As a student, what drew you to the field of Religious Studies?
Well, I was and am a person of faith, and religious stories have always been interesting to me. But there was more to my academic interest in Religious Studies than just my love for stories. Specifically, I enjoyed exploring the way beliefs and rituals evolved and shifted over time, affecting as well as being impacted by larger cultures. Generally, I found that Religious Studies demanded more critical thought from my peers and me than was my experience in other disciplines, and I appreciated the challenge.
How has your expertise in Religious Studies helped you define and reach your career and personal goals?
It was in a Religious Studies class (Myth and Theory) that I first started seriously considering hegemonic structures in my culture, which has been incredibly important in my work as an educator and now as a social worker. It was also in Religious Studies that I started to understand that human beings are storytellers, that we’re always creating narratives in an attempt to make meaning of things that happen around us and inside of us. As a social worker, I’m really interested in those narratives on a micro level (as revealed in a therapeutic context) as well as a macro level (in our culture, in our social constructs and subsequent provision of certain services).
Can you recall any experience in Religious Studies that you found especially enlightening or challenging as a student?
Derek Krueger’s Gender and Christianity course was an important early feminist experience for me.
What are your favorite things about the UNCG Religious Studies Department?
Brilliant, approachable, relationship-oriented professors (and a variety of intellectual opportunities!)
Have you stayed in touch with any of the professors or faculty in the UNCG Religious Studies Department?
I still keep in touch with Derek Krueger. He has become a dear friend!
Since graduating from UNCG, what have you accomplished in your career or studies?
I taught high school English for seven years before going back to school to complete my masters in social work. I will finish my MSW in May, at which point I intend to work in adolescent mental health.
What are your long-term goals?
Ultimately I would like to work as a therapist for adolescents, but I would also like to be involved in initiatives that bring mental health services to schools, both in the form of higher-level interventions like day programs and in the form of universal, curriculum-level efforts to teach stress management and relationship skills to all kids. I would also like to be involved in providing psychoeducation/mental health awareness for teachers and making classrooms more mentally healthy places (perhaps through use of mindfulness/meditation practices common in Dialectical Behavior Therapy or Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction, which have their roots in Zen Buddhist practices).
As a graduate, would you recommend pursuing an academic interest in Religious Studies?
Absolutely! If you’re curious about religion (historically, theologically, theoretically), the UNCG Religious Studies department is a fantastic place to explore that. It lays an excellent foundation for critical thought that will serve you well no matter what you do. And for me, I think it was one of the places where I learned to be thoughtfully compassionate/compassionately thoughtful (not an academic objective necessarily, but a major bonus nonetheless).