"The NEH grant is the strongest possible endorsement that the work of the Orthodox Christian Studies Center is unique, valuable, and necessary, not simply for Orthodox Christianity or Catholic-Orthodox relations, but for the humanities at large," said Aristotle Papanikolaou, Ph.D., professor of theology and co-founding director of the Center.
The two new programs will provide a unique opportunity for scholars and doctoral students. The Distinguished Scholar-in-Residence program is unprecedented for the discipline, while the Dissertation Completion Fellowship program will become one of only two nationwide. The programs, which will eventually fund up to four scholars and two graduate students, will be open to scholarship pertaining to Orthodox studies in any academic discipline.
"Years ago, when we had first started thinking about the Center, we realized that we could have the greatest long-term impact by sponsoring research, books, and conferences," said George Demacopoulos, Ph.D., associate professor of theology and co-founding director of the center. "Now we want to create a space where scholars of Orthodox Christianity can have access to the resources they need to pursue their work."
While less than one percent of people in the U.S. identify as Orthodox Christians, it is the second largest Christian tradition worldwide, with an estimated population in excess of 260 million. The grant will help "bridge the gap" between the U.S. population and this important segment of Christians living in some of the most significant global hot-spots, including the Middle East, Russia, and the Balkans.
According to Professor Demacopoulos, a deeper understanding of Orthodox culture is "fundamentally necessary" for those who wish to be involved in these regions through business, foreign affairs, or otherwise. Moreover, scholarship in Orthodox Studies will help shed light on the complex relationship between Christianity and Islam, two religions that have typically been seen as pitted against one another.
"In many of these countries, there is a very complicated intersection of religion and politics, and religion and culture that is often entangled in inter-religious conflict," Demacopoulos said. "One possibility that this award enables is that the research that these scholars will do could inspire new ways of thinking about global citizenry and new ways of thinking about Muslim-Christian cohabitation."
"I cannot think of a finer endorsement of Fordham's Orthodox Christian Studies Center than this prestigious NEH grant. The grant speaks volumes about the quality of scholarship produced in the program," said Joseph M. McShane, S.J., President of Fordham University. "In this, much credit is due to George Demacopoulos and Telly Papanikolaou, who have brought tremendous energy and new scholarship to Orthodox Studies at Fordham."
Founded by the two theology professors in 2007, the Orthodox Christian Studies Center is the first university-based site for Orthodox Christian Studies in the western hemisphere.
"This is great for our center, it's great for the Department of Theology, and it's great for the University," Demacopoulos said. "It reflects Father McShane's vision that this kind of center is truly important, and that its importance can be recognized outside of church-affiliated institutions."
About Fordham University
Founded in 1841, Fordham is the Jesuit University of New York, offering exceptional education distinguished by the Jesuit tradition to more than 15,100 students in its four undergraduate colleges and its six graduate and professional schools. It has residential campuses in the Bronx and Manhattan, a campus in West Harrison, N.Y., the Louis Calder Center Biological Field Station in Armonk, N.Y., and the London Centre at Heythrop College in the United Kingdom.