Fellows Society Current Graduate Fellow: James Waters

750(w)x600(h), preferred ratio 5:4

James Waters

Hometown: Nashville

Fall 2018 – present

PhD in Religion, Ethics, & Philosophy

Journal of Religious Ethics Editorial Assistantship


Educational/Professional Background

I graduated cum laude with a BA in Religious Studies and Philosophy in 2013 from Trevecca Nazarene University in Nashville, TN. The following year I earned an MA in Theology from the same institution. I then attended Vanderbilt University from 2014–2017, where I completed a Masters of Theological Studies (MTS); this degree explored several disciplines, chief among them being Religious Studies, Religious Ethics, Psychology and Religion, Philosophy, and Theology. I finished first in my class in the area of Religious Ethics and Theology in 2017 and was awarded the Wilbur F. Tillett Award during the commencement ceremony.


Research and Teaching Interests, or Professional Field

While at Vanderbilt, my interests began to shift from theological and philosophical inquiry toward more concrete questions of ethics and the lived life of religious individuals. Now my work mainly focuses on how religious belief and adherence affect the practices and thinking of individuals and how religion shapes society at large. The three areas that I have concentrated on most during my years at FSU are (1) Religion and Ecology, (2) Religion, Activism, and Social Change, and (3) Indigenous Religions of North and Central America.

While teaching ""REL 3170: Religion, Ethics, and Moral Problems"" here at FSU, I aim to acquaint my students with the plurality of ways one can be religious. In the first part of the course, I have them read Aristotle, Aquinas, Nietzsche, and Kierkegaard while thinking about how religion might interact with or inform broader conceptions of morality and ethics. In the second part of the course, I explore with my students the way religious ethicists and thinkers have influenced conversations surrounding Race, Gender, Sexuality, Violence, and Ecology. I ground each of these issues in thinkers or movements that have significantly shaped our current political and moral climate.


Experience as A Graduate Student at FSU

I've not once regretted my decision to attend FSU. My department has been exceedingly supportive, while simultaneously providing me the space to carve out my own scholarly trajectory. I have especially benefitted from working closely with the professors in my track and the diversity of thought which exists among my colleagues. 


Experience as A Member of The Fellows Society

My favorite Fellow Society-sponsored event was working at the president's house to check in tailgaters. The best part was getting meet and mingle with other senior scholars and researchers, who made a surprisingly intentional effort to learn about me and my research. They all had excellent advice to give, and I was able to make several connections, some of which I have been communicating with since.

I have also thoroughly enjoyed the research luncheons. Getting to see other students present their work from across the university is a gratifying experience. Most of the time, graduate students are siloed off into their departments without much cross-over. The luncheons mitigate this division by allowing us opportunities to discuss with other researchers the shared problems we engage, albeit from different angles. I am particularly thankful for the feedback I received during the luncheon when I presented in the summer of 2020. Several comments made by those in attendance helped me revise an essay that now awaits publication in a peer-reviewed journal. 


Future Plans/Aspirations

After graduating, I hope to procure a tenured track job that allows me to conduct research and teach. Ideally, such a position would also include a center for interdisciplinary work on climate change and ecology. Climate change seems to me to be the most pressing problem of our time. I want to be a part of a university that is making conscious efforts to preserve our planet for future generations.


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