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Toddie Peters: a holistic scholar

The associate professor of religious studies was awarded the 2012 Distinguished Scholar Award for her innovative approach to scholarship.

Toddie Peters


Being a successful scholar means more than publishing a certain number of papers every year.

Just ask Toddie Peters, associate professor of religious studies and chair of the Department of Religious Studies, who received the 2012 Elon University Distinguished Scholar Award.

“My philosophy of scholarship incorporates four complementary tasks: writing and publishing, teaching and mentoring, service to the profession and service to society,” Peters says, adding that each aspect is essential to her formation as a “holistic scholar.”

A look at her accomplishments over the past decade certainly suggests that is the case.

Among other things, she has written a book and edited three more, published 11 book chapters, taught and mentored scores of undergraduates, presented at national and international conferences, and served on ecumenical councils and commissions. She has also become the go-to person within the field of Christian social ethics when it comes to addressing issues facing the church and the world.

“She is heavily engaged in collaborative, denominational, and sometimes political or advocacy work,” an Elon colleague says. “She has chosen a line of work and a mode of scholarly engagement that is vigorously dialogic, urgent, organizational and in flux, engaged with others at every step.”

Peters began her career at Elon in 2001 as the Distinguished Emerging Scholar of Religious Studies. Two years later, she won the Trinity Prize for her book, In Search of the Good Life: The Ethics of Globalization, which was lauded by renowned philosopher and critic Cornel West as “the best treatment of the complex debate on globalization by a religious ethicist now available.”

“In a world where the majority of people still actively identify themselves as religious,” Peters explains, “many people look to religious traditions for guidance as they address moral and ethical questions.

“Principles like democratization of power, caring for the planet and promoting the social well-being of people can be rooted in Christianity but they also transcend any particular religious tradition.”

That may be why her book is used so widely not only by church book groups but also as textbook in universities across the country.

“I teach courses in globalization regularly both at the graduate and undergraduate levels,” a colleague from the University of Montana says. “It’s no exaggeration to say that the single most helpful and important book I have encountered in this field is Toddie’s book. .... My students never fail to comment about how helpful it is to orienting them to the often complex field of globalization and the global economy.”

But her work is not limited to economic and environmental ethics. She has edited books on Christianity and social justice from a feminist perspective and published articles on sexuality and post-colonial issues. Her second book, Solidarity Ethics, which deals with how Christians and others living in the first world can live integrity in a globalized world, is being considered for publication. She has served as chair of the Southeast Commission on the Study of Religion and is currently president of the American Academy of Religion, Southeast Region, and member of the Society of Christian Ethics’ board of directors.

“Toddie has achieved as much as many successful scholars achieve in a full career, and she has done it here, where we need proof it can be done sanely and by people in the first half of their careers,” an Elon colleague says. “Elon sorely needs more models of scholarship who accomplish at the top level of their disciplines (which Toddie does), who are internationally respected (which Toddie is), and who have become so successful while at Elon.”

Peters is the 13th recipient of the Distinguished Scholar Award, which recognizes a faculty member whose research has earned peer commendation and respect, and who has made significant contributions to his or her field of study.

“Her work has and is making an impact in ever-widening circles,” an Elon colleague says. “From classroom teaching to building a culture of student undergraduate research; from church to adult forums, to a global reputation as an astute voice in globalization and ethics; from Elon to the larger public, Professor Peters has made an impact in her local and global worlds that few of us can claim.”

Coming up next week: a profile on Jim Donathan, winner of this year's Ward Family Excellence in Mentoring Award.

Keren Rivas,
6/5/2012 3:38 PM