Michelle Shroyer ′11
Hometown: Birmingham, AL
Major: Chemistry, with a minor in Religious Studies
You’re majoring in chemistry and minoring in religious studies. That’s quite the unusual combination! Why did you choose religious studies as a minor?
I’ve always had an interest in religion and its role within society, but as I grew up, I realized that I know quite a bit about my own Christianity but very little about anything else. When I came to Rhodes, I decided to deepen my understanding about other religions and to critically explore my own. During first and second year, I pursued the Life: Then and Now track of the humanities requirement. In those courses, I engaged with the Bible and other religious texts as a scholar—and I loved it. It’s one thing to read a spiritual text and discern the meaning it’s trying to convey, but it’s so much more eye-opening and rewarding to delve into the text and analyze which elements are being employed to produce the meaning it communicates. Now, I’m able to not only read a religious text but to engage with it, to comprehend the influences at play behind the words on the page, to take better ownership of that text as my own.
Plus, having at least one religious studies class per semester offers a welcome respite from my science courses. I know it sounds strange, but it’s so nice to be able to go into a building other than Frazier Jelke a few times a week!
You presented a paper at the Associated Colleges of the South Gender & Sexuality Conference titled "The Role of Gender in Original Sin." What was that experience like?
Being a chemistry major, it was like stepping into a brand-new world. I’m used to tubes and pipettes and readouts of data, so to find myself at the front of a room and expected to discuss books and academic criticisms was something completely new to me. But all the same, I enjoyed it. When I took Dr. Michelle Voss Roberts’ feminist theology class, it was the first time I had ever considered the role of gender within the Bible and how it affects our understanding of the parables. Needless to say, it was quite a daunting yet beneficial experience. Not only did I examine Christianity through a lens I had never considered before, but I also pushed myself beyond the limits of anything I’ve done at Rhodes so far. I’m used to writing abstracts and lab reports, so writing a 12-page research paper was completely foreign to me. But with Professor Voss Roberts’ constant encouragement and close mentoring, I delved straight into the paper and emerged with a final product that I’m quite proud of.
What do you hope to do with your studies in chemistry and religion after you graduate?
Right now, my plan is to continue on to medical school and pursue a joint M.D./Ph.D. degree in the field of cancer research. Hopefully, with the knowledge I’ve gained from religious studies, I’ll be able to better relate to my patients since I’ll have a sense of their religious customs and cultural backgrounds. But more important, I feel confident that when graduation rolls around, I’ll be prepared to tackle the full gamut of what lies ahead. Studying chemistry taught me how to experiment and analyze; studying in the humanities taught me how to critically read and write. Combined, those two skills will aid in shaping me into the best researcher I can be.