Southwestern Seminary’s archaeology department, known for its dual commitment to high academic standards and the Biblical text, took center stage at the 2016 meeting of the Southwest Commission on Religious Studies (SWCRS), March 11-13. Southwestern faculty and students dominated the conference’s archaeological panels, presiding over two sessions and giving a total of eight presentations.

Bruno Soltic, a Ph.D. student who presented on the topic of “Revisiting Biblical Bamah/Bamoth: Recent Trends in Biblical Archaeology,” says the outstanding performance of the archaeology department put it on a par with distinguished secular archaeological programs around the country. “This meeting proved that the Tandy Archaeological Institute is a giant in the Southwest in Near Eastern archaeology,” he says. “[Our department] stands alongside other schools like Harvard, UCLA, Princeton and University of Michigan.”

Having evangelical Christian professors teaching a topnotch academic program, Soltic explains, makes Southwestern stand out among peer institutions. In fact, studying under the guidance of professionally trained archaeologists is a privilege that no other school in the area offers.

Charissa Wilson, a Master of Arts student who also presented at the conference, pointed out that the annual SWCRS meeting provides a great opportunity for Southwestern students to interact with professionals and scholars from various academic backgrounds. “It provides a local venue for Southwestern students to join in on the conversations of this field,” Wilson said. “This has been true for me, and the participants can only benefit from the exchange and grow as scholars and communicators.”

Southwestern participants in the SWCRS also try to make a statement as evangelical Christians during the conference. “We not only want to show ourselves to be at the top—engaging top scholars at top conferences—but at the same time, we want to display our Christian faith, to show what Christians are and who Christ is,” says Lucas Grimsley, a Ph.D. student who presided over a session and also presented a paper at the meeting. “We are trying to honor Christ by doing the best that we can in our field.”

Southwestern faculty and students represented at the 2016 SWCRS meeting included professors Tom Davis and Ryan Stokes as well as students Cameron Coyle, Lucas Grimsley, Charissa Wilson, Bruno Soltic, Charles Wilson and Benjamin Ioset. Charissa Wilson won the Eisenbrauns Award for best student paper with her research on the location of the biblical city of Aphek.

“I think we have one of the highest student participation rates out of most schools and most departments, and that is also reflected when we go to national conferences as well,” Grimsley notes. “We have very active students who are really passionate about getting involved, and we have professors who are supportive of the students going to this. They really encourage the students and set them up to be able to do that.”