Postgrad & Career

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Recent graduates report the ways in which they have used a Religious Studies degree.

Shelley Spring, ‘04:  I currently work in Human Resources at an international consulting firm in Washington, D.C.. My Religious Studies major has really strengthened my writing and oral communication skills. I′m also the head of the community service initiative for my office—experience I obtained through one of my service-learning classes for the major. What surprised and delighted me the most about studying for the GMAT is my religious studies major has really prepared me for the verbal section of this test.

John Ramsey, ‘02:  After graduating from Rhodes in 2002 with a major in Economics and Religious Studies, I attended the University of Texas School of Law. Just after graduating law school, I won the Funniest Person in Austin Competition and since then have maintained a side career in stand up comedy while holding a day job as an attorney.  I use weekends and vacation time to perform—most recently at the HBO Comedy Festival in Aspen and on Comedy Central′s stand up comedy show  Live at Gotham. I really hope that one day soon I can abandon my law degree altogether and use my Religious Studies degree (many of my jokes are about religion).

Amanda (Davis) Loyacano, ‘04:  In the final semester of my academic career at Rhodes, I decided that I wanted to be a teacher when I “grew up.” After graduation, I attended Christian Brothers University’s M.A.T. program (Master of Arts in Teaching) where I obtained both my Master’s Degree and Tennessee Teaching License in their evening program. This program only took about 3 semesters because I was able to go at an accelerated rate. Now I have almost completed my first year of teaching and have had a truly marvelous time.

You might be asking yourself: How exactly did being an RS major help you become a teacher? During my time at Rhodes, I had a hard time deciding on a major. While taking the required Life courses, I realized just how much I enjoyed studying what people believe and why. I decided to major in something that I enjoyed. I knew that I would not enjoy my time in college if I was stuck in a major that did not excite and motivate me.

As an RS major I obtained excellent critical thinking, writing, and organization skills in searching for the answers to the what and why questions of people’s beliefs. So, not only did I get to learn about what I loved, but I also became a better learner, writer, and thinker. My new knowledge and skills made it possible for me to then go on and become a great educator.

I have often reflected on how my life might be different had I not been an RS major. I probably would not have enjoyed college as much, would have not been as great of a teacher, and would not have gotten the answers to the questions that most interested me. Most importantly, though, I would not be the lifelong learner that I am today, constantly seeking knowledge and sharing the love of learning with others.

Daniel Jones, ‘06:  I am now attending law school.  The RS degree did a great job of sharpening my critical thinking skills as well as improving my writing skills.  Very few majors improve both skills.

Matt Wilson, ‘05:  Since graduating from Rhodes with a degree in Religious Studies, I have worked for Global College, Long Island University, co-leading a religious studies abroad program. The faculty and staff of Rhodes’ Religious Studies Department were extremely supportive of my study abroad. They encouraged me to spend my entire junior year abroad with Global College’s Comparative Religion & Culture Program. Upon graduation, I was hired by the Comparative Religion & Culture Program as Field Administrator for the 2005-2006 year, then promoted to Assistant Director for 2006-2007.

I have traveled fulltime for the past two years, to China, Taiwan, India, Thailand, and Turkey. I handle the day-to-day logistics of the program as well as support students in their writing and study.

I could not imagine having this job without my Religious Studies degree or with out the support of the RS department. The RS department equipped me with the academic, writing, and professional skills I utilize daily. My RS degree also helps me to relate with people from very different religious and cultural backgrounds. This is no trivial point in today’s world.

Most recently, my RS degree helped me to secure a scholarship from the U.S. State Department. I received a Critical Language Scholarship for the summer of 2007 to study Turkish in Istanbul. I am now in the process of applying to top level graduate programs that bridge International Relations and Religion into one degree. I am planning a career with organizations working for international development, aid, and conflict resolution. I do not think I would have had such opportunities if not for my Religious Studies degree.

Emily Sullivan, ‘06: The year after I graduated from Rhodes I began teaching Spanish II at Whitehaven High School in Memphis.  This has been an incredible experience, and while it may not seem that a Religious Studies degree would help in teaching inner-city 11th and 12th graders, it helped me more than I can imagine.  At Rhodes, nearly every RS student does at least one research project in a historically African-American Memphis church.  My exposure to these churches through my own and, more importantly, my classmates′ work helped a great deal in understanding and relating to my students, especially from my position as an outsider.  Knowledge of the type of churches that my own students attend has helped me to field their (many) questions on such issues as homosexuality, abortion, teen pregnancy, government, and even Catholicism.

Most importantly, my RS classes taught me that religion touches every aspect of human life.  A short list includes race, gender, ethnicity, socio-economic status, and sexual preference.  These are all issues that my high school students struggle with on a daily basis as they feel out their own identity.   Finally, my RS major at Rhodes and my year at Whitehaven led me to my true passion of social justice through the lens of religion, and I plan to pursue a Masters of Theological Studies at Vanderbilt in August of 2007.