James Thrall is the new Knight Distinguished Assistant Professor for the Study of Religion and Culture. Although Knox has had a religious studies minor for a while, no professors were specifically dedicated to the program and Thrall is the first to hold this position. TKS had a moment to talk with Thrall.
What brings you to Knox?
There hasn’t been a religious studies professor at Knox since the 80s. One of the members of the Board of Trustees decided to fund the position, so I became the endowed chair.
What were you doing before you came here?
I was teaching in the World Religion Department at Bridgeport University in Connecticut for the past two years. I was doing Western religions. I had been working for a while before I went back for my graduate degree. I was in journalism before I did my grad work—I was a religion reporter for the New Haven Register and I was in communications for the Episcopal Church.
What do you think of Knox so far?
I adore it. This is just a wonderful place to teach. I had hoped I’d be able to teach at a small liberal arts college. It’s kind of like where I went to school; I did my undergraduate degree at Colby College in Maine. Colby’s not quite as small as Knox. I’m quite excited to be here.
What about Knox do you like?
I have a really terrific class. I’m teaching Global Christianity this term. The students seem really quite curious—they ask great questions. They’re very respectful of each other. They have a real interest in learning. Students are here to be students, and that’s quite refreshing.
How is Knox different from other places you’ve taught?
Certainly the size. I taught at Duke as a postdoctoral fellow. Duke is huge. Whatever the undergraduate population is, I think it’s about four times as big as Knox’s. The University of Bridgeport would really be considered an urban campus. Knox seems like a much more intimate, friendly place to teach.