Professor Frank: Learning New Perspectives

Charles A. Dana Professor of Religion Georgia Frank, the chair of the department of religion, has a bachelor’s degree from Barnard College and master’s degrees in theological studies and arts from Harvard University, as well as a doctoral degree. Frank’s research focuses on sacred stories, the senses and other aspects in the first six hundred years of Christianity. She has published pilgrims’ writings and souvenirs, holy places, sacred images, hermits and rituals.

“I study religions of the ancient Mediterranean world,” she said. “I’m really interested in [the] archaeology of religion and also the diversity of religion in the ancient world, so I study groups that some people overlook. I focus on really ordinary people and what we can know about their lives, like women and slaves and other groups.”

Before switching to a concentration in religion in college, Frank was a political science concentrator, which helped her gain a knowledge of politics and the importance of voting. 

“I also did an internship with a city councilwoman in New York City … so I was very involved,” Frank said. “I was very interested in politics, especially local politics and urban politics. And then I went on, I [concentrated] in religion and then when I moved here to this community, in a small community … I started seeing how really ordinary people who lived their lives every day managed to get things done in this community.”

Since then, Frank has become even more passionate about voting and upholding democracy. She has gotten students more involved with the voting process by asking registered voters to sign candidate petitions, helping students request absentee ballots during the COVID-19 pandemic and more. 

“I’ve worked with the College Democrats because they’ve reached out to me,” Frank said. “The College Democrats organized a panel of local politicians to describe what they do, like village trustees and town supervisors. I love working with local political leadership on campuses to kind of think about what they want to do. What do you do in an off election year? Why do some of these issues matter? I also encourage them to think about running for office outside of Colgate, if somebody were interested. Some of them have worked on campaigns — [one student] worked on a [state senate] campaign, and so I volunteered for his campaign. I really love seeing students who kind of have a vision, and a way of organizing that is really energetic.”

Frank also got involved with the Colgate Vote Project and its student founders. She helped them find faculty advisors and resources to start the club, as well as helping them get involved with summer research. Additionally, she wanted to build up a capacity of educating Colgate students about the importance of local politics and having a voice in them.

Recently, religion has played a significant role in politics and voters’ views on certain controversial issues. However, Frank has a different take on the intersection of politics and religion.

“I feel that for me, my study of religion has given me a stronger sense of what community could be. It’s less about certain hot-button religious issues than what I think a community could be. I’ve learned a lot of that through studying religion, and that’s what inspires me to get more involved locally,” she said. “In a square mile, we have an international population, a rural population, a school district, so I think that’s another element — thinking about what schools can do for our community. How can we make it possible for more people to thrive? So our health system and our early childhood education — all these things are things I’ve been interested in. In a small town, I think everybody kind of steps up and gets involved. So I’ve learned a lot from seeing things from different perspectives.”