Professor Anna Corwin Wins Templeton World Charity Foundation Grant

Saint Mary’s Professor of Anthropology Anna Corwin has been awarded a grant to conduct three years of cross-cultural research on religious intelligences by The Templeton World Charity Foundation. 

“It felt amazing,” said Corwin of her award. “If you think about how that money could be spent in the world and how many needs there are in the world, it’s really humbling to think that I have the opportunity to use this for research.” 

Corwin had worked with The Templeton World Charity Foundation previously in its Diverse Intelligence Initiative, which sought to understand and reframe the limitations of what defines intelligence beyond historically European cultural models of cognition. “My field is looking at trying to expand how we understand human intelligences, and the kinds of skills and capacities that humans beyond cognitive forms measured, for example, in IQ tests,” Corwin added.

As the principal investigator of her grant, Corwin and her three research collaborators seek to expand the way human intelligences are understood by focusing on how religious communities define and experience the forms of knowledge, skills, and capacities that emerge through prayer and other religious practices. For Corwin, that means studying prayer and the wisdom tradition of a Catholic convent in the Midwest. The study will take place over the next three years. “​​I'm working with three research collaborators, and the four of us will be looking at this question of human intelligences and, particularly, the types of skills and capacities that tend to be associated with peoples’ experiences with the divine.”

“We’ll be going to four different places. I work in the Midwest in a Catholic convent. One of my collaborators works in an Orthodox monastery in Greece on Mount Athos. One of my collaborators works with Runa people, who live in the Amazon in Ecuador. And the fourth person works with Pentecostals and Catholics in Uganda. Over the next three years we will gather data and then analyze all that data to try to understand, How do these communities understand the particular skills and capacities that are associated with relationships with the divine?”

As an associate professor at Saint Mary’s, Corwin enjoys how her studies overlap with students’ discussions in the classroom. “I think that’s why I love being at Saint Mary’s,” she said. “Because I have the opportunity to have that interaction, both of bringing what I’m learning into the classroom and sharing that with my students and learning from my students. I taught a Jan Term class almost a year ago on the topic of diverse intelligences. So I got to bring all this stuff that I was learning from this community into the classroom.”

The current focus of Corwin’s research overlaps with her past studies detailed in her most recent book, Embracing Age, in which she discusses how the practices in the convent affected the Catholic nuns’ aging process. “That research was very much about this question: How do Catholic nuns age so well? Why do they age so well? We know that they have these health outcomes at the end of life. What are the practices in the convent that make this possible?” Corwin said.

“This new project is very much an outgrowth of what I observed in a convent,” Corwin added. “It’s all the remaining questions that I had of [how] the direct experience of the divine plays a big role in their well-being, but also in how they navigate the world and how they understand intelligences.”

Saint Mary’s congratulates Professor Corwin on her award and achievements.

Learn more about the Anthropology Department here.