I graduated with a Religious Studies and Psychology BA in the Spring of 2001. Since then, I have earned my MA degree from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, TN. I got to learn from a lot of great scholars in the field of Religious Studies and completed a thesis entitled “Religious Scholars’ and Quantitative Researchers’ Approaches to the Effects of Religiosity on the Behavior of Intimate Partner Abuse Victims: Bridging the Gap.” (Long title, huh?). I have also had the opportunity to assist in the teaching of two classes: Biological Anthropology and The Evolution of Religion and Science.
Now, however, I am leaving the field of Religious Studies to go the field of Sociology. I have been accepted into the Ph.D program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the #1 Sociology program in the country. I still plan to study religion by employing the methods of sociology, because, as many of you have found, there is no one set of methods agreed on in the study of religion. If I were to give any advice to you majors who plan to go on to further study, whether it be for the ministry or graduate study, it would be to start studying foreign languages while you are in undergrad. If you are in the ministry, start learning Hebrew, biblical Greek, Latin, etc., if UA has them.
For those of you planning on graduate study, start learning German and/or French. Religious Graduate programs are some of the few programs that still require foreign language requirements. I know that at Vanderbilt only the Religion and Philosophy programs required a foreign language besides those where learning another language is inherent, such as Anthropology. Trust me, this will save you a lot of trouble. I look upon my time in Religious Studies with great fondness. Two professors really stand out in my memory of the department: Dr. William Doty and Dr. Catherine Roach. Both of these professors believe that I was capable of doing graduate work and showed me how fun and enlightening the study of religion can be. If you have a chance, take at least one course with each of these professors (This can be hard, given that Dr. Doty is semi-retired.)
I know that the department has changed a great deal since I have been there. However, I am sure that you majors will still find the department to be a warm and friendly environment where everyone’s individual talents can be shaped and honed so as to help them find a niche in the world, whether or not it is associated with religion. Enjoy your time there!