UF Graduate student aspires to national association office

BMAARheadshotIn the UF Religion program we place a high emphasis on our graduate students becoming active members of their field of study and in the wider community of religious studies. Through publications, presentations, and leadership services our students emerge in the field as contributing professionals and colleagues.

Bhakti Mamtora, a doctoral student in the Religions of Asia track at #UFreligion, is standing for Student Director of the American Academy of Religion. The other candidate is Charles Barber of Emory University.

Mamtora said of the opportunity to serve that she is simultaneously, “humbling and exciting.”

Her dissertation research traces the formation of sectarian identity within the Svāminārāyaṇa Saṃpradāya, a Hindu devotional tradition. She received her MA in South Asian studies from the University of Pennsylvania in 2012 and her BA in communications and media studies and international political economy from Fordham University in 2010.

For the past one and a half years, Mamtora has served as the AAR student director and board member for the Southeast Region. She has organized professional development workshops for graduate students during the annual regional meeting. On a national level, she has served as the editor for the quarterly Speaking of Students newsletter.

In addition, Mamtora has presented papers at a number of conferences, including the International World Sanskrit Conference (2015), Religion and Culture in the Digital Age (2015), SECSOR Regional Meeting (2014) and Crossing Boundaries (2012). Her forthcoming publications include “Compositions of the Upaniṣads” and “Svāminārāyaṇa and the Establishment of the Svāminārāyaṇa Saṃpradāya” in Great Events in Religion: An Encyclopedia of Pivotal Events in Religious History.

Mamtora wrote the following statement for the AAR in consideration of her candidacy:

Graduate students in the field of religion are aware of the challenges and opportunities of studying religion in a digital age and amidst a declining job market. As the AAR national Student Director, I would leverage my past experience to effectively channel AAR resources in a manner that benefits graduate students across the board, specifically aiming to prepare us to meet the challenges of our field and take advantage of the opportunities presented to us via digital methods and media.

When I began my term as the student director and board member of the AAR Southeast Region, I aimed to enhance graduate student participation in the regional and national meetings, liaise between the graduate students and faculty members on a regional level, and creatively use new media technologies to prepare graduate students for their professional careers. To this end, I continued organizing professional development workshops for graduate students during our regional meetings and maintained the region’s Facebook page for students. The workshops provided graduate students with a chance to learn how to navigate graduate school and prepare for the changing realities of the job market from junior faculty members in the southeast region.

As the national Student Director, I would expand the regional goals and initiatives onto the national level. In doing so, I would place a greater emphasis on leveraging media technologies and professional development workshops for graduate students. In recent years, departments of religion and graduate students have been using social media platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter, and blogs to analyze current news stories, share their research and fieldwork experiences, and establish an online presence. I would first assess the need for learning how to use social media platforms to develop one’s academic career by passing out a questionnaire to students who attend the roundtable sessions and special topics forum. Based on the need, I would organize programs and guides that elaborate on how one can effectively use media to share and publish their research. I would also collaborate with the organizers of THATCamp to help graduate students learn how to enhance their teaching portfolios through the use of digital media. Given the changing realities of the job-market, I would work with the Graduate Student Committee and AAR Board of Directors to improve networking opportunities and develop workshops that would allow students to interact with both junior faculty members at various universities and independent scholars who confidently pursue alternative career paths.

My responsibilities as national Student Director would also involve chairing the Graduate Student Committee (GSC). I would work closely with each of the regionally elected student directors to understand and communicate the needs of the graduate students on the regional level to the AAR Board of Directors. My experiences as the Student Director for the AAR Southeast Region, familiarity with the Graduate Student Committee members, and attention to the growing concerns of graduate students have prepared me to undertake the responsibilities of being the national student director. I look forward to working with the members of the academy in improving the graduate student experience.

We encourage to LEARN MORE HERE and wish the best of luck to Mamtora as she makes #UFreligion proud in providing leadership in the field of religious studies!