Volume 18 • Issue 1
Laura Hobgood-Oster, associate professor of religion and philosophy, grew up a preachers kid as she puts it, and developed an early love for religious views. I grew up in a very progressive church, she says. I remember going on peace marches in Washington, D.C., and anti-Vietnam War marches when I was just 5 or 6 years old. Her progressive experiences expanded her interest in religious studies beyond the scope of Christian tradition. I started to understand some of the theological and cultural impacts of belief systems on human conceptions of nature and of other-than-human animals, she says.
Hobgood-Oster holds the Elizabeth Root Paden Chair in Religion. I was honored to be appointed to the chair several years ago, she says. It gives me the opportunity to organize the Brown Symposium every five or six years; a fun, though daunting, task. Coordinating the symposium also gives the Brown Chair holders the opportunity to select its topic. I try to select a topic that I think is important, timely, justice-oriented, and that will be interesting and intriguing for students, in particular, and for the entire Southwestern community, she says. This years symposium, Who Do We Think We Are, which she is organizing, addresses humanitys relationship with non-human animals. Our cultures continue to elevate the human as the top species and, because of that, we use other species in ways that are oftentimes not only harmful, but deadly, she explains.
Hobgood-Oster is one of those great professors who appreciates every moment as a teacher. Whenever a student tells me that she or he is learning something or thinking in new ways, or getting excited about a topic, she says, it makes me want to keep coming back. The classroom experience also is important to her research and writing. Teaching always influences the books, articles and papers Im writing. Students might not realize how much they contribute to this intellectual process, says Hobgood-Oster. She recently completed a new book, Holy Dogs and Asses: Animals in the Christian Tradition.
In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her husband, Jack, and two dogs, Cezar and Codi. She also exercises regularly. Keeping myself in good health is very important to me. I have been a vegetarian for more than 15 years and try to eat organic and local foods as much as possible, she says. I am a vegetarian for health reasons and, more significantly, because of the horrors of factory farming.
After seeing Ringo Starr perform, John Ore decided he wanted to be just like him. I had coffee cans and tin pans that I would just beat the tar out of every night. Ive been playing the drums on and off ever since, recalls Ore. Following his early interest in music, Ore began his academic study at Tennessee Technological University. Doubtful of his academic choice, he left Tennessee Tech in hopes of discovering his passion.
An opportunity to see a production of Harvey and get a glimpse at the work of stagecraft instantly intrigued Ore. After getting a behind-the-scenes look at how everything was done, I was hooked, he explains.
After receiving his MFA from the University of Tennessee, Ore worked with national and international touring shows. Traveling through Austin, a co-worker of Ores became particularly excited when passing by Southwestern University, her alma mater. I had never seen anyone that excited about their school. This was really genuine enthusiasm, he recalls. Later, while looking for a new professional opportunity, Ore found an opening at Southwestern University. He decided to apply and was soon
offered a position to teach and design lighting and sound.
Ore is now an associate professor of theatre and director of technical operations. He also is a Paideia® Professor. I love the diversity of interests that is brought to the Paideia® Program by the students. You end up with a lot of different and yet refreshing opinions, states Ore.
Combining his musical hobby and childhood idol, Ore recently created a first-year seminar dedicated to The Beatles. I love the subject and think The Beatles are so inspiring, he notes. Ores seminar not only provides students with an in-depth study of an enjoyable subject, it also provides them with confidence needed for future classes. The class requires the students to be very active. I want them to gain self-confidence not only in speaking in class, but also in writing serious papers. At the same time, I think it should be a pleasant, fun, yet instructive introduction to college life, explains Ore.
The soon-to-be-completed Alma Thomas Fine Theater renovations will give Ore and his Sarofim School of Fine Arts colleagues new opportunities for teaching and staging productions. The new space and new equipment is going to give students even more opportunities for working in backstage positions, Ore says. I am really excited about working with it.
Ore continues to pursue his own musical passion as drummer for the Post Hole Diggers, a Southwestern faculty band also known as the PhDs.