(December 9, 2014)

Alumnus awarded dissertation fellowship, co-authors book

SHREVEPORT, LA — Shreveport native and Centenary alumnus Darrius Hills '06 has been awarded the 2014-2015 Dissertation Fellowship from the Louisville Institute based at Louisville Presbyterian Seminary in Kentucky.

Darrius Hills
Darrius Hills '06

The institute annually awards $22,000 fellowships to support the final year of dissertation writing for outstanding Ph.D. or Th.D. students whose research will advance American religious and theological scholarship. Hills, whose dissertation topic is "Toward a Theory of Reciprocity: Constructing a Hermeneutic of Relationality for Black Theological Discourse," was one of only eight to receive the competitive award.

"In laymen's terms, my project draws upon black women's literature and womanist thought to talk about ways we can improve our understandings of human relationships and masculinity within black religious studies," said Hills. "In fusing theological reflection and gender studies, the dissertation attempts to rethink and reconfigure the nature of human personality."

Along with financial assistance, Hills said that the fellowship gave him invaluable validation that his project is meaningful and will help promote dialogue on issues of race, gender, and sexuality.

In addition to his impressive award, Hills and several graduate student colleagues at Rice University in Houston, Texas, have been busy writing and publishing a book, Breaking Bread, Breaking Beats: Churches and Hip-Hop—A Basic Guide to Key Issues (2014).

"We had all taught a popular course at Rice, Religion and Hip Hop," said Hills. "We brought what we learned from that course together and wrote a book to share with a broader audience. Our hope is that this will help build bridges with black church communities and black hip-hop communities."

Hills' journey to academic success started during his time at Centenary College.

"Centenary has been, to date, the most formative experience of my intellectual, personal, and spiritual development," said Hills. "I can't express enough what Centenary did for me during my time there. I came to College sheltered and naïve about things, especially the topic of religion. My religious studies professors nurtured me, took me under their wing, pushed me to ask deeper questions, and think more critically. They have been influential to what I have been able to accomplish so far."

Upon graduation with departmental honors in religious studies, Hills attended Garrett Theological Seminary in Chicago, Illinois, and earned his master's of divinity in 2009. He is currently at Rice University pursuing his Ph.D. in religious studies with a specialty in African American religion.