As a student, what drew you to the field of Religious Studies?
As a Student what really drew me to the field of Religious Studies was the opportunity to learn the ins and outs of all the world's major religions. When I went into UNCG I wanted to be a Catholic Youth Minister, while in the program I was able to not only learn about the early Church, but also how other religions play a role in the Catholic Church. I did not want to be close minded about other religious and be ignorant to their beliefs because we do not live in a single religion country or world. I wanted to teach my teens about all of the religions of the world so that they fully understood their religion in comparison to the others.
How has your expertise in Religious Studies helped you define and reach your career and personal goals?
I currently am not working with in my selected career path, but I am working for a missionary run business. We have missions all over the world and having a working knowledge of the world religions has helped me to understand the differences of the people in the communities we work in. However, I am a volunteer at my local parish as a teacher for the high school age youth and my expertise in Religious Studies has helped answer many of their questions about the other religions in not only the world, but in just our town. I have been able to give the teens the correct knowledge about these other religions so that they do not become close minded about the world we live in.
Can you recall any experience in Religious Studies that you found especially enlightening or challenging as a student?
The most enlightening or challenging experiences I went through while in the program were actually in the classroom. When I came in as a fresh man I was very set in my thought process about what was right and wrong and what we are all suppose to believe, ie everyone should be Catholic and if you are not you are lost. But by the time I left UNCG I had not only a better respect for the other religions of the world, but also a better understanding of my own religion. In the classes that I took I had to defend the beliefs of the Catholic Church on many occasions and that made me take the time to research and understand the teachings even better. Our classes also opened me up to really learning and understanding the points that the other students and the professors were making and to use not just my emotional beliefs, but to use my brain and to be logical with my arguments. It has made it easier to teach and work with people who do not agree with me.
What are your favorite things about the UNCG Religious Studies Department?
My favorite thing about the UNCG Religious Studies Department is that it is a small close department. I enjoyed that I knew almost all of the other students that were in the department. The class sizes gave us as students the opportunity to really discuss the topics and learn from each other. Once in the upper level classes there were really no wrong answers to our professors questions and knowing everyone sitting around you made it way more fun to have discussion and to bounce ideas and theories off of one another. I felt like I was actually able to think and express my opinion in an open dialogue the whole time I was there. While there our classes were some of the most frustrating classes I took, but now that I have graduated I miss the challenge that they presented me.
Have you stayed in touch with any of the professors or faculty in the UNCG Religious Studies Department?
I unfortunately over the past three years have not kept up with the faculty or professors, but I still use things they have said to me or the materials that they gave me to teach my teens. I wish I had kept in touch, but I will never forget them and how each one of them helped shape my thought processes and how much I owe them for opening me up to the new ideas and experiences that I got to have while in the department.
Since graduating from UNCG, what have you accomplished in your career or studies?
Since graduating I have become a certified Lay Minister for the Catholic Dioceses of Charlotte. I spent the first two years after graduating becoming certified. I have been volunteering for the past three years with St. Aloysius Catholic Church's Life Teen program. Where I teach the high school youth group the dogmas and doctrines of the Catholic Church, I plan and run Spiritual Retreats, Mission Trips, and Social activities. I currently am working in Data Entry for Classic Education Ltd., CE Books. The Company is Christian Mission based. I have had some ups and downs since graduating, but I have a pretty good life.
What are your long-term goals?
My long-term goals are to be working in a Catholic Parish as a Youth Minister or working in a Catholic High School as a Campus Minister or at the University level as a Catholic Minister. I am still thinking about doing Mission work not only in the US, but traveling out of the country to make the lives of people better. I would also love to go back to school and get my masters and maybe my doctorate. Currently I am just living day-by-day and enjoying my family and friends.
As a graduate, would you recommend pursuing an academic interest in Religious Studies?
If I were to recommend someone to pursue an academic interest in Religious Studies I would make sure they really wanted to learn about all of the religions. If you want to be a scholar of one religion or one aspect of a religion I would not recommend the Religious Studies path, but if they are interested in learning about every aspect of religion, from the history to the social effects of religion, then yes I would recommend them studying it. I do not regret the four years I spent growing intellectually in the UNCG Religious Studies program, if anything it made me want to keep learning and challenging myself.