Full-time archaeologist Jodi Magness digs into teaching religion at UNC

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Professor Jodi Magness takes students to Israel to partake in digs every summer. Photo Courtesy of Jodi Magness.

Magness, professor in the department of religious studies and full-time archaeologist, has always loved archaeology, but she has recently discovered a fondness for religious studies.

“It is a little weird. I think I’m the only Ph.D. in classical archaeology in North America with a full-time appointment in a department of religious studies,” she said, while laughing. “That’s a little different.”

Magness taught at Tufts University for 10 years before coming to UNC. She was invited to apply for the religious studies job due to her archaeological studies of the time period and her experience working in Israel. She said teaching in a department that differs from her primary focus has broadened her perspective.

“I interact with colleagues who come from their own background which relate, more or less, to religious studies,” she said. “I’ve had to learn a lot along the way in order to teach classes that sort of fit a religious studies context.”

Magness said her colleagues have been a resource for her own research.

She doesn’t just learn from her colleagues, though. Magness said every time she teaches a class she learns something new about the subject, even if she’s taught it before.

“I don’t know that students realize, but professors learn as much from teaching as the students do,” she said. “And sometimes even more.

“Sometimes it comes up as a result of student’s questions. Students will ask you questions and you’ll be like, ‘Well, I’ve never saw it that way’ or ‘I never thought about that’ or ‘I don’t know the answer, let me go home and look it up for you.' ”

Magness enjoys students so much that she has taken a group to Huqoq to work on an excavation site every summer since 2011.

Jocelyn Burney, a former graduate student advisee on the Huqoq excavation, said in an email that Magness’s energy and passion inspire her students.

“In her lectures and in the field you can tell right away that she cares deeply about what she does, which makes you care as well,” she said.

Stephanie Grant, a junior who has spent two summers in Huqoq with Magness, said over email she appreciates how much Magness values the students’ work.

“A student said something along the lines of ‘good job, Jodi’ or some congratulatory phrase and Jodi said, ‘No, good job to you, this is here because of you, it’s a team effort,’ and I always remembered that day, because to hear our work valued and noticed by Jodi made it really feel like we were a part of team and contributed something important to archaeology and to Huqoq,” Grant said.

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