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2014 Dean’s Award: Owen Reagan

Dean’s Award for Excellence in Teaching

Just by co-teaching a core Divinity School course, Owen “Wen” Reagan did something few graduate students get to do.

“It is extremely rare in the Divinity school to allow an adjunct professor—let alone a graduate student—to teach one of the fundamental and mandatory core classes,” says the faculty members who gave Reagan that chance and nominated him for a 2014 Dean’s Award for Excellence in Teaching. “These classes are enormous and cumbersome creatures that require a real maturity and finesse. I had no hesitation in giving [Reagan] this responsibility, a hearty recommendation that was seconded by the administration.”

Another faculty member who recommended Reagan for the award was more direct in his praise: “He represents the best of us.”

Reagan has been developing his teaching skills through a broad range of classroom experiences, serving as a preceptor and lead preceptor in the Divinity School, tutoring through the Writing Studio, independently instructing a Writing 20 course. He has also taken advantage of workshops and training programs within the Religion Department, in the Thompson Writing Program, and through the Graduate School, including the Certificate in College Teaching program.

The endorsements from Reagan’s students show that his efforts have paid off. “Wen was very knowledgeable of course material, but I was most struck by how much he cared about our achievement in the course and in the application of course material to our lives and our ministries,” one of his student says.

Reagan says that investment in students’ success both in and beyond the classroom is a centerpiece of his teaching philosophy.

“As an instructor in a professional school that prepares students to enter a profession, it was my duty to make sure my students could relate their course material to their future professions in churches,” he says.

Another point of emphasis in his teaching philosophy involves helping his students adapt to “new ways of seeing,” Reagan says.

“I believe this ability to take theoretical lenses and see the world anew through them is not only a critical component of studying religion, but also a key tool in academic analysis and writing as well,” he says.

Comments from Faculty and Students

“Wen has the wisdom and experience to navigate students through very complicated historical terrain, and demonstrates tremendous sensitivity in managing students’ expectations and needs.”

“I looked forward to coming to your precept each week not only because of the fruitful conversation and advice about papers, but also because of your ability to lead and properly facilitate conversation and review sessions.”

“I was fascinated by the course because we used academic inquiries on non-academic topics.”

About Owen Reagan

Owen “Wen” Reagan, a PhD candidate in religion, earned his master of theological studies from Duke Divinity School in 2008 and his BA in history and religion from Duke in 2005. He was awarded the E. Bayard Halsted Scholarship in 2012 and a dissertation fellowship from the Louisville Institute in 2013 to support the completion of his dissertation, “Sing a New Song: A History of Contemporary worship Music, 1960-2000.” One of the faculty members who nominated him for the Dean’s Award described his dissertation as “a significant contribution to our understanding of the transformation of American Christianity, as well as to our ability to gauge the subtle interactions between church and society during this time.”