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Wilmette Institute Starts Another Semester at the Graduate Theological Union

Sep 1, 2022

by Robert Stockman

On Tuesday, September 6, the fall semester begins at the Graduate Theological Union of Berkeley, California, and the Wilmette institute will offer two courses for credit to its students. Bahá’í History will survey the development of the Bahá’í community from 1844 to the present using books, articles, and videos and will examine the subject thematically (attraction of minorities; geographical diffusion; creation of Bahá’í institutions; the developing rhythm of community life; outreach to governments and leaders of thought; enrichment of Bahá’í literature; etc.). Approaches to Non-violent Social Change will examine the ways society can be changed, such as the efforts of Gandhi and King, and the unific approach the Bahá’í Faith takes to social transformation.

In preparation, Drs. Robert Stockman and Chitra Golestani—both of whom have “resident faculty” status at GTU—attended a faculty meeting on August 31. It was a great opportunity to meet people in person whom they had been seeing on Zoom throughout the pandemic. They were welcomed very warmly by the gathering. The visit also provided time to meet with several people who have expressed interest in collaboration, or to schedule Zoom sessions to discuss collaboration at a later date.

The Graduate Theological Union has courses and study programs focusing on such diverse subjects as sustainable development and the environment, theology and the natural world, pilgrimage, spirituality, interfaith chaplaincy, social justice issues, and race studies. It includes researchers on Mormonism, Swedenborgianism, Eastern Orthodox Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Judaism, not to mention Protestantism and Catholicism. It is a unique environment for participating in interfaith discourse while planning the education of future college teachers, clergy persons, chaplains, and others interested in pursuing the study of religion. There is already one Bahá’í student attending and more are anticipated in the future.

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Robert Stockman, ThD

Wilmette Institute Director

I have had a passion for researching and teaching about the Bahá’í Faith for more than half of my life. My fascination with American Bahá’í history and with the first American Bahá’í, Thornton Chase, caused me, in 1980, to switch my academic field from planetary science to history of religion in the United States. As I was finishing my doctorate in that field at Harvard University in 1990, I drew up plans to create a Bahá’í Studies institute that would offer courses, encourage research, and publish. Instead, I was hired by the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States to start a research office at our national Bahá’í headquarters in Wilmette, Illinois. Some of the responsibilities of the research office led to the creation of the Wilmette Institute, which ​focuses on most of the tasks of the institute I originally conceived. Meanwhile, I have also remained involved in academia, teaching religious studies part time at DePaul University in Chicago and currently at Indiana University South Bend, just a mile from home. I have also published four books on aspects of Bahá’í history (including a biography of Thornton Chase) and one introductory textbook on the Faith. Listen to Robert’s interview on ‘A Bahá’í Perspective’ podcastSee Faculty Bio

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Chitra Golestani, PhD

WI Associate Director, Faculty, Institute for Humane Education

Dr. Chitra Golestani is currently Associate Director of the Wilmette Institute and an Adjunct Faculty at the Institute for Humane Education/Antioch University. She also works as an educational consultant, guest lecturer, qualitative researcher, and a co-founder of the Paulo Freire Institute (PFI) at UCLA - an organization committed to social justice education locally and globally. Her areas of interest, lectures and research include Human Rights, Social Justice and Global Citizenship Education, Conflict Resolution and Restorative Justice, Youth Activism in Extended Education, Conscious Living and Social Action. She holds a PhD in Social Science and Comparative Education from UCLA and a Master’s in Education from University of California, Santa Barbara. Her areas of interest, lectures and research include Human Rights, Social Justice and Global Citizenship Education, Conflict Resolution and Restorative Justice, Youth Activism in Extended Education, Conscious Living and Social Action. In September 2019, she began a new administrative position as Associate Director of the Wilmette Institute. Her work is inspired by her lived experience with persecution in the country of her birth, Iran, where members of the Bahá’í Faith are not allowed to practice, are prohibited from accessing higher education, and denied other civil rights. While still a young child, her family escaped this marginalization and fled to the US in search of religious freedom, equality between women and men and human rights. Currently, Dr. Golestani is engaged in numerous grass-roots programs aimed at raising human capacity, locally and globally, to work towards a more just, united, and sustainable planet. Listen to Chitra's interview on "A Bahá’í Perspective."See Faculty Bio

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