looking in: on all things related to culture. I like this perspective. I like the distance it gives me but also the personal interactions and stories people will share with me when I interview them. I like when someone opens their world to me and shares their religion: why they practice, how they practice, what is important to them. It is a topic that can be sensitive and personal and so when someone trusts me enough to interview them on this topic I feel honored and I feel closer to that religion without necessarily being a part of the religion. I like the role of the outsider looking in and the insider looking out that occurs when doing ethnographic research on religion.

8. What movie have you seen the most times, and why do you like it so much?

The Sound of Music—this movie was a big part of my childhood. A childhood friend owned the cassettes (it was so long it required two cassettes for one’s VCR at home!) and I loved going over to her house and watching this movie. I loved Julia Andrews and the landscape shots of Salzburg, Austria.

9. What is one class you haven’t gotten to teach yet, but you want to be able to do?

I would like to teach a class on Islam in the Media. My PhD minor was in media studies and I believe the medium of media applied to one religion is an interesting way to approach questions of contemporary perspectives and power issues in religion.

10. When you were in high school, what did you want to be?

I wanted to be a high school language teacher.