greive-story-150GREENSBORO – Religion, we all know, is a touchy subject – but imagine how challenging it is to teach religion in a world that is both increasingly polarized and increasingly digital.

Through a mixture of enthusiasm, humor, scholarship and technology, that’s where Dr. Gregory Price Grieve lives.

Grieve, an Associate Professor and Head of the Religious Studies Department at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, was named last month as a recipient of the Board of Governors Award for Excellence in Teaching.

“(Religion) is a topic that both binds and divides people; it is the source of conflict, yet it is a reason for peace,” one of Grieve’s colleagues wrote.

“His goal is not to turn people away from religion, but to have students think more deeply about their own beliefs and understand the implications that other faith systems have on the world around them.  Because of this, his students are better prepared to navigate an ever growing and complex multicultural world.”1

In particular, Grieve is absorbed with the intersection of religion (particularly Buddhism) and digital media – he notes that as long ago as 2001, a Pew survey found that 25% of Americans had searched the Internet for religious purposes.2

More deeply, he focuses on how digital media affects how people understand and practice religion, and how religion underscores certain themes in video games.  He’s working on two books – one called Digital Zen: Buddhism, Virtual Worlds and Online Meditation.3

Two years ago, Grieve visited a Buddhist festival in the Indian Himalayas.  He saw a woman who had traveled from Washington State pull out her iPad and admire a photo she’d just captured, so absorbed that she didn’t notice who was walking by.

“The Dalai Lama is five feet from her, and she’s looking at her screen,” Grieve recalled.  “Fascinating, isn’t it?”

“Who seems to use the Internet best?  The marginalized.  An example?  ‘Evangelicals are much better than mainstream (churches) at using social media,’” UNCG’s Campus Weekly reported in a profile of Grieve.4

As a teacher, Grieve emphasizes posing “curious questions” that grow increasingly sophisticated and speak to students’ “zone of development” as they mature intellectually.5

Students appear to love it – they give Grieve an A+ as an instructor.

“I have taken four classes with Greg,” wrote one.  “His courses are life-changing – that is the best way I know how to put it.  He is a very engaging speaker and has an incredibly creative approach to teaching.  Never want to skip his class – always fun.”6

Grieve’s aims are long-term.

“Teaching … is a form of apprenticeship that piques students’ innate curiosity in order to solve intriguing, beautiful, and important problems,” he says.  “Ultimately, I hope students will learn to solve curious questions of their own posing; a skill that will last long after the final exam.”7


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