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Some major changes

New anthropology focus added to Taylor's sociology department

By Gabby Carlson | Echo

A new major arrived on campus with Robert Priest, professor of anthropology, this fall. Although the details are not yet finalized, anthropology will be offered as a hybrid major with sociology or a minor by itself. Priest is very excited to begin this journey with the sociology department, which will soon be converted to the department of sociology and anthropology.

“A major in anthropology is a very valuable thing because you are doing two things,” Priest said. “You are trying to understand Scripture, the message, and you’re trying to understand people.”

Nick Corduan, director of user services, also has a history in anthropology. He received his master’s in anthropology from the University of Alaska Fairbanks and has taught as an adjunct in the past for various anthropology courses. With the permanent addition of the field, he will be teaching a few classes in semesters to come.

Priest grew up in Bulgaria, where his family worked with a hunter-gatherer group. After completing his seminary work at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, he began preaching. According to Priest, he felt a disconnect between his teaching and his congregation. He found the bridge between was learning about humans at a deeper level — anthropology.

Professor Robert Priest brings expertise to the new anthropology field of study at Taylor. (Photograph by Ruth Orellana)

Professor Robert Priest brings expertise to the new anthropology field of study at Taylor. (Photograph by Ruth Orellana)

“What struck me in my preaching was that my college and seminary had prepared me very well to understand the Bible, so I could prepare sermons,” Priest said. “But the people I was speaking to was a very different matter. I could see there were so many things I could see in front of me, but I couldn’t make any sense of (them). So I started spending a lot more time in my own preaching, reading things that are more sociological, more anthropological, and finding it very helpful.”

The sociology and anthropology major is meant to be flexible. There are required major classes in both concentrations, but there is a lot of space to take related courses and drop and add classes as they go, according to Priest. Some offered in the spring will be cultural anthropology (ANT 200) which fulfills the same requirements as SOC 200 previously did. Also offered as night classes are the anthropology of magic, witchcraft and religion (ANT 315) and anthropology of sin, shame and guilt (ANT 380).

The mission of Taylor University is to develop servant leaders marked with a passion to minister Christ’s redemptive love and truth to a world in need, according to Taylor’s website.

“Taylor’s mission statement is about training disciples with passion,” Priest said. “So my verse that I like to use with anthropology is Proverbs 19:2. ‘It is not good to have passion without knowledge nor to be hasty and miss the way.’”

Priest believes having no passion at all is better than having passion without a good understanding of the subject. He uses anthropology as a means of understanding what he is passionate about. He desires to bring that knowledge to Taylor.

“If we’re trying to fix someone and we don’t know what we’re doing, we’ll muck it up royal,” Priest said.

According to Corduan, Priest brings a strong sense of academic discipline to the field of study with a concentration in the human experience.

Priest worked closely with Steve Bird and Michael Jessup, both professors of sociology, to make this major possible. They will both be teaching courses in the sociology and anthropology department, along with Corduan and Priest.

“You cannot change a group of people’s religion, for instance, without impacting their sense of family,” Corduan said. “I try to end every semester by summing it up this way: anthropology helps you to act in a way that is well-informed, not simply well-intended.”

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