Dr. Jeffery Long, associate professor of religious studies and department chair, walks into his house after a long day at work, turns on some music and picks up a science fiction novel. He would not mind watching a movie with his wife, Dr. Mahua Bhattacharya, who teaches Japanese at Elizabethtown College, but only if time permits. Both being college professors, it is hard to find time to spend together but they still manage to go to plays, concerts and travel together.
Traveling has become part of the job, actually, as Long has gone to conferences and study abroad programs with his students. Long is happy to have traveling as part of the job, as both he and his wife have a passion for it. Long lives in the Elizabethtown area, so traveling is not part of his everyday routine.
Long graduated from Notre Dame University in 1991; he went on from there to the University of Chicago ,where he got his master’s in 1993, and his Ph.D. in 2000. His doctorate dissertation was in the philosophy of religion with a focus on the religions of India (Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism).
Long started teaching while he was still in college, at the University of Chicago. He taught an adult education course, which he designed specifically for the University of Chicago while he was still a graduate student there. The course was called “Buddhism: Ancient and Modern” and “It eventually evolved into the Buddhism course that I have taught many times at Elizabethtown College,” Long said.
Long started teaching at Etown in 2000 immediately after he finished his doctoral degree. Over the years, Long has taught in the same field but has changed the courses to keep things interesting for himself. Next semester, Dr. Long will teach a class on J.R.R. Tolkien, the author of the Lord of the Rings series, which he actually used to teach in past years. The class is for anyone, but those who enjoy his novels, the Lord of the Rings movies or just anyone who is a fan of the fantasy literature genre would find this course very interesting.
Long also offers courses in Dharma traditions, Hinduism, Buddhism, Indian philosophy, Sanskrit I and II, religion in China and Japan, Hinduism and modernity and comparative theology, to name a few. He normally teaches around five courses per semester. Long is particularly excited about his comparative theology course because it is a new course and all the students it are those Long has taught in previous courses. He believes that the course will serve as almost an overview to his classes. “It is kind of like the grand conclusion to their study of religion in college,” Long said.
Long loves communicating ideas to people, especially ideas that have made an important difference in his own life, which drove him toward becoming a teacher. Long believes that people should know about other religions, “I also think that understanding a variety of religious belief systems is important for anyone living in the kind of inter-connected world that we inhabit. It’s conducive to more peaceful, harmonious relations around the world.” Teaching students who share his beliefs and interests makes teaching that much more fun for him.
Long loves when he can tell that a student enjoys his classes and is taking a real interest in the religions and what they have to offer. He believes that students have a lot to learn about other religions and that teaching a student about the different religions is very important. He is proud to say that he has been accepted into a beautifully rich and ancient religious community, the Hindu community, as a spokesperson for the religious traditions of India. He takes his role very seriously and loves when a student is inspired to learn more or seems to want to pursue graduate study in the field.
Long has embraced the College since moving here, saying that, while not everyone is perfect, he has certainly met wonderful community members, as well as faculty, staff, and students. His overall view of the College is positive, “but of course there are good days and there are bad days,” Long said.
As Long goes home after a long day of enlightening minds and doing some work, it is nice to relax and practice meditating. He became a teacher so he could spread the wisdom that he has learned about the religions of India, and that is what he has been doing here at Etown for the past 12 years. When asked what is fondest teaching memory is, he did not reply about an award he received nor getting a raise, but when a group of his former students showed up in his class one day completely by surprise. He is a man who loves many things: teaching, religions, his wife, music, meditating, and, let’s not forget, his students. So while you are scheduling your classes for next semester, think about what you like learning about. If the religions of India spark your interest, sign up for a class with Long. He would love to share his experiences with you.