Mencken Appointed Director of Research for Baylor Institute for Studies of Religion

Feb. 27, 2008
News Photo 4399Dr. Carson Mencken

Media contact: Lori Fogleman, director of media communications, (254) 710-6275

Dr. Byron Johnson and Dr. Rodney Stark, co-directors of the Institute for Studies of Religion (ISR) at Baylor University, have announced the appointment of Dr. F. Carson Mencken, professor of sociology, as director of research for the Institute.

"Dr. Mencken brings a great deal of research experience and administrative expertise to the table, and he will be a huge asset to ISR as we seek to significantly expand our research portfolio," Johnson said. "There are many exciting research opportunities we are currently considering not only here in the United States, but around the world. Many of these research opportunities match perfectly with the goals of Vision 2012, and we are confident that Mencken will play a central role in helping to guide our efforts strategically."

"I am really excited about this new role," Mencken said. "We have produced some important research over the last several years that has garnered a great deal of attention within the academy and beyond. External funding from different federal agencies, as well as private foundations, has allowed us to tap some of the great talent already here at Baylor, as well as attract some of the best scholars in the world as research partners. These are exciting times and Baylor's the perfect place for us to continue and even multiply our efforts."

Established in August 2004, the Institute for Studies of Religion at Baylor exists to involve scholars having many different interests and approaches in creative efforts to grasp the complexities and interconnections of religion in the life of individuals and societies. The aim is to combine the highest standards of scholarship with a serious commitment to faith, resulting in studies that not only plumb basic questions, but produce results that are relevant to religious organizations, address moral controversies and contribute to social health.

Mencken's duties will include providing oversight to the different research initiatives undertaken at ISR that have the possibility of achieving center status, such as religion and prosocial behavior, global studies of religion and congregational studies. Mencken will be a resource for each of these emerging research centers. In addition, he will provide leadership in the expansion of ISR's post-doctoral fellowship program, as well as visiting research scholars and faculty.

"Baylor's support of ISR has been outstanding and is allowing us to fast-forward our plans on multiple research fronts," said Stark, University Professor of the Social Sciences at Baylor. "Having Carson on board is an important initial step in building a solid infrastructure that will make it possible to effectively handle the increased volume of activity."

On the Baylor faculty since 2002, Mencken is professor of sociology and former director of graduate studies in the department of sociology at Baylor. He received his bachelor's degree summa cum laude from the College of Charleston (S.C.) in 1987, and his doctorate from Louisiana State University in 1994.

Mencken's areas of research expertise include regional sociology, criminology and research methods, with his recent research studying the links between civic engagement, religious communities and economic growth. He is widely published and has directed a number of major federal (Tennessee Valley Authority, U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Department of Justice) and private research grants. He currently is project director for the Empirical Study of Values in China, a $1.7 million, three-year research grant awarded to ISR by the John Templeton Foundation.

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