Professor Debra Majeed discusses faith and the joys of vigorous debate
From the stage to the religious studies classroom, Professor Debra Majeed is a mystical and wise figure in the Beloit community. In addition to teaching courses about the intersection of gender, sexuality and religion, Majeed is an active presence around campus. Last semester she performed in the play Intimate Apparel to challenge herself to try something new and be vulnerable, a policy she advises her students and other Beloiters to try as well. She also said that being in a play was something she was happy to cross off her bucket list.
Born in Chicago, Majeed received her Bachelor’s degree at Pepperdine University in South Central Los Angeles, then attended seminary school, earning a Masters of Arts in Christian Higher Education and a Masters in Theology. “That lead me to [a] PhD route and [towards] seeing the classroom as a teachable space,” she said.
Majeed feels her own personal religious journey has better enabled her to teach religious studies. After becoming a Christian pastor, she converted to Islam. As someone who has been devoted to practicing different faiths, Majeed feels she “can comfortably weave in and out of those spaces.” Having practiced and been a part of spaces that include people of different denominations, Majeed has experience with engaging those with different viewpoints and religions.
Because of those experiences, Majeed emphasizes the importance of progress. “I guess you can say for me, importance is tied to change for the betterment of community and the endeavors that this campus has been involved around protest and challenging normative understandings and normative spaces where we have brought some kind of progress in those areas — those have been the best moments for me. The most difficult moments, but also the best moments.” She cites the ongoing student campaign for inclusivity, including the Students for an Inclusive Campus occupation of Academic Senate in spring 2015, and the occupation of the Residential Life office last semester, as some of the most important memories she’s made at Beloit.
Many students enjoy the enthusiastic energy of a Professor Majeed class, where she creates an environment and network of students who are able to valuably critique each other’s work and build up each other’s ideas. Professor Majeed cites those moments as her favorite classroom experiences. “I see teaching as a transformative act in which justice must occur or be raised, or addressed,” she said. If one wishes to find a classroom where disagreement and healthy discussion are advocated for, one only needs to find Religious Studies Professor Debra Majeed.