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RELIGIOUS STUDIES
Sarah Patterson '05

"I graduated in 2005 with departmental honors in religious studies and started the M.Div. program at Yale University Divinity School the following August. My work at Hollins prepared me very well for the rigorous academics at Yale. Even in my second year at YDS, I look back on Jan's New Testament course as the best introduction to my field that I could have received, and it was my initial inspiration to go to seminary. Writing my honors thesis on Julian of Norwich was invaluable as well, since it pushed me to develop the focus, creativity, and discipline that will be required of me throughout grad school and in my subsequent academic career."

Sarah Patterson White '05
'08 Yale Divinity School

Religious studies graduates: Where are they now?

Kyrie Joy Henderson '05

"I am currently continuing in religious studies as a visiting graduate student at the Rothberg International School of Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Israel. Certainly my education at Hollins prepared me for this - allowing me to seek breadth in courses and depth in individual projects. 'Advice for current majors: Follow your interest. Resist the temptation to yield to the ever present "What are you going to do with that?' The knowledge and skills from a major in religious studies are important in the world today, no matter what you do as a career. Plus the faculty is amazing. Talk to them. Ask questions. Seriously, ask. Also, if any are interested in studying abroad in Jerusalem, the international school here has an extensive program for undergraduates with courses that cover a huge range of topics in religion, politics, and history (to name the few most interesting to me). I'd be glad to talk to any such interested students; e-mail me at khenders@hollins.edu."

Brandi Taylor Edwards '02

"I am currently employed as the executive assistant at the Craven Arts Council & Gallery, Inc., a nonprofit community arts council in New Bern, NC. The education I received at Hollins, specifically as a religion major, has guided me throughout my professional career in many unexpected ways. The most important lesson - and one I use every day, in and out of work - is tolerance. Studying religion taught me to carefully observe not only the differences in people, but also the similarities, and to exercise patience, kindness and compassion in all things. Learning about religious pluralism (and indeed, diversity in general), the dangers of fundamentalism and intolerance, and about the power of the individual to effect positive change have been lessons I have taken to heart. And lastly, if I had any advice to give to an undergraduate contemplating a major (whether it be religious studies or something else), it would be to remember that you go to college not for a job, but for an education. A person should pursue their academic interests without wondering 'What kind of job will I get with this?' It is a well-rounded education that makes a person interesting, and therefore more employable. I am grateful for the breadth of knowledge I discovered in my studies at Hollins."

Ane Turner Johnson '98 Ph.D., higher education policy and administration, Virginia Tech

"My experience at Hollins, and especially in the religious studies department, fomented my love of academe. I was both academically and personally challenged at Hollins. I learned how to think critically and to manage difficult people and expectations. My tenure at this small liberal arts institution also prepared me to be a student of higher education systems and policy making. I was exposed to the conflict that often arises from the process of managing administrative and academic duties at small institutions and the pressure that this conflict places on both faculty and students alike. I have had a varied academic career, ranging from studying religion, to studying conflict, to finally conducting research on the policymaking process of multilateral development agencies and the effect this process has on higher education systems in developing countries. My academic interests have clearly matured and I thank Hollins for providing me with the tools to become an accomplished researcher and a person who thinks and acts globally. Regarding any advice I might offer your students, I submit this: I am unfamiliar with how the program may have grown and what sort of students it is currently producing. I was the one and only graduating religion major in 1998; therefore, I really had the opportunity to create my own program with the faculty. I would hope that the program is more rigorous and standardized now, but that the faculty are still allowing students the opporunity to think for themselves, without the influence of religious dogma and indoctrination. I encourage your students to see this program as a doorway to other academic interests and to not become trapped by one particular religious tradition, but to see the connection between them all. Also, religion plays a considerable sociological role and the more scholars there are who understand the intrapsychic influence that religion has on each of us, the more hope we have of mitigating conflict that stems from this role."

Julianne Hollingsworth '73

"I graduated from Hollins in 1973 as a religion major. (I was in the class of 1960 but married and had a family before completing my degree.). During my growing-up years, I dreamed of some day going to seminary and had always planned to major in religion once in college. After graduating from Union Theological Seminary in Virginia, I simultaneously worked with the homeless and served a Presbyterian Church of about 100 members. I later was called to be the associate pastor of a 1,400-member Presbyterian Church from which I retired in 2003. I now work fewer hours as a parish associate of an 800-member Presbyterian Church. In this part-time capacity, I continue to preach, teach, and visit members of my current community of faith. What do I enjoy the most? Whatever it is I am doing at the moment. As to possible Short Term internships in the Roanoke Valley, a religious studies major might contact various churches or relief organizations to investigate the possibility of serving in some capacity: for example, the Rescue Mission as an educational instructor or the shelter for abused women, the Turning Point."

Sara Aster '64

"I found my studies in religion fascinating to me. Not a lot of practical use until the late 90's, when I pursued and received an M.A. in biomedical ethics from the Medical College of Wisconsin. It has been an interesting field and fits perfectly with a religious studies major background. Some liberal arts schools offer bioethics at the undergraduate level."