Mount Allison Religious Studies Professor Dr. Susie Andrews is a scholar of East Asian religions and a firm believer in experiential learning and interdisciplinary studies. With the mantra ‘interdisciplinary, engaged, international,’ Andrews’ work in world religions and her commitment to student learning and engagement are becoming well known among students and colleagues.
“When you are studying something like the history and present significance of religious places, hands-on learning opportunities are key,” says Andrews. “This approach helps my students develop a deeper understanding of the ways that religious communities make and sustain particular territories as sacred. I hope that learning together onsite and bringing religious sites into our classroom through the study of statues, clothing, musical instruments, and other objects imbued with religious significance helps to bring my courses to life for students with a range of academic interests.”
Andrews studies how people construct sacred spaces in medieval East Asia. Her research looks specifically at Mount Wutai (the Mountain of Five Plateaus) — a sacred Buddhist site in northern China. Since the seventh-century, this range of peaks has been an integral part of Buddhist religion, celebrated as the home of the deity Mañjuśrī.
Interestingly, for much of its history the mountain has been replicated around the world at places including Japan, Korea, and, most recently, Canada.
At present, Andrews is completing a book on this topic with colleagues Chen Jinhua (University of British Columbia) and Kuan Guang (King’s College London). She is also beginning a seven-year $2.5-million Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) Partnership Grant project with Chen Jinhua (principal investigator) and an international team of scholars exploring the religious world of medieval East Asia more broadly.
Andrews got her start at Mount Allison, completing her undergraduate degree in Asian studies in 2001 before earning her PhD at Columbia University. She says her own experiences at Mount Allison helped form her career path.
“After my second year, I spent a summer in China with Religious Studies Professor Marilyn McCullough,” says Andrews. “She was simply an amazing professor and I am so thankful for the opportunities she gave me. That experience helped shape my professional path and who I am today. I hope I can give some of my own students a similar learning experience.”
This commitment to student learning is evident in her own teaching and research. In 2016, four of Andrews’ students travelled to China to work on various research projects. Brynn Aucoin (’17, biochemistry), Megan Moffat (’18, chemistry), Emma Bass (’16, international relations and religious studies), and Cassidy Phillips (’17, sociology) spent 16 weeks in China completing independent research projects that explore contemporary China’s religious landscape. The group received more than $35,000 in internal and external funding for their research projects, including Mitacs GlobaLink Research Awards. They also had the opportunity to meet with several alumni while overseas.