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Jonathan Walters, associate professor of religion, has been a member of the Whitman faculty since 1992. He was named a Garrett Fellow in 1999 in recognition of his outstanding teaching and professional activity. Walters is in Sri Lanka this year, serving as director of the Intercollegiate Sri Lankan Education program (ISLE). The photo above was taken in Sri Lanka by Marc Sidel, ’01, who is serving as an ISLE program assistant this year along with Kate Leslie, ’01.
 

Jill Jarvis, who graduated last spring summa cum laude with honors in religion, won a 2001 Fulbright Scholarship to study in Sri Lanka. She is conducting research on the lives of present-day Buddhist nuns in order to understand their perceptions of their social roles. Jill began the fieldwork for what became her Fulbright project during her junior year, which she spent in Sri Lanka under the auspices of the ISLE program. As a Whitman student, Jill participated in the wind ensemble and served as an intern in the America Reads Literacy Program. She is from Spokane, Washington.

Jon Walters, Religion

by Jill Jarvis, '01

The lengthy lines of hopeful students at Jon Walters’s office during registration attest that he’s a remarkable teacher — or, as he modestly demurs, teaches remarkable material that is (let’s be honest) woefully underrepresented. Integrated with the incisiveness of Jon’s scholarly savoir is the uniquely humanizing texture of his personal experiences, vitalizing everything that he teaches. While insistent upon critical thought, Jon cultivates creative alternatives to standard pedagogy: how many have danced, chanted, or painted a term project for him?

A veteran of most of Walters’s never-dull courses, I know that “religion” is not an inert specimen for dusty intellectual dissection but is fascinatingly, dynamically embodied in the diverse lives of human beings with whom we share an interdependent planet.

Jon has opened my mind to new possibilities from the moment I first declared my fervent intent to study religion and go to Sri Lanka. His influence on my life since is impossible to quantify: our friendship has developed through stories shared over tea on his front porch, hundreds of emailed ideas, his copious comments on drafts of my evolving thesis, his sympathy or encouragement when I’ve felt dismal, our similar experiences and loyalties, uproarious dinner conversations with mutual friends.

He has pressed me to clarify and articulate my thoughts, given me respectful space to pursue my interests while lending his precious books and welcome criticism, kept in touch as we’ve made our separate and overlapping journeys to and from Sri Lanka, been exuberantly proud of each of my accomplishments while I’ve earnestly admired his.

Whitman may flaunt student-faculty ratios, but I’m convinced that my auspicious luck has considerably more to do with the extraordinary quality of this particular human being, who will, I suspect, long remain my teacher and my friend.

   
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