Richard is an Emeritus Professor of Religious Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB), where he has been a full professor since 1991 and director of the Center for the Study of Religion from the year 2000 to 2018. He holds a PhD in History of Religions from the University of California, Los Angeles. From 1982–1984, Richard was a Visiting Associate Professor at Rothberg School for Overseas Students at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He has supervised many different grants, including a nearly $1.5 Million Dollar grant from the Ford Foundation with Clarke Roof on religious diversity in Los Angeles. Richard has become increasingly interested in the intersections of religion, politics, and culture and the deep contextualization of religion in its lived environments. His work is comparative and multidisciplinary, both of which are essential, in his opinion, to the larger study of religion. This is also reflected in his teaching: he taught in the history department, political science department, the comparative literature program and in the college of creative studies, and the department of art history. Richard is currently exploring the trajectories of memory, trauma and storytelling.
At THE NEW INSTITUTE, Richard is involved in several programs as a fellow in the Academic Year 2023/24.