Congratulations to Dr. Erin Darby, one of 2018’s winners of the Undergraduate Research Mentor of the Year award.
Darby goes far beyond the typical expectations of a professor to seek out opportunities to benefit students’ growth and success. Moreover, the opportunities she finds for her students are noted for their concern for the students’ interests. Emily Liske describes Darby’s willingness to redesign an unavailable course as an independent study tailored to Liske’s personal research. As she writes, “She worked with me to hone my paper into one of a caliber I didn’t think I could produce, and she didn’t stop there. Dr. Darby encouraged me to submit my work for conferences and awards, and she even accompanied me to my presentation at the annual meeting of the Southeastern Commission for the Study of Religion (SECSOR), where she was my biggest cheerleader when I won the Undergraduate Research Award.” Similarly, Gayatri Nandwani tells of how, when initial research abroad plans fell through due to safety issues, Darby provided the chance to conduct research alongside her at the ‘Ayn Gharandal dig site in Jordan.
Darby’s contributions aren’t limited to such grand gestures though, as she consistently supports her students throughout their educations, on both a personal and professional level, providing emotional motivation as well as guidance in the presentation of work to scholarly audiences. As Nandwani says, “She has taught me life lessons that I would not have learned in a classroom and has showed me that there will be hurdles.”
Dr. Darby is an assistant professor in the religious studies department, and she co-directs the ‘Ayn Gharandal Archaeological Project in Jordan. She received her PhD from Duke University. She is an expert in the Hebrew Bible, ancient Near Eastern history, literature, and archaeology, and her research was awarded a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship in 2016.