Elizabeth Coody holds her PhD in Religious and Theological Studies from the University of Denver and Iliff School of Theology Joint Doctoral Program. She became the regionally elected coordinator for the Rocky Mountain-Great Plains AAR in 2016 and was selected to serve in the same role for the Upper Midwest AAR in 2019. She values the way the AAR regions connect religion scholars across a wide range of areas, to which she enjoys contributing her propensity to work collaboratively with others to solve problems and structure activities efficiently. Coody has taught at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, and currently serves as Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at Morningside College in Sioux City, Iowa. Leadership for her is service to others that allows them to thrive, and so she values her administrative work, including mentoring students, attending to issues of diversity, and fostering scholarly writing. Her research centers on intersections between religion, sacred texts, cultural studies, and popular culture, with a particular interest in comic books. Her current major project is editing a second edition of Understanding Religion and Popular Culture (Routledge, forthcoming). She has most recently co-edited Monstrous Women in Comics with Samantha Langsdale (University Press of Mississippi, 2020).
I have been involved in regional AAR for just over a decade. From my first nervous presentation at a regional meeting I knew that the AAR was where I could continue to grow my scholarly ideas in community. I have served as a regionally elected coordinator in two regions. Now that I am in an early phase of my career where I can do so, I am eager to bring my energy, organization, and creativity to the Regions Director role.
I have deeply appreciated the work of previous Regions Directors; Kathy Downey in particular has done a tremendous amount to make the Regions Committee cohere as a group. Through her leadership regionally elected coordinators have been able to function as a resource for each other and create and nurture new opportunities for their regions. To continue this good work, I will center my three-year term on nurturing the strengths that regions can offer.
We must build on the recent efforts to help the regions understand their differences by then helping them find their comparative strengths. One of the strengths of the regions at large is their ability to be flexible. Each has its own character based on factors such as size, institutions, ethos of the members, and degrees of cooperation with other scholarly societies. In coming months we must push the regions’ ability to adapt to the highest levels, and I will help the regional leadership use their imaginations to serve scholars and academics at various career stages. I have my own experience in different roles in the academy to draw on, and I am eager to hear from voices that are often unheard or uninvited. I would like to help the coordinators leverage resources to the local level, where people can feel their effect: regional grants, assistance with changing programs, practical communication solutions, and help with making new contacts across regions.
Starting my term in the midst of a pandemic means that I will need to help us be much more creative about how it is that we make critical connections. While the circumstances of the outbreak and isolation in the United States and around the world are devastating, I see how this moment has driven us to trying new ways of meeting and connecting. I am fluent and experienced in a variety of communication and online tools and use them in my teaching and administrative work. I think these tools should be treated with care, but I am also excited by their potential to open accessibility across our membership. Technology for its own sake is frustrating, but technology that solves problems can save our work.
Our new tasks around local accessibility and continued flexibility are important for the study of religion at large, but particularly critical for graduate students, undergraduate students, contingent faculty, and under-represented groups in religious studies. I want to help the regions work to create the close connections that are critical for academic excellence and public understanding.