Monday, 12 March 2012

Five questions to the professor

At each RREuniversity there are at least one person responsible for RRE and in personal contact with the students of that specific university. They also teach courses in the program. But in addition, there are several professors who belongs to one of the six RREuniversities and who have been asked to teach a course or parts of a course. We decided to ask professor Riem Spielhaus from Copenhagen University how she finds the RREprogram.

1. Please state your name,age, university and connection to the RREprogram

My name is Riem Spielhaus and I am researcher at the Centre for European Islamic Thought at Kopenhagen University. My research centre is located at the Theological Faculty that invited us to contribute to the RREprogram.

2. What is your area of expertise? and which courses do you teach in the RREprogram?

This and last year I taught the part on Islam within the course Emergence of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. In my daily life I do research on Muslims in Europe and currently am working on a project that critically looks at the many opinion surveys that have been produced about Muslims in Europe in the last ten years.

3. How do you find the this way of teaching, which is not regular university courses but also not distance learning?

I find teaching a distance learning course a bit less personal. One simply does not have the same opportunities to meet students like on campus. But it is amazing how a strong relationship can grow in a short semester with those students that are engaged in our chats and ask me questions via email. Even though I don't necessarily have a picture of the students, by reading all the written texts of them in short essays, chat comments, summaries they upload and the final essay I seem do get a full image of him or her anyway. The other thing I enjoy is that professors in this program interact really closely. I have learned a lot from both students and other professors about the other religious roots.

4. What do you expect from your students?

Without expecting that, I think in order to survive such a distance learning course you have to have a lot of motivation and sincerety. And this is what sometimes really astonishes me with our students. For me, seeing professors in the seminar or lecture used to be one of the biggest motivations to engage with knowledge. So I really admire everybody who can find this motivation in her or himself. What I do expect beyond that especially in this program is a willingness to question and relativize own roots and traditions. That does not mean students have to change or even distance themselves from their faith or religious convictions, but to learn to take a similare perspective to other and the own religion. Only then we can compare or contrast these religions. I think this in detail can be quite challenging, already because we know so much more about the religion we grew up with and with which were taught to see and interpret the world. And I hope we can organize an event to discuss questions of 'objectivity,' an issue that we did not have time enough for in the Emergency course. Apart from that many students really need to work on their academic writing skills. This will make things a lot easier.

5. If you could have any superhuman power, what would it be and why?

I have to pass that one. Let me stick with my humanity. Or maybe: the ability to be at two places at the same time? Though this would totally mess up my schedule. Probably I should just learn to enjoy every moment and not ask for more.

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