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Barbara (Bobbi) PattersonProfessor Emerita

Bobbi Patterson joined Emory University's faculty in 1994 after serving as a University Chaplain and Emory University Dean of Students. As Dean of the Emory Scholars Program while on the faculty, she designed a comprehensive program for 350 students including in-course service projects, a residential living program, a summer residential internship program, and service scholarship abroad.

Professor Patterson's initial training focused on feminist theory and theology at the intersections of symbolisms and narratives of the body, psychodynamics, and cultural studies. Her current research and teaching focuses on comparative contemplative practices and pedagogies often related to questions of place and thriving/sustainability. Her approaches draw from ancient and contemporary Christian and Tibetan Buddhist perspectives with emphasis on processes of self and communal transformation through ethical engagement for social change. She works closely with Emory's Office of Sustainability Initiatives linking contemplative perspectives to issues of place and space. Writing widely about community-partnered learning and service, she founded the Theory-Practice-Learning Program at Emory, offering workshops, trainings, and placement coordination for faculty and community leaders. She remains engaged in community-partnered teaching and research through Emory's Office of University-Community Partnerships. Professor Patterson has developed numerous portfolio formats, field-based exercises, and case study models to hone insights and skills for joining conceptual and experiential learning and teaching. More recently, her writing focuses on sequenced pedagogies integrating reflective judgment and critical analysis as pathways of resilience for learning for life, where information becomes discerning and transformative action. Her most recent publications describe contemplative pedagogies used in Religion and Ecology classes. She has led numerous workshops addressing these and other pedagogical theories and strategies at national academic meetings and on college and university campuses across the nation. With several other teaching prizes and an Emory Scholarship named for her, she is an established national leader in reflective and engaged pedagogies.

In 2010, Professor Patterson was recipient of the Award for Excellence in Teaching of the American Academy of Religion, which also noted that much of her current research relates to her pedagogical interests. Using a Grounded Theory approach, her research team is analyzing over 150 portfolios, identifying major student self-reported themes of content learning, epistemological shifts, growth in analytical skills, and personal and spiritual change. She is also co-leading a Compassion Meditation group for suicide attempters through the Grady Hospital Psychiatry and NIA project programs. Through the Office of Sustainability Initiatives, she developed the Emory as Place Initiative, designed to explore and educate about campus histories, places, and ecologies. Using media-based, experiential, and narrative-based formats, this initiative has created tours of campus woodlands, an Emory civil rights related tour, and a campus-wide scavenger hunt among other residential hall activities.

As Chair of the American Religious Cultures concentration within the Graduate Division of Religion (GDR) of Emory University, Professor Patterson's graduate courses range from examining methodological approaches, particularly practice-driven frameworks, to the genealogies of “mind” in American religious cultures of healing, meditation, and spirituality, to place and space. She co-leads with Professor Liz Bounds the graduate teaching training program of the GDR, comprised of a series of workshops and special topics sessions which interrelate with the GDR's emergent professional development initiative.

As Chair of the Sustainability Task Force of the American Academy of Religion, she draws her interests in material culture, religion, and spirituality into areas of sustainable living and transformation. The Task Force has thoroughly greened the Academy's meetings and become a model for other international organizations who have consulted with us including the American Philosophical Association and the American Anthropological Association. The Task Force has developed a number of workshops and is working more closely with Regional Sections.

Professor Patterson currently serves as a contemplative practices consultant on three major grants with Emory University's Psychiatry, Nursing, and Psychology/Medicine Departments. She is also involved in a grant to Emory's GDR from the Wabash Center for Teaching and Learning in Theology and Religion.


  • A.B. in Religion, Smith College, 1974
  • M.Div. in Urban Ministries, Harvard Divinity School, 1977
  • Ph.D. in Interdisciplinary Studies, Emory University, 1994


Newly Released Book: 

Building Resilience Through Contemplative Practice: A Field Manual for Helping Professionals and Volunteers

      Click here to visit Bobbi Patterson's Building Resilience Through Contemplative Practice page.

Available at Routledge, Barnes and Noble, and Amazon