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Religious Studies professor awarded prestigious ACLS fellowship

Caroline Schroeder

May 23, 2018
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Religious studies professor Caroline Schroeder was awarded a fellowship this spring from the American Council of Learned Societies to continue her research into children in early Egyptian monasteries.

"One of the modern implications (of my research) is helping us understand the origins of an institution that has been really influential in the education, welfare and development of children — the Church," Schroeder said.  

The competition for fellowships is fierce. This year it awarded just 78 individual ACLS Fellowships from among 1,200 applications, most to professors at large research universities.  

"I was surprised to be awarded this fellowship because it typically goes to the Michigans and the Princetons," Schroeder said.  

The American Council of Learned Societies is made up of 75 organizations that support American scholarship in the humanities and social sciences. Its mission is to promote the liberal arts and support research. Last year, the ACLS awarded $20 million in funding overall.  

Schroeder's research focuses on Christian monasteries in Egypt, particularly the role of children. Monasteries were influential in the education, development and welfare of children, even as early as the fourth and fifth centuries. She says studying how children were cared for in monasteries lends insight into how foundational the notion of "family" is societies, and in diverse ways across history. Even for an institution like a monastery, where people didn't marry or bear children, surviving texts and archaeological sources testify to the significance of children.

"What you have is people leaving their biological or legal families but they're recreating family systems within these communities. And the children are part of that system," Schroeder said. "It helps us see how that institution of family can be defined in really different and sometimes radical ways."

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