School of Arts & Sciences
Assistant Professor of Religious Studies
I feel like we have a lot of people from different religious backgrounds. Many are strongly religious, and they're interested in religious traditions — that's a fun thing about teaching religion here. I feel I belong here.
Erica Olson-Bang has lived in a lot of places. She grew up in Minnesota, and her pastor father moved from town to town establishing evangelical churches. After attending college in California, she lived in Ecuador for nearly a decade.
So it's a bit ironic that her first full-time teaching job is just a stone's throw away from Fordham University, where she earned her Ph.D. in Theology.
Olson-Bang joined The College of New Rochelle just before the Fall 2012 semester, and "got thrown into the fire," she said. She quickly had to prepare five new classes while still getting acclimated to her new surroundings.
"I felt like a freshman," Olson-Bang said. "I didn't know where to find things." Her second year has proven to be much easier, especially as she's gotten more of a sense of the students.
"I feel like we have a lot of people from different religious backgrounds," Olson-Bang said. "Many are strongly religious, and they're interested in religious traditions -- that's a fun thing about teaching religion here. I feel I belong here."
Olson-Bang comes from a very religious background -- her grandfather was a professor of the New Testament -- but she hadn't thought of it as a career. She graduated from Claremont McKenna College with a B.A. in history and economics, and was interested in religion-affiliated international nonprofit work. "I wanted to do social justice," said Olson-Bang, to that end working at a school in Ecuador for two years.
"But I ended up enjoying the academic side of things," Olson-Bang said. She also found her voice earning her Master's in teaching from Bethel University. "I was a shy person -- I never talked in college," Olson-Bang said. But at Bethel, If there was something I was passionate about, I wasn't going to let my commect go unsaid." She brings that appreciation for dialogue to her classes at CNR.
"Teaching is a lot of fun for me when I'm discussing with students and hearing their experiences -- when we're having a good talk, when there's more conversation."
The all-women School of Arts & Sciences also attracted Olson-Bang to CNR. "I'm very interested in women in Christianity, women in religion in general," she said. One of her research interests is the Biblical figure of Eve, and how she is understood in the Abrahamic religions, and whether she is "more to blame" for humankind's fall from grace. "I don't think that's fair," she said. She's also interested in environmental ethics, and the idea of hospitality -- the ordinary life of a home -- as a model for Christian theology and practice.
Olson-Bang teaches many of the core religious studies courses, including Introduction to the Bible; Foundations of Christianity; Morality and Sexuality; Women and Religion; and Spirituality and the Environment. She enjoys the fact that she gets to know pretty much every student that comes through CNR.
As she's adjusted to full-time teaching, Olson-Bang can spare attention for more projects -- she's working on a possible class on religion in Latin America, another of her research interests.
Outside of class, Olson-Bang enjoys cooking, and cycling.