Member Profile

Ryan S. Gardner

Religious Education, Faculty Member

Brigham Young University-Idaho

This month, we’d like to spotlight Dr. Ryan S. Gardner, faculty in Religious Education at Brigham Young University-Idaho.

How did you initially get interested/involved in the field of religion and education?

I was working on a doctorate in Education at Utah State University. In my efforts to identify the scholarly literature on religious education, I came across the Religious Education Association. I attended my first meeting of the Religious Education Association in Denver in 2010 and developed some immediate friendships and scholarly connections that have led to many opportunities to work on various projects related to religion and education.

What are you working on right now?

The majority of my efforts in religion and education right now have been with several initiatives on our campus to promote worldview literacy and interfaith leadership. I have developed two courses in our department, one on worldview literacy (which I taught for several semesters) and one on interfaith leadership (which I will begin teaching in Winter 2022). I recently led a small team of faculty, administrators, and staff who participated in the IFYC/AAC&U Institute for Interfaith Excellence and we have been implementing several aspects of our plan to improve education about other religious and secular worldviews on campus. I am also the faculty advisor for the recently officially recognized Interfaith Leadership Academic Society at BYU-Idaho, a society that aims to help students develop the knowledge, skills, and attitudes necessary for them to be interfaith leaders in their homes, congregations, communities, and workplaces. 

What is something that people might be surprised to know about you?

I am a huge birder! My wife and I took up this hobby a couple of years ago (although my younger brother has been trying to get me into it for years), and we love it!

What are you reading (for research/teaching and pleasure) right now?

I’ve been working on finishing the Qur’an. I’ve also been reading a couple of books on Interfaith Leadership over the last few years. Mostly I listen to books on American history and biographies and I’m always looking for connections between religion and history, politics, culture, etc. I recently finished Gordon Wood’s “Empire of Liberty,” which had several chapters that focused on these connections.

What is your most recent professional accomplishment?

In addition to what I’ve already mentioned, I guess I could also mention that I’m working with Mualla Selcuk (former REA president and professor of religious education at Ankara University in Turkey) and some of her students to develop a survey for measuring student attitudes about encountering those of other faiths. I helped them get the translation done from Turkish to English (no, I don’t speak Turkish–I was the English advisor!) and we were able to get IRB approval to administer that survey to the 250+ students in our World Religions courses on our campus at the beginning of the Fall 2021 semester. We’re going to administer it again at the end of this semester as well. Then we’re going to compare the data sets of the BYU-Idaho students with the students from Ankara University (I think they are trying to get participation from a couple other campuses as well), and we are talking about presenting the research at the International Seminar on Religious Education and Values in 2022. 

I also recently reviewed a book by John Valk on Worldview. I’m guessing it should be coming out soon, but I haven’t heard any specific dates.

How long have you been a member of the Religion & Education Collaborative?

Since the beginning. Kate and I have known each other for several years, and I think the work she is doing is great!

Are you interested in research collaboration? If so, in which topical areas?

Generally yes. I have done research and written articles with others before. It has been a great experience. But I have limited time at the moment because of other commitments and assignments.

Would you feel comfortable if REC members contacted you about your research or teaching?

Sure! [email protected]

The Member Profiles column spotlights REC members so we can learn about one another, share our accomplishments, and build our community through new relationships and connections.  This is a great opportunity to spread the word about a new project or publication and get to know members across the network. If you are interested in being featured in this column, please reach out to Liz Pope ([email protected]). 

Mike Waggoner

Senior Research Fellow, Institute for Religion and Education
College of Education
University of Northern Iowa

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